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UFC 181 fight card primer: Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez

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Bloody Elbow presents its fight primer coverage for UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here, we look at the co-main event, a lightweight championship fight between Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez.

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In the co-main event of UFC 181, lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (17-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) makes his first title defense, as he battles ex-Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez (22-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC). Neither man has fought in over a year, but both men have been visible this year through their coaching stints on TUF 20.

Pettis, for all of his injury woes, remains one of the most dynamic and exciting fighters in the sport. Melendez is quite possibly his toughest opponent to date, and this intriguing match-up could make for a classic encounter between two high-level guys. The UFC 181 main card airs live on PPV at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT, with prelims available on Fox Sports 1 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, and on Fight Pass at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT.

How do these two stack up?

Pettis: 27 years old | 5'10" | 72" reach
Melendez: 32 years old | 5'9" | 73" reach

What have these two done recently?

Pettis: W - Ben Henderson (SUB) | W - Donald Cerrone (TKO) | W - Joe Lauzon (KO)
Melendez: W - Diego Sanchez (UD) | L - Ben Henderson (SD) | W - Josh Thomson (SD)

How did these two get here?

It's been well-documented that Anthony Pettis isn't a beacon of health, but when he's actually fighting he's as dangerous as they come. Ben Henderson knows this feeling all too well, as Pettis took his title in the WEC and then finished him via armbar to capture the UFC belt. Since the loss to Clay Guida and narrow win over Jeremy Stephens, none of Pettis' last 3 opponents have gone past the 1st round, and his powerful striking and slick submission game have been too much for the division to handle.

Gilbert Melendez has been consistently one of the best lightweights in the world, and even when he was in Strikeforce his biggest supporters argued he was the top dog ahead of Frankie Edgar. In Strikeforce he bested the likes of Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Josh Thomson (twice), and Jorge Masvidal. His controversial split call over Thomson in their rubber match was his last defense before getting an immediate UFC title shot vs. Ben Henderson, which saw him lose a contested split decision. A thriller with Diego Sanchez was nearly his final UFC bout, as Bellator came to an agreement to sign him, but the UFC matched the offer and kept him on the roster. From there, he was granted another title shot and the TUF gig opposite Pettis.

Why should you care?

Are you serious? Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez back and they are fighting each other. This is surefire entertainment.