Gilbert Melendez Strikefore20_PostGilbert Melendez waited patiently for years to finally compete in the UFC and prove whether or not he was indeed the best 155-pound fighter in the world.

He finally got that opportunity on Saturday when he faced UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the UFC on Fox 7 main event at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

Melendez set the pace early, while the middle rounds went to Henderson.  Melendez battled back, winning the final round on two of the three cageside judges’ scorecards, but it wasn’t enough.  Henderson was declared the winner by split decision, although Melendez felt he did enough to win the fight.

“It was a tough fight.  I really thought I got (rounds) one, two, lost three, four.  I thought I definitely did enough to win the fifth, and I thought I won three to two,” said Melendez following the loss during the UFC Post Show on Fuel TV.

As the scores were being read, Melendez expected to have his hand raised.

“I really thought so.  He walked forward.  I walked forward.  When I walked forward I think I did bigger attacks, and I thought I landed cleaner punches.  He hit me, but they were all on the forehead.  I left him pretty bloody, I think.  He has some really good kicks.  Again, I thought I won (rounds) one, two.  I can see him winning the three and four, but I thought I came strong in the fifth and stole the fight,” he said.

“I’ve got to watch the tape.  Benson is a stud.  He’s a tricky guy to hit.  He’s very tough to hit,” said Melendez about the champion.

Melendez is left pondering the what-ifs now, what could have been.

“It was my chance to try and take it more and I didn’t.  I just felt like I had the first two rounds, and I felt like I kind of kept it in the bank for the fifth.  That was the game plan.  I knew I lost the third and the fourth.  I really saved it for the fifth.  I felt like I looked tired in the fourth, but I thought I looked way more energetic in the fifth, and I thought he looked a lot more tired,” he said.

“I’m just heartbroken right now.”

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