After finally making his long-awaited Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut last April, former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez failed to make the splash he was hoping for at UFC on FOX 7 against then 155-pound kingpin Ben Henderson.
Aside from not winning the title, "El Nino's" seven-fight win streak vanished thanks to the judges, who felt "Smooth" did just enough to earn the split-decision victory in San Jose, California.
Of course, if you ask Melendez, he feels he won the fight and should have been crowned champion that night.
And as he attempts to get back into the win column against Diego Sanchez this weekend (Oct. 19, 2013) at UFC 166 in Houston, Texas, Gilbert tells Sherdog he plans to make a statement by besting "The Dream" in what he calls his first "uncrowned" title defense.
"El Nino" breaks it down:
"I'm looking to make a statement here. I'm looking to make my first uncrowned title defense and really make a statement. I think Diego is a great fighter but me being at my best I think I can make a statement with a dominant performance."
It'll be easier said than done as Melendez recognizes Diego's skills as a well-round mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. But as "good" as Sanchez is, "El Nino" is greater than him everywhere.
"I think he's a great fighter, honestly. I think he's a pioneer in this sport for sure and he brings a lot of honor, courage and heart into the cage and that goes a long way in the sport. 90-percent of it is that mental stuff everyone talks about. And if there is anything that he has, it is that. Technique-wise, he has something everywhere. He's a good wrestler, great grappler and not that he's weak at striking, I just think that's the least of his things, that's third. Grappling, wrestling and then striking. He's a good MMA fighter, he's good everywhere but I am confident in my skills and I think I'm great. I think he's good and I think I'm great."
As both men look to get that all-important "W," at the end of the day, the fans will likely be the winners as the scrappy lightweights have the track record as proven entertainers once the cage door slams shut.
This one should be a doozy, folks.