Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports
Ron Chenoy – USA Today Sports

The moment has finally arrived, and we fans will finally witness Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez enter the UFC’s Octagon for his April 20th debut against reigning UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson at UFC Fox 7. Unfortunately for Melendez, a belt is not just a belt, and the UFC strap carries with it considerably more weight than does its Strikeforce counterpart; and what is true about these belts is equally true of these two champions — to put it bluntly, Melendez will have his work cut out for him in Henderson.

With the tale of the tape playing out almost completely evenly, this fight will come down to more than just statistics and instead the implementation of the right game plans. Melendez will likely attempt to keep it standing in hope to connect as 11 of his wins come by way of KO, but unfortunately for him, it is far more difficult to throw blows from guard where he will most certainly end up. There is no doubt that Henderson will try to take Melendez down and utilize his ground-and-pound to soften Gilbert up before attempting a submission, as almost half of his wins come by this route. Whereas cardiovascular endurance would normally come into play during this kind of match-up, these two champions possess some of the most impressive cardio in the game, and thus, this attribute being negated, Henderson’s size advantage will likely allow him to keep Gilbert in danger and on the ground. What about the wild-card factors?

While Melendez has been out of the cage for almost a year, Henderson has been a tour de force in the UFC’s Lightweight division, and keeping busy against the best of the best, such as Frankie Edgar (2x) and Nate Diaz (a training partner of Melendez). Of course, for superior athletes ring-rust is not too much of a problem, although many of them (such as GSP) do admit to having felt it. Further, Melendez has only faced three southpaws in his career, going 2-1 against them — Benson may have the advantage here too. So what does this all mean?

In short, Melendez will have a tough time defeating the reigning champion Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight Strap. With better takedowns and the size advantage Henderson will keep Melendez down and more than likely grind it out to a decision as is customary of these two Champions with fantastic cardio. Statistically, the best bet is to follow the lines and realize that Benson may be the champion for a long time, just like Aldo, GSP, Silva, and Jones before him. Accordingly, Benson will emerge victorious, with one exception — IF, and only if Melendez lands his shots flush at stand-up, could he dethrone Henderson, but that is a bet left unclaimed and unanswered due to the unlikeliness of the event. My call, Benson Henderson will win this match going into the championship rounds, and will continue to be called UFC Champion.

Henderson

SLpM2.93TD Avg.3.2
Str. Acc.45%TD Acc.51%
SApM1.54TD Def.67%
Str. Def.63%Sub. Avg.1.02

 

 

 

Melendez

SLpM3.56TD Avg.1.94
Str. Acc.33%TD Acc.44%
SApM2.08TD Def.71%
Str. Def.66%Sub. Avg.0.3