While most of the other Lightweight talents outside the UFC have lost and dropped out of the top rankings, Gilbert Melendez has toiled away in Strikeforce waiting for another chance to prove himself against the best. Tonight on UFC On Fox 7, he got the chance when he made his promotional debut against 155 lb. champion Ben Henderson. Bendo has strung together 2 title defense and came in looking to tie B.J. Penn's for most defenses at Lightweight.
Melendez leaned forward on his front leg early to bait the low kick from Ben. He got it, and scored a takedown off a caught kick. Not a lot of damage from the top. He looked to do it again but Benson defended better. Striking from range and another caught kick tripped Ben up. Gilbert leaped in for a knee as Henderson returns to his feet.
Melendez held the lead he established in the first going into round 2. He disrupted Ben's gameplan by repeatedly catching kicks thrown by the champ. He got his shots off quicker and landed more consistently inside. Ben landed a couple good elbows late in the round, but he was definitely frustrated by the challenger.
Ben tried to switch it up in round 3. and started shooting for takedowns. Unfortunately for him, Gil stayed composed and defended them well, while still landing solid shots and catching kicks. Ben did get on top in the closing seconds, but was called off by the referee when the bell rang.Welts started showing on the lead leg of Melendez. Ben landing better in the first championship round. He jumped on Gil after a slip, but couldn't keep him down. IN the closing minute, Melendez backed Bendo up against the fence and landed some good shots before the champ could circle out.
Final round of the fight and Ben using lateral movement much more effectively than the earlier rounds. He didn't let Gil back him into the fence for the most part and landed good shots from range, although he took some of his own. Melendez jumps in with a flying knee to the abdomen, but Ben was unshaken. This is one of the closest fights of the year so far.
Ben Henderson retains the belt with a split decision (48-47, 47-48, -48-47) over Gil Melendez
After the official announcement, Ben tells Rogan, "I gotta go see about a girl" and proposes to his girlfriend in the Octagon. A very touching moment despite the boos from the crowd.