The co-main event of UFC 181 is a five-round title fight between UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and No. 1 contender Gilbert Melendez. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Pettis is a -250 favorite (bet $250 to win $100) while Melendez is a +210 underdog (bet $100 to win $210). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Pettis at -185 and Melendez at +145, and overall action has come in on the champ Pettis. I agree with the line movement in Pettis’ direction as I think he defends his lightweight crown. Here’s why. Pettis (17-2) is the UFC lightweight champion and the former WEC lightweight champion. The 27-year-old American is 4-1 in the UFC with wins over Benson Henderson, Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone and Jeremy Stephens and a loss to Clay Guida. He also has another win over Henderson from his WEC career, as well as a notable win over Danny Castillo. Pettis is, simply put, one of the most talented and dynamic mixed martial artists in the game today. He was tremendous striking skills as he’s both powerful and accurate, he has slick submissions on the ground, he has the cardio to go five full rounds strong, he has a good chin, and he has a lot of confidence. He is one of the best fighters in the world, bar none, and the only thing holding him back is his health, as he is constantly getting injured, and he enters this fight against Melendez on a 16-month layoff. If he does have one flaw, it’s his takedown defence, as Guida put him on his back and beat him by wrestling him, something that could come into play against a strong wrestler like Melendez. But that fight was over three years ago, and Pettis has had a lot of time to work on his takedown defence since then, and as long as he doesn’t get grounded out by Melendez in this fight, he should have the edges in the striking and submission departments, and he should defend his belt, which is why he’s a big favorite heading into the fight. Melendez (22-3) is the No. 1 contender in the UFC lightweight division. The 32-year-old American is 1-1 in the UFC with a narrow split decision loss to Benson Henderson and a decision win over Diego Sanchez in what were two of the best fights of 2013. Prior to his UFC career, Melendez was a force to be reckoned with in Strikeforce and PRIDE, defeating the likes of Josh Thomson, Rodrigo Damm, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shinya Aoki, Clay Guida and Jorge Masvidal. Melendez is an extremely well-rounded lightweight with great wrestling, tremendous boxing, solid submissions, powerful ground and pound, a great chin and great cardio. He’s one of the best in the world, bar none, which is why he is getting a second shot at the UFC belt in just his third fight in the promotion. He hasn’t fought since last October, so he will be coming into this fight on a 14-month layoff, but Pettis has had a longer layoff so I don’t think that should be concerning. Melendez’ best chance to beat Pettis will be to use his wrestling and take this fight to the mat, but he could hold his own on the feet as he has very technical boxing. However, we saw in the fight with Sanchez that Melendez was dropped from a big punch, and Pettis is 10x the striker Sanchez is. The threat of a knockout is real, and while Melendez hasn’t been knocked out before, seeing him get dropped by Sanchez is a huge concern and it’s likely the reason why he is such a big underdog in this fight against Pettis. Pettis has had a long layoff, but I don’t think it’s going to affect him in this fight. I think the absolute only way he loses this fight is if Melendez can wrestle him for five rounds, and I just don’t see that being likely. Melendez is certainly a good boxer, but Pettis is faster, more dynamic, and has a much better kicking game. I think he will light Melendez up on the feet for five rounds, and even though Melendez has never been finished before, we saw signs of a fading chin in the Sanchez fight and Pettis absolutely has the capabilities to knock him out with either strikes to the head or strikes to the body. He also has the ability to land a submission finish if the fight hits the floor. Most are expecting this fight to go five rounds and be close, but I don’t see that being the case. I just think that it’s Pettis’ time now, and I think he wins this fight in impressive fashion to retain his belt. At -250, Pettis is certainly not cheap, but I am pretty confident he wins this fight and I can’t blame anyone who wants to include him in a parlay.