The Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) latest foray onto network television airwaves, UFC on Fox 7: "Henderson vs. Melendez" tonight (Sat., April 20, 2013) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, was headlined by a lightweight championship showdown pitting titleholder Ben Henderson against the former king of the Strikeforce 155-pound weight class, Gilbert Melendez.
This was a historic bout considering Henderson won his first major mixed martial arts (MMA) title under the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) banner and Melendez won his with the aforementioned Strikeforce organization. After both were bought out and absorbed by Zuffa, they were more or less always on a collision course.
Well, tonight we got to see, as "Bendo" so aptly put it, who the better fighter really was.
And STILL UFC lightweight champion, Ben "Smooth" Henderson.
Henderson struck first in the opening round with a straight punch that caught Melendez and backed him up. The challenger answered with a takedown, though it was more of a trip than anything and the champion got back to his feet with little issue and without taking much damage, though Gil did land a knee on the way back up.
Later in the round, "El Nino" caught another kick and took Henderson down with it, once again landing a knee before the champ could get back to his feet.
The second round was spent exclusively on the feet, as both men exchanged punches and knees with far more fervor. After establishing himself well in the first round, Melendez found himself backpedaling a few times. That's because "Bendo" was more aggressive, as per instructions from his corner.
It may not have won him the round, but it definitely made it much closer and helped bridge the gap between the two.
Henderson was aggressive again to start the third but Melendez held his ground and landing some crisp strikes, fending off the attack. This led to the "Smooth" one shooting in and earning his first takedown of the fight, though it should be noted he didn't spend much time at all on top while the two were on the mat, which wasn't for very long.
In fact, in the next exchange when they were back up on their feet, "El Nino" may have gotten the better of it.
They traded punches again to close the round but it was incredibly close, with each guy having their share of successes to go along with their share of failures, though Henderson did end the round on top landing elbows.
The first of two championship rounds saw Melendez start head-hunting quite a bit while Henderson continued his tried and true game plan of unleashing vicious kicks that had Melendez's thighs looking beet red.
Still, you could ask for a scorecard from 58 different people at this point and get 58 different scores. It was that kind of fight.
Not unlike the first four rounds, it was difficult to decide which of the two was getting the better of the exchanges. Both had success, though Melendez was more aggressive thanks to advice from his corner that he really needed to put an exclamation point on his performance with a solid final five minutes.
When the final horn sounded, both fighters threw their hands in the air and acted as though they had definitively won the contest, both knowing full well that wasn't really the case. After all, in a war of attrition like this, and with such fickle judges in MMA, there's no telling how these things can go.
Fortunately for Henderson, they went his way and he retains his lightweight title.
Satisfied with the decision, Maniacs?
For complete UFC on Fox 7 results and blow-by-blow coverage of all the night's action click here.