Gilbert Melendez was once considered a candidate for pound-for-pound best lightweight in MMA. Unfortunately for him, he lost a year of his career after testing positive for PEDs. Saturday night at UFC on Fox 20, he returned to the UFC.
Melendez entered the cage with only one UFC win, and one victory in the past four years. Many questioned as to whether or not his best days were behind him, going into the fight at 34-years old. Dropping fights to Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis and Ben Henderson isn't anything to be held against an elite fighter, but #6-ranked Edson Barboza was looking to make a statement Saturday night.
Melendez came out looking heavy on his feet, and it was all downhill from there. Barboza, as is tradition, sawed through Gilbert Melendez's post-USADA legs, dropping the former Strikeforce Champion several times. Body kicks would also land with regularity throughout the duration of the three-round bout.
Barboza was briefly threatened in the second round when Melendez connected with a couple of hooks, but quickly recovered. Perhaps the most impressive feats for Barboza was him shucking off every single takedown attempt from Melendez, even after being rocked.
The unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) win likely launches Barboza into the lightweight top five. Melendez will re-enter the rankings after being pulled due to his suspension. With one win in four UFC fights, Melendez may have seen his last days at the top of one of MMA's toughest divisions.
By Sean Ross Sapp