Bad news for fight fans as yet another seemingly finalized fight is off the cards. The UFC had a lightweight fight between Gilbert Melendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov on their UFC 170 poster last week, but Dana White has confirmed to Fox Sports' Mike Chiappetta that the bout has been nixed:
"Not happening," White told FOX Sports when asked if the matchup was on.
White said the UFC was instead looking for a different opponent for Nurmagomedov.
Melendez (22-3) is coming off an incredible FOTN war with Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, which the former Strikeforce champion won by unanimous decision after surviving a surprising 3rd round knockdown. He unsuccessfully challenged for the lightweight title against Ben Henderson last April, losing a very tight split decision.
Nurmagomedov (21-0) is one of the rising stars in the lightweight division, and he was last seen taking apart Pat Healy by unanimous decision at UFC 165. Five of his 21 professional wins have come inside the Octagon, which dates back to January 20th, 2012.
If the UFC is looking for a different opponent for Khabib, then I'd suggest Nate Diaz, a fight Nurmagomedov sought after his KO win over Thiago Tavares last January. Diaz snapped a two-fight losing streak by dispatching Gray Maynard at the TUF 18 Finale. As for Melendez, and this is completely dependent on his health, I'd gun for T.J. Grant, with the winner getting a title shot. Yes, it would mean Grant "losing" the title shot he earned by beating Maynard, but with Anthony Pettis out of commission for several more months I don't envision a scenario where the UFC keeps him as the "#1 contender".
UFC 170 (February 22nd, Las Vegas) still has other quality fights underneath the Ronda Rousey/Sara McMann main event, including Daniel Cormier against Rashad Evans, Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rustam Khabilov, and Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia.
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