Anthony Pettis said that he won’t need more than five minutes to dispose of Gilbert Melendez’s challenge. But Melendez has never been stopped in his 12 year MMA career. Will Pettis be the first man to finish Gilbert Melendez when they collide at the co-main event of UFC 181?
UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is without doubt the most exciting striker in the game today. Not only does he have the complete arsenal of moves, he also has the uncanny ability to deliver highlight reel sequences that have earned him the nickname “Showtime.” None has been more spectacular than his off-the-cage “matrix kick” which sealed his first win over ex-champ Benson Henderson in 2010 when they were still in the WEC promotion.
Pettis and Henderson met again last year at UFC 164 when they disputed UFC lightweight belt. Once again, Pettis shocked Henderson with a brilliant armbar which forced the erstwhile champion to submit in the very first round. The victory not only won him the belt and affirmed his dominance over Bendo, it also proved that he is the new man to beat in the lightweight division.
The Prodigal Son Returns
While Pettis was slowly becoming the poster boy of the UFC’s lightweight division, Gilbert Melendez threatened a coup-de-etat after serving the remainder of his Strikeforce contract in the UFC. After losing a five round split decision contest to Benson Henderson and destroying the original Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez last year, Melendez signed with the Bellator Promotion as a free agent last February. The UFC would later match that offer and force its prodigal son to return back to its fold.
As a sweetener, Melendez was offered a coaching job at The Ultimate Fighter 20, where he would coach opposite Anthony Pettis and face him in the finale as with the tradition of the reality show.
Stopping El Nino
But bigger than the fight was Pettis proclamation that he would stop Melendez in Round one. Although Pettis has the track record to say that because he has 14 stoppages in 17 wins , Melendez is one of the toughest hombres in the sport. His three losses have all been by decision. Melendez has lost just once since 2009 and that was the controversial split decision defeat against Henderson.
Stopping Melendez would be a tall order because he is one of the more durable fighters in the UFC. Melendez has gone five rounds in seven career bouts, including five of his last seven fights. On the other hand, Pettis has gone five rounds only once in his career and has gone the full three rounds in just three fights. So if Pettis doesn’t stop him early as he predicted, he could be in for a long night against a pressure fighter like Melendez.
Not Easy Picking
While Melendez doesn’t have the one punch knockout power that Pettis has, he’s a guy who will put pressure on his opponent all night long. He throws punches in bunches, much like Pacquiao does in boxing, and he uses his size and work rate to overwhelm his opponents. That pressure could be the key in this fight because in Pettis’ two career losses, he was taken off his vaunted striking game by the pressure of Clay Guida and Bart Palaszewski. In those fights, Pettis became hesitant to throw and was more like afraid to do so after being outgunned early in the fight. If El Nino can sow fear in Pettis, he will have a good shot. But if Pettis gets his act going early, Melendez won’t stand a chance .
Pettis may be the favorite in this one at -240, but Melendez won’t be easy picking despite being a +205 underdog. Styles make fights and in this one, Melendez’s style is the anti-Pettis so better ready those popcorns because this bout may be going the distance after all.