UFC on FOX 20: Holm vs Shevchenko Date: July 23, 2016 Arena: United Center City: Chicago, IL Lightweight bout: Gilbert Melendez (+175) vs Edson Barboza (-190) Fight Breakdown: The co main event for UFC on FOX 20 will be a barn burner in the lightweight division between former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez and Brazilian Muay Thai striking sensation Edson Barboza. Melendez is the betting underdog heading into this contest at +175 ($100 to win $175), while Barboza is the favorite to win at -190 ($190 to win $100) at Several Bookmakerss. Gilbert Melendez (22-5 MMA, 1-3 UFC) is coming off an extended layoff following a positive drug test for which he has completed serving his suspension. Ready to return to action, “El Nino” will be jumping right into the deep end of the pool with this match-up against the always dangerous Brazilian striking machine. He trains out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Lodi, CA with the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields as his main training partners. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has an excellent submission game, though he only owns one submission victory in his 27-pro fight career. It is also worth noting that he is much more effecting with his Jiu-Jitsu from top position and is not nearly as talented off his back. Opponents with a solid top game could take advantage of his subpar guard, but getting there is a tough task, as Melendez possesses tremendous takedown defense, and when taken down, does a fantastic job of quickly finding his way back to his feet. 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 very effective with his punches. His technique is very good and he has the punching power to go with it, so that makes him a real dangerous threat on the feet. “El Nino” also has excellent wrestling skills; he works great takedowns and has a solid top game, where he does a good job of staying heavy and working his ground and pound. Melendez generally has great cardio, so even with the extended layoff, I expect him to be in shape for a three round war with Barboza, should the fight go the distance. Edson Barboza (17-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Anthony Pettis at UFC 197 three months ago, marking the biggest victory of his proffesional mixed martial arts career, and he makes a quick turnaround with this match-up against the former Strikeforce lightweight champion Melendez. Barboza is a very talented Muay Thai striker who has developed excellent defensive wrestling skills. The biggest concern for Barboza at this point is his chin, considering the fact that he was dropped and finished by Jamie Varner, dropped and nearly finished by Castillo, then dropped again and submitted by Cerrone. That said, he did show good recovery against Castillo, as he did survive the onslaught to make a come-back and take home a majority decision on the judges’ scorecards. The 30-year-old has an incredible kicking game and undoubtedly owns the hardest leg kicks in the lightweight division. He has scored three knockouts via leg kicks, with two of them coming inside the Octagon. The Brazilian has beautiful spinning kicks, as well, like the highlight-reel spinning heel kick he knocked out Terry Etim with. He often likes to use his spinning back kick, and also has a nice spinning roundhouse kick. The Muay Thai specialist mixes it up well on the feet, putting together some excellent and effective combinations. He has a good over-hand right, a solid left hook and a nice uppercut-left hook combination he likes to use. He uses his lead jab really well, and is great at working his range. Training in New Jersey with the likes of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, current UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, Barboza is well-conditioned and will be prepared for 15-minutes of action, should this scrap reach the judges’ scorecards for a decision. Gabe’s Thoughts: In short, I think this is a close fight and do slightly favor Barboza to get his hand raised, but I think Melendez should be a +130 underdog, which makes me favor him for a play at his current offering price of +175. Gabe’s Call: Barboza by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Melendez (+175) 1u to win 1.75u.