Last night on UFC on FOX 7, Benson Henderson took a split decision victory over Gilbert Melendez at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. In my eyes, Henderson lost the fight. I scored the first two rounds for Melendez, rounds three and four for Henderson, and then I gave the final round to Melendez for a score of 48-47.
However, I am not up in arms about the decision. The margin of victory in the fight was razor thin. Melendez dominated in the boxing and grappling exchanges while Henderson landed more kicks. Lately, it seems as if this kick-based offensive strategy of Henderson has been very effective at gaining judges’ favor. As a result he has been on the winning end of a lot of close fights. I also scored the second bout with Frankie Edgar for Edgar and not Henderson, but I digress.
As it stands now Gilbert Melendez is 21-3 in his MMA career at age 31. Certainly, it hurts that he is going to have to climb his way back into another title shot even though in many peoples’ eyes he should be champion. But on the bright side, he performed extremely well in his UFC debut and most would have no problem seeing a rematch between Melendez and Henderson relatively soon. We know that the winner of TJ Grant and Gray Maynard will be getting a title shot next. After that, however, there are no clear cut contenders. The lightweight division is so competitive that it is difficult for fighters at the top to sustain winning streaks long enough to become contenders. As a result, if Melendez can pick up a win in the meantime against a guy like Jim Miller (who I think he matches up very well against), he might find himself back in a title fight very quickly.
However, the wild card is Jose Aldo. If he is able to defeat Anthony Pettis and decides he wants to try his hand at lightweight, he is going to take precedence over Melendez. But other than Aldo, there is no reason to think Melendez will not be back in a title shot extremely quickly. He needs to stay healthy though; lightweight is so volatile that he doesn’t want to be left behind for 8-10 months while he is on the shelf rehabbing an injury. And it is also important to note that Melendez has avenged all of his previous career losses, so he may come into the fight with Henderson hungrier and better prepared to take the championship belt.