UFC 166: Melendez vs. SanchezSaturday, October 19 – 10:00 p.m. ET
Toyota Center – Houston, TX
Gilbert Melendez (21-3) vs. Diego Sanchez (26-5)Lightweight bout
Line: Melendez -550, Sanchez +350
Gilbert Melendez looks to inch closer to earning another title shot as he squares off against a very talented fighter in Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in Houston.
Melendez is looking to bounce back from a split-decision loss to then lightweight champion Benson Henderson on April 20. In that match, Melendez showed tremendous strength and cardio to be able to go five rounds with such a talented fighter. Now he has his sights set on earning a match with Anthony Pettis, who defeated Henderson at UFC 164 to earn the belt. Melendez has vicious knockout power, but uses his punches to wear out his opponent just as much as he does to knock them out. While Melendez has a very impressive resume, Sanchez will not be lacking any confidence entering this fight. Sanchez comes in as well-conditioned for a long match as any fighter, as his past five matches have all gone the distance. Sanchez is a very versatile fighter, as he is able to adjust to any type of match. In his last bout on March 2, he defeated Takanori Gomi in a split decision. Fighting his versatile and somewhat conservative style allows him to be in every fight, but can also backfire as it lets his opponent hang around and potentially sneak out a victory. While Sanchez will be game and presents a unique challenge, heavily-favored MELENDEZ is determined to get another title shot, and will not let Sanchez prevent him from attaining that goal.
Melendez has 21 career victories, with 11 of them coming by way of knockout. He also has shown his ability to go deep in matches, with nine wins coming by way of decision and only one submission victory. Like Sanchez, he has gone the distance in a lot of his recent matches, with four of his past fight matches being decided by the judges. A big advantage for Melendez, who is 7-1 in his past eight fights, will be his ability to connect on his strikes, where he lands 3.39 per minute compared to 2.83 by Sanchez. Look for the 31-year-old Melendez to really push the tempo of this fight, as Sanchez has a tendency to sometimes fight not to lose, rather than win. If he does this, Melendez must attack and go for the victory, because if he doesn’t, then he is playing right into Sanchez’s game plan.
Sanchez, also 31, has won in all areas with nine knockouts and six submission wins. That leaves 11 of his 26 career victories coming by way of decision, including his past five wins. His cardio plays a huge role in these matches, as he gets stronger as the match goes on. Against a fighter like Melendez, he will need to be careful as Melendez has the ability to end the match in a blink of an eye. While he does not land as many strikes as his opponent, Sanchez is more accurate with his attempts with 38 percent, compared to 32 percent for Melendez. While it isn’t in his best interest to go punch-for-punch against Melendez, Sanchez will need to start early and try to tire Melendez out in order to steal a victory.