Last night's (Oct. 19, 2013) UFC 166 event delivered an awesome night of fights from Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. On an amazing card from top to bottom, the Lightweight battle between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez stood out as one of the most heated and exciting fights that has ever taken place in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Both fighters are highly experienced veterans of mixed martial arts (MMA) who are proficient in multiple disciplines. But, this fight rose to a feverish pitch that saw most technical expertise thrown out the window. As a result, the Texas crowd was treated to a fight that was reminiscent of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1's now-legendary Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar instant classic.
It became clear early on that Melendez was the more precise striker, but that didn't matter to Sanchez. "Dream" showed his unwavering heart once again in the Octagon, and left as a winner in the eyes of the fans.
Melendez took a huge chance by taking on an unranked challenger in Sanchez -- and he was given a run for his money. However, his standing should actually improve thanks to his gritty win. Let's take a look back at Melendez' brilliant performance in a history-making bout.
The fight kicked off with a good scramble from Sanchez, who took Melendez' back to attempt an early rear naked choke. Melendez shook it off to open up his boxing, landing clean shots with pinpoint accuracy. Sanchez lumbered forward in his trademark style, eating several shots in order to land a few of his own. "El Nino" floored Sanchez as the first stanza wore down.
When the second round began, Melendez was landing nonstop right hands that opened up a huge cut over the eye of Sanchez. The fight was temporarily halted when the doctor came in to make sure Sanchez was fit to continue. He was -- and actually secured a takedown after the restart. Still, Melendez continued to find a home for his diverse array of punches.
The third round is where this fight truly wrote itself into the record books. Sanchez knew he was most likely behind two rounds to none, so it was time to throw caution to the wind in classic "Dream" fashion. He stalked down Melendez against the fence and fireworks ensued. Haymakers were thrown and landed from both fighters until Sanchez' cut was checked once again.
Then the seemingly unthinkable happened.
A bloodied and battered Sanchez dropped Melendez with a powerful right uppercut. When "El Nino" fell to the cage floor stunned, Sanchez opted to seek out a choke submission that ultimately failed. This may have been a mistake -- Melendez weathered the storm to fight on. The two emptied out their striking arsenals, and the fans in Houston were treated to punches, kicks, and knees in one of the few bouts that could actually challenge the excitement level of last month's classic Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson light heavyweight title fight.
While a win over an unranked opponent wouldn't seem to boost the number two-ranked Melendez' standing on the surface, the reality of the situation is that he probably faced a tougher test than most UFC lightweights could have offered. Despite Melendez' near flawless striking accuracy, Sanchez never stopped bringing the fight to "El Nino," even when his left eye was split open with one of the most gruesome cuts the Octagon has ever seen (see pic here).
Melendez won't rest until he adds a UFC belt to his Strikeforce championship, and he could very well be facing the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Josh Thomson title bout at UFC on Fox 9 later this year.
Sanchez picked up a loss in his return to 155 pounds, but he'll lose absolutely nothing with the performance he put on. He proved that he may have the strongest heart in UFC, and it's gotten to the point where Sanchez has to be thrown in the discussion of the most excited fighter.
He may already own that title.
"Dream" looks to be past the debilitating injuries that slowed his 2012 campaign. He'll be in for a lengthy medical suspension after the war he endured last night, but you can bet that Dana White will be looking to book Sanchez for another slugfest the minute he is cleared. Raphael dos Anjos might be an interesting bout for Sanchez, as would the winner of the TUF 18 Finale's Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz bout.
The fans gave Diego Sanchez one of the most rousing ovations a losing fighter has ever seen in Houston. Where do you rank Gilbert Melendez's epic win among the best fights you've ever seen?