On April 20th, 2013 the UFC heads to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California for their UFC on FOX 7 event headlined by a lightweight title defense for Benson Henderson as he takes on Gilbert Melendez. Right now at 5Dimes the line is out and it shows Henderson sitting as a -245 favorite, with the comeback on Melendez at +175.
Melendez is getting a lot of respect from the UFC, earning a title shot in his first fight in the organization. Frankly, he deserves it. Melendez brings the pedigree of the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship, an excellent 21-2 overall record with both losses avenged in rematches, and he has won seven fights in a row. He will also enjoy a home field advantage of sorts, as San Jose is Melendez’ territory while Henderson is from up north in Seattle. Melendez may also have some insights from his teammate Nate Diaz, who just took Henderson the full five rounds in a decision loss. Henderson looked extremely good and was dominant throughout the Diaz fight, but there may be some small insight Melendez might be able to use.
Against Henderson, it should be clear that Melendez is going to have to fight a very different fight than Diaz did, but he is capable as he is a very different fighter than Diaz. Melendez counts more on his wrestling base to dictate where the fight takes place, and Henderson will find it a lot harder to get Melendez down than he did Diaz. What ensues then is anyone’s guess, but it starts with the stand up.
The slight striking avantage has to go to Henderson. Henderson and Melendez are roughly the same height, with Henderson perhaps enjoying a slight reach advantage. Henderson also uses his kicks with a little more frequency thean Melendez. Henderson’s matches with Edgar were both very close stand up fights and many people feel Edgar should have won, however you cannot discount the fact that Henderson does something that the judges like, because both matches have gone his way on the cards. Melendez will have to go up a notch in intensity and aggression, but he still should not leave this to the judges.
On the ground, Melendez must get top position and work his excellent ground and pound. If Henderson is on top like he was against Diaz, he is likely to get his ground and pound going. Diaz tried to be a threat with submission attmepts throughout their bout, and that is something that Melendez has not shown in his fights. Henderson has other worldly submission defense from what we have seen, so Melendez is very unlikely to finish with a submission. For his part, Henderson is unlikely to submit the savvy Melendez, but if he gets top position he will be able to stay safe and beat Melendez up.
Another factor to consider is that Melendez has pulled out of his last two appearances dating back to September of last year due to injuries. By the time the fight rolls around, it will have been eleven months since Melendez has been in action, while Henderson is humming along, having logged 10 championship level rounds in that timeframe, including a sweep of Diaz.
Bettors can look for action to come in on Melendez and keep the line close, but Henderson seems to have advantages in just about every area to look at, and at the end of the day will likely have his hand raised after five gruelling rounds. More on this fight as we get closer.