The co-main event of UFC 188 pits two of the most prominent non-UFC lightweight champions of all-time against each other at long last. Former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez (25-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) will take on ex-Strikeforce title holder and two-time UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez (22-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) in a fight that on a normal day could be 5 rounds, but suffers from being on PPV and thus can only be scheduled for 3.
As deep as their accomplishments have been in their respective promotions, UFC success has eluded both. Alvarez, of course, has only fought once, but Melendez is coming off the first stoppage loss of his career and his near move to Bellator has seen him without a win since October 2013. UFC 188: Velasquez vs. Werdum airs live from Mexico City, Mexico tonight at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on pay-per-view. Preliminary card action can be seen on FX at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT and on Fight Pass at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT.
How do these two stack up?
Alvarez: 31 years old | 5'9" | 70" reach
Melendez: 33 years old | 5'9" | 71" reach
What have these two done recently?
Alvarez: L - Donald Cerrone (UD) | W - Michael Chandler (SD) | W - Patricky Freire (KO)
Melendez: L - Anthony Pettis (SUB) | W - Diego Sanchez (UD) | L - Ben Henderson (SD)
How did these two get here?
Alvarez was entangled in a rough contract dispute with Bellator as the UFC angled to sign him in 2013, but Bellator kept him in their possession and Eddie rematched Michael Chandler for the lightweight belt later that November. In another fascinating contest, Alvarez took the title away from the man he originally lost it to, but the decision was close enough to warrant a rubber match. When Alvarez got injured, the fight never materialized, and Alvarez was granted his unconditional release by the new Scott Coker regime. Alvarez was immediately signed by the UFC without any legal drama, but Eddie couldn't get the debut win vs. Donald Cerrone at UFC 178. He was scheduled to face Ben Henderson in January before pulling out with an injury.
Melendez got an immediate title shot against then champion Ben Henderson in 2013, having just edged out Josh Thomson to finish his Strikeforce career. In a controversial decision, Melendez came up on the losing end of a split call. He bounced back with a thrilling win over Diego Sanchez, but then was seemingly headed for Bellator. The UFC matched Bellator's contract terms and gave him another title shot plus a coaching spot opposite Anthony Pettis on TUF. Melendez gave it a good effort but ended up getting submitted for the first time in his career, as Pettis locked on a guillotine choke in the 2nd round at UFC 181. All things considered, prospects for a third title shot look grim if he loses tonight.
Why should you care?
Is this fight happening a few years too late? Perhaps, but it's better late than never and it should be a very entertaining battle between two of the world's best lightweights.