You just knew when it was announced that Gilbert Melendez would fight Diego Sanchez, that it had the makings to be something special. Well, the two lightweights put on a show at UFC 166 in Houston that will go down as an all-time classic. Their three-round war was as good as any fight that you will ever see inside the Octagon, and while Melendez rightly received the unanimous decision victory, there truly was no loser.
For Melendez it was his first fight since losing a hard fought split decision to then lightweight champion Benson Henderson. While that was an entertaining debut, it paled in comparison to the drama and brutality that the fight with Sanchez produced. Melendez seemed to get the better throughout the fight as he was crisper in the striking exchanges and showed a diversified attack. Sanchez also showed a number of weapons in his arsenal. Both men landed heavy shots on one another and not surprisingly, both were bloodied at the end.
The final exchanges at the end of the first and third rounds were absolutely vicious as both men were swinging for the fences with no concern about their well-being. It was definitely a testament to both men’s toughness and showed why neither has ever been stopped via strikes in their careers.
Sanchez, who has made a career of amazing battles inside the Octagon, was prepared for a war against “El Nino”. He was badly cut in the opening round and it only got worse throughout the course of the fight. There were a couple of times that the doctor was brought in to take a look to determine whether the fight should be halted. Fortunately for fight fans attending in Houston and those watching on Pay per View, the bout was allowed to carry on.
The final round was as dramatic as it gets. Sanchez, who was behind on the scorecards, landed a huge right uppercut that dropped Melendez and badly hurt him. As the crowd was roaring, Melendez managed to clear his head to survive the final minute. Remarkably, he was more than willing to engage in a furious exchange in the final moments.
Based on a blistering, winning performance, Melendez could be in line to face the winner of the upcoming lightweight title fight between champion Anthony Pettis and Josh Thomson. As for Sanchez, he seems to have embraced life as a 155-pounder after shifting back and forth between lightweight and welterweight the last few years. As “The Dream” showed against Melendez he can truly be a nightmare for anyone in the division if his training is on point.
Both men are to be commended for a battle that fight fans won’t forget and they were very deserving of their Fight of the Night bonuses.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports