Nearly a year and a half ago, Gilbert Melendez was defeated by Benson Henderson in his shot for the UFC lightweight championship.

It turns out that if you follow that up with one of the best fights in the division’s history and the champion you lost to is dethroned, you put yourself right back into title contention. That’s exactly what happened when Melendez decisioned Diego Sanchez in 2013’s ‘Fight of the Year’ at UFC 166.

He has now spent several weeks coaching against lightweight champion Anthony Pettis on 20th season The Ultimate Fighter. On Saturday, Melendez gets another shot at UFC gold and his chance to show fans why the media, for a long time, considered him the best fighter in the world outside of the promotion.

Here’s what Melendez needs to do in order to have his raised on Saturday night:

 

Make it an ugly fight

We’ve never really seen Anthony Pettis fight a war yet. Even his decision victories or losses haven’t been brawls. We don’t know how Pettis responds when he finds himself in a fight like Melendez’ against Sanchez last year. What we do know is that Melendez thrives in these kinds of fights. He keeps coming forward and keeps throwing big shots.

If Melendez can get in close and protect himself well against Pettis’ knees (Donald Cerrone anyone?), he could frustrate the champion who will undoubtedly be trying to avoid getting into a slugfest in his first title defense.

Defend the kicks

This one has to be common sense right? Pettis has arguably the best use of kicks in the UFC and still holds one of the best highlights in the history of the sport with the “Showtime Kick” he landed against Benson Henderson in the WEC. He knocked out Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon with a body kick and a head kick respectively.

Henderson was able to find a home for the body kicks against Melendez and Melendez will have to avoid that against Pettis if he wants to even avoid a knockout let alone win.

Look to score wherever he can

Despite submitting Benson Henderson to win the lightweight championship, the only time Pettis looked subpar was when Clay Guida kept him on the ground unable to even move. I know Melendez’ first reaction isn’t to look for the takedown, but to stand and trade on his feet. If the fight goes the distance, Melendez will thank himself later if he is able to score some takedowns and maintain control on the ground.

Even if he isn’t landing the damaging shots, Melendez needs to push the pace of the fight and keep coming forward. Octagon control is definitely something judges take into account and if Melendez is the more aggressive fighter, it could help him on the scorecards in the end. He just has to not get hit with any “Showtime” strikes off the cage.

About The Author

Blane Ferguson
Associate Editor/Senior Staff Writer

Blane can trace his MMA roots, like many others, to the finale of the first Ultimate Fighter season between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. After watching that incredible fight and cleaning the local Blockbuster of any recorded UFC pay-per-views they had, Blane was hooked on watching the sport and he carried that passion with him to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Blane is a four-year broadcasting veteran of ASU's campus radio including a founder and co-host of the station's combat sports show, The Final Round.