One of the more highly-anticipated UFC matchups of 2014 will put a capper on the year if all goes according to plan.
UFC president Dana White announced during a press conference in Puerto Rico that the lightweight title fight between champion Anthony Pettis and top contender Gilbert Melendez would take place at the promotion’s year-end event. The UFC traditionally holds its year-end extravaganza on the final weekend of December in Las Vegas. UFC 182 is likely to take place on December 27.
White also announced that the organization intended to hold a show in Puerto Rico in 2015 and that Pettis, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, would be a part of it. The lightweight champion and his younger brother Sergio Pettis were both on hand for the promotional tour which included the press conference and an MMA seminar for local fighters.
Pettis and Melendez are set to coach Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, which will focus on the new women’s strawweight division, and will then meet for the 155-pound title. It will be Pettis’ first defense since winning the belt at UFC 164 from Benson Henderson. Unfortunately, “Showtime” has been on the sidelines since that victory in August of 2013 because of a knee injury.
Melendez, a former title challenger, ended up getting the opportunity when it appeared he was heading elsewhere. After Melendez reached a deal with Bellator, the UFC decided to match the offer to retain the free agent’s services. The organization gave “El Nino” the high-profile TUF coaching gig and the title fight against Pettis as part of his new contract.
The former Strikeforce champion lost a close decision to Henderson in a previous title fight and most recently engaged in a thrilling war in earning a decision win against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166.
Pettis has been on an exceptional roll of late with three consecutive first-round finishes of Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon. He’s been victorious in eight of his last nine fights. While the 27-year-old champion is clearly at the top of his game right now, knee issues have been cause for concern. Hopefully there will no further setbacks once the intense training begins for what looms as a major challenge against Melendez.
This year is proving to be a challenging year for the organization because of the number of champions who are on the shelf due to injuries. The return of the lightweight champion Pettis will be a welcome sight, and a December clash against Melendez should prove not only worth the wait, but a great way to finish off the year.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports