UFC 166 Date: Octber 19, 2013 Arena: Toyota Center City: Houston TX Lightweight bout: Diego Sanchez (+550) vs Gilbert Melendez (-800) Fight Breakdown: The main card for UFC 166 features a lightweight scrap between two very exciting latino warriors who are full of heart when Diego Sanchez goes head-to-head against Gilbert Melendez. The winner of this fight will likely be one fight away from a title shot. Sanchez is the very large underdog in this bout at +550 ($100 to win $550), with Melendez being a huge favorite at -800 ($800 to win $100) at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. DIEGO SANCHEZ (24-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) is returning to the Octagon following a controversial split decision win over Takanori Gomi, in a fight most spectators had Gomi winning. With more than seven months away from the cage, Sanchez returns against arguably the best lightweight on the planet in former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Sanchez is being counted out, as oddsmakers have him at a near 6-to-1 underdog against the Strikeforce veteran, who is only making his second appearance inside the Octagon. Sanchez has always fought with all his heart and has always left it all in the cage. His skills on the feet are not brilliant, by any means, but he is capable of holding his own. He has one of the best chins in MMA, so he always stays in the fight and moves forward, keeping the pressure on, even if he is the one receiving the most tags. Most predominant strikers will be able to take Sanchez on the feet, but that’s not where Sanchez wants to fight. The ground is his home. His wrestling and ground and pound attack is what he uses to win fights. He takes opponents down and punishes them, eventually wearing them out with his relentless pressure. He is good at welterweight, but it’s at lightweight where he really shines. However, he did not look like himself in his last outing against Gomi. The time off should have given him time to improve his game and get ready for a fight like the one ahead of him. Sanchez has always had tremendous conditioning, and while still training out of Jackson-Winklejohn MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., I expect him to go all 15 minutes without showing a sign of fatigue. GILBERT MELENDEZ (21-3 MMA, 0-1) is set to make his second UFC appearance, after losing a controversial split decision in a title fight against then-champion Benson Henderson. Many fans watching scored the bout for Melendez, but two out of three judges saw it otherwise. Six months later, he returns looking to get his first UFC win, which will ultimately get him in the mix for another title shot. Melendez trains out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Lodi, C.A., with training partners Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, and Jake Shields. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has an excellent submission game, though he only owns one submission victory in his 24-pro fight career. The Northern California native much prefers to keep the fight on the feet, as he is an excellent striker. He has great boxing skills and is also a talented wrestler who works great takedowns and works the top position well. Melendez has excellent conditioning and will be able to go hard for all three frames of action without a worry. Sanchez cancels Melendez out on the mat, but Melendez will undoubtedly have an advantage on the feet heading into this bout, as he is the much superior striker. He will also have a speed advantage, though the size advantage will belong to Sanchez. Fight Prediction: For Sanchez, the best route to victory will be to employ a wrestling heavy gameplan. Melendez has great takedown defense, but Sanchez should do all he can to get the fight to the mat, and if unsuccessful, at least hold Melendez up against the cage and do some dirty boxing there. He does not want to give Melendez space to move around on the feet. He wants to take him down and use his elbows, and that’s exactly what I expect him to be looking to do. For Melendez, he needs to defend takedowns and keep the fight standing, where he will have a clear advantage. It is unlikely that he will be able to stop Sanchez, but if able to keep the fight on the feet, more often than not, he should cruise to a 30-27 unanimous decision nod. I would say that is the most likely outcome, but if Sanchez really shows up to fight, he could make this a close one. Gabe’s Pick: Gilbert Melendez by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) Gabe’s Recommended Plays: Over 2.5 rounds -260 for 4u and very likely a play on Sanchez +3.5, if the line (which is not yet released) is worth it.