With Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez off the organization’s final hurrah in January, “El Nino” has turned his attention towards the UFC where he expects to land after the likely dismantling of the organization he currently calls home. However, he still hopes his next bout will come with the added tag of a title being on the line – just not his own.
“I want to fight Benson Henderson,” said the 30-year old in a conversation with Bleacher Report. “I think a champion versus champion fight makes absolute sense right now. I think we already know how things are going to work out between Benson Henderson and a lot of other lightweight fighters in the UFC, but I’m that mystery fighter. No one really knows how I’m going to matchup with anyone. I have been around for a long time and have been the top lightweight in the world before Benson or any of these other guys.”
Asked what made him unique in comparison to other divisional contenders, Melendez pointed to his blend of powerful, precise striking with more-than respectable wrestling rather than being solely reliant on one area of expertise like many of Henderson’s past opponents.
“I think I have a lot of answers for his style. Sometimes he fights a wrestler like Clay Guida who doesn’t have great hands and sometimes he fights strikers who can’t really wrestle,” explained Melendez. “Look his fights against Donald Cerrone back in the day or even Anthony Pettis. I have that wrestling pedigree where he ain’t taking me down and I’ll be stuffing some shots. I’m not backing away and I’ll be dropping some bombs. I’m not an easy guy to stand with. I have a lot of power and I’m not running away from kicks. I don’t run away from anything. I hold my ground. I’ll be coming for him and anything he dishes out I’ll be answering back twice as hard.”
Though Melendez’s statements may help him ultimately land a title-shot the first time he steps up in the Octagon, he also has the credentials to back the opportunity up. Melendez holds an overall record of 21-2 and is currently on a seven-fight winning streak including success against Josh Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Jorge Masvidal, and Shinya Aoki.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE