After Strikeforce held its final event on Jan. 12, the top fighters from the sister promotion were moved over to the UFC to continue their contracts under Zuffa. One of those fighters was former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

The UFC not only announced Melendez would become a member of the UFC’s lightweight division, but also that he would challenge champion Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight title on April 20 at UFC on Fox 7. Mixed martial fans have been patiently waiting for the Strikeforce champion to fight inside the Octagon against the UFC titleholder, and they will witness it when the promotion returns to San Jose, Calif. But two men were not happy with the fight announcement: Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

Pettis, who was the final lightweight champion in the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion, wasn’t shy about expressing his displeasure over the decision. “Showtime” was expected to receive a title shot when the UFC bought out the WEC, but he decided instead to fight one time before fighting for the belt. Unfortunately for him, Pettis lost to Clay Guida, leaving Pettis to work his way back up the ladder.

Since then, Pettis has gone 2-0, defeating Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon, which leads to his bout at UFC on Fox 6 against Cerrone. Until Melendez was named as the next opponent for Henderson, the mindset of Pettis was to beat Cerrone and finally get his long-awaited UFC title fight. But now, he’ll have to do some waiting, even if he gets past Cerrone.

Cerrone is another top-10 lightweight who is in the 155-pound title picture. “Cowboy” had his opportunity to possibly receive a title shot in late 2012, but lost to eventual No. 1 contender Nate Diaz. However, Cerrone, like Pettis, has won his last two fights and comes into this fight with a lot on the line.

Whether it’s Pettis or Cerrone that comes out on top in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 6, the winner should receive the next title shot after Melendez gets his opportunity.

The two lightweights have a history with fellow WEC alum Henderson, most notably Pettis. To win the final fight in WEC history, Pettis defeated Henderson by decision in the famous “Showtime kick” bout. The fact that Pettis has defeated the champion once before makes a Henderson-Pettis title fight very intriguing, but Cerrone has had even more time spent with Henderson inside the cage. Cerrone and Henderson fought twice in the WEC, once in 2009 and again the following year. But as far as which guy fans want to see fight “Smooth,” Pettis gets the nod due to the fact that Cerrone lost to Henderson in both meetings.

Let’s not overlook Melendez, though.

If Melendez defeats Henderson on April 20, a fight between Melendez and either Pettis or Cerrone is still a pairing that would draw a ton of interest. Basically, fans want to see Melendez against the top guys in the UFC, and Henderson, Cerrone and Pettis all fit that bill. If the former Strikeforce champ is able to take the belt from Henderson, he’ll have another former WEC fighter waiting for him.

In conclusion, there are many fighters on the verge of fighting for the title in the lightweight division, but Pettis and Cerrone are at the top after Melendez. You can make a case for other fighters such as Eddie Alvarez, if he comes to the UFC, or someone like Gray Maynard, but before those guys get a chance, it will be either Pettis or Cerrone fighting for the belt next.

Photo: Anthony Pettis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.