Gilbert Melendez is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the best fighters in the world today, at least at his chosen weight class of 155-pounds. He staked his claim to this by running through all comers in the Strikeforce lightweight division, all the while claiming he could do the same if and when he was ever signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to compete inside the Octagon.
Well, Zuffa bought out Strikeforce and at the earliest opportunity, "El Nino" was brought over and immediately given a title shot against Ben Henderson in his debut. That was part one of his dream. Part two was actually going out and winning the belt, something he failed to do in the main event of UFC on Fox 7 last night (Sat., April 20, 2013) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
And he's heartbroken over it.
What made the loss particularly difficult to take was the nature of how it occurred. Melendez wasn't blown out by a much better fighter. No, he went toe-to-toe with the best in the division, and he felt he did enough to win. One judge agreed with him, but the other two did not.
Speaking at the post-fight press conference, here's what Melendez had to say about it:
"Heartbroken, that's all I can say, heartbroken. I thought I won the first two (rounds) and the fifth for sure. I took my foot of the gas a little after the second. I thought it was going to come to the last round, and I thought I won the last round. Ben's a stud, what can I say."
Henderson is a stud indeed but one can't help but wonder what the future holds for Melendez. "Bendo" has now successfully defended his belt as many times as any other lightweight in history and with his penchant for always taking close decisions, he could hold the title for some time to come.
A rematch isn't out of the question somewhere down the line, but it won't be next for either man. As confirmed by UFC President Dana White, Henderson will move on to face the winner of the Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant bout at UFC 160 on May 25 in Las Vegas.
So what of "El Nino?"
I'll leave that up to you Maniacs. What bout can the powers that be set him up with to help get him over his broken heart?
For much more on Melendez's loss to Henderson click here. To watch highlights of the fight click here. And for complete results and blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on Fox 7 fight card click here.