MMA Odds and Ends for Monday: Melendez and Pettis Tapped As TUF 20 Coaches

Gilbert Melendez Gilbert Melendez isn’t going anywhere. The UFC yesterday announced they have matched Bellator’s contract offer to the top-ranked lightweight fighter, and now, not only will Melendez be staying in the UFC, he will also be getting the next 155lb title shot as he takes on champion Anthony Pettis in December for the UFC lightweight championship. The reason the title fight happens so late in the year is because, prior to the fight, Melendez and Pettis will coach opposite one another on season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, a season which will consist of an all-female cast of 115lbers who will battle it out tournament style to crown the first-ever UFC women’s strawwweight champion. That show films this summer, and begins airing in September. As far as the decision from the UFC to match Bellator’s contract offer to Melendez, it was a no brainer. Melendez is universally ranked in the top three of the world at 155lbs and is year-in and year-out one of the most exciting fighters in the game. Since coming to the UFC last year, Melendez is only 1-1, but keep in mind the loss was a razor-thin defeat to Benson Henderson for the title while the win was over long-time veteran Diego Sanchez in a 2013 Fight of the Year candidate. So even though technically he’s only coming off a win to Sanchez, I still believe it’s fair that he jumps over the other lightweight contenders for the next title shot against Pettis considering his track record, and the two will likely put on an amazing fight when they meet in the Octagon this December. As for Pettis, this news means that he won’t be fighting Jose Aldo in a super fight, and while I did want to see that fight happen, I also think they are challengers at lightweight they deserve their chance to fight Pettis first, and so I’m totally cool with the Pettis/Aldo super fight being delayed until further down the road. Having said that, last night’s news makes me wonder what the UFC is planning on doing with Aldo. The UFC featherweight champion has already essentially cleaned out his division, and at this point his next fight is likely to be a rematch, either against Chad Mendes or Cub Swanson, both of whom have won five fights in a row. Although Aldo knocked both of those guys out in the first round when he fought them, both have improved immensely since their champ to face the champ and both are deserving of a rematch with Aldo. If the UFC doesn’t want to do a rematch, then there are still a few fresh matchups for Aldo left, including a fight against Dustin Poirier, who is one of the most exciting fighters in the weight class. Although Poirier hasn’t won five fight in a row, he does have seven total wins as a UFC featherweight and he’s always in good fights, so I’d be plenty excited to see him take on Aldo sometime this summer. For now, though, we can keep dreaming about Aldo’s next opponent while we don’t have to dream about Pettis’ next opponent anymore because the UFC did the right thing here by matching him up with Melendez. And as a fan of both fighters who has watched both work their way up the ladder over the last number of years, I have to say this is one of my most-anticipated fights of 2014, and I can’t wait to see it.

Written by Adam Martin.

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