Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight stars Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez battled over the 155-pound title last night (Dec. 6, 2014) inside Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Melendez recognized that last night was very likely his final title opportunity. Bringing his usual intensity into the cage with him, the challenger went after the champion.
Pettis, meanwhile, was looking to prove that he's still the greatest Lightweight on the planet after a lengthy layoff. Plus, "Showtime" was looking to add another impressive name to his highlight reel.
He did just that.
Melendez made it clear immediately that he was not screwing around. Quickly pressuring Pettis to the cage with his punches, he immediately shot in for a double-leg takedown. He did not finish his first shot or even his second, but Melendez controlled Pettis from the standing back mount for about two minutes.
When Pettis created space, Melendez went right back to work. He landed a nice combination -- including some body blows -- before momentarily finishing a double leg takedown. During every grappling exchange, Melendez constantly attacked with punches. Each time the fighters broke apart, Pettis would throw a kick, which Melendez followed by a series of punches.
Melendez clearly took the first round, having controlled for most of the round and landed many shots.
"El Nino" continued to pursue Pettis with looping punches. In this round, Pettis angled off better, which allowed him to land some serious counter punches as Melendez pursued. One of those strikes dropped Melendez briefly, who used that to shoot a double leg.
As he did so, Pettis locked in a nasty guillotine choke and sat guard. Melendez was trapped in a horrible position and attempted to roll, but he couldn't loosen the hold. With no other options, Melendez was forced to submit.
Melendez fought an absolutely perfect fight. He pressured the young champion relentless, dug to the body often, and didn't give his opponent room to land kicks. Unfortunately, his wrestling simply was not dynamic enough to consistently take and keep Pettis on the mat.
Still, I find it hard to critique Melendez. He fought his heart out, but Anthony Pettis has made it abundantly clear that he needs only one opportunity to secure a finish. For Melendez's next bout, I'd love to see him and Eddie Alvarez pair off, in the match up of former non-UFC lightweight rulers.
Pettis' performance was truly impressive. His opponent fought with a perfect strategy, doing everything right, and "Showtime" still finished him in less than two rounds.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Pettis' performance was his ability to adjust. In the first, Pettis kept backing straight into the fence, which allowed Melendez to force grappling exchanges and land punches in close. After getting a minute of advice from his coaches, Pettis opened the second round by circling away from Melendez's charges, which forced "El Nino" to to reach for Pettis.
Whenever a fighter reaches with his punches against a precision striker like Pettis, he's going to suffer. Pettis made Melendez pay with punches, rocked him, then showed gorgeous killer instinct with his guillotine choke. In five-round fights, being able to adjust is such a massive advantage, and it will certainly make stealing the belt from Pettis much more difficult.
For his next defense, there are plenty of potential contenders. However, the only one that truly intrigues me is Khabib Nurmagomedov. If Pettis can defend against that Sambo meat grinder, then I don't know that anyone in the division stands a chance.
At UFC 181, Anthony Pettis submitted Gilbert Melendez in the second round. Just how long can the lightweight wunderkind hang onto his title?
For complete UFC 181 "Hendricks vs Lawler" results and play-by-play click HERE.