Benson HendersonGilbert Melendez has long been considered one of the top light fighters on the planet. Fighting outside the UFC, however, he never had the opportunity to try and prove he was thee best lightweight.

The outgoing Strikeforce champion, Melendez was granted that opportunity at UFC on Fox 7 on Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., when he challenged UFC champion Benson Henderson.

Unfortunately for Melendez, he came about as close as a fighter could get to the title without taking it.

Neither man dominated the fight, but Melendez started off strong early, often dictating the pace, fending off Henderson’s kicks, and frequently beating the champ to the punch.

Melendez kept pressing into round two, Henderson seemingly unable to ratchet his tempo up to its usual frenetic pace.

Once he caught on that Melendez was catching many of his body kicks, Henderson shifted gears midway through the fight, starting to go Melendez’s legs more frequently, and kicking them out from under the challenger on a couple of occasions.

While Melendez kept pressing, trying to move the fight where he wanted it, and firing off his punch combinations, Henderson varied his tactics as the fight wore on. In particular, he started employing some harsh elbows that kept Melendez from going inside the champ’s punching range as much.

Midway through the fourth round, the fight seemed to shift quite a bit. Henderson looked much more in command, while Melendez seemed to slow if ever so slightly.

Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez scorecard

(Click to enlarge)

In the end, the fight couldn’t have been much closer, Henderson eking out a split decision victory, two judges scoring it 48-47 in his favor, one with the same score in Melendez’s favor.

Henderson took advantage of his good fortune and looked to add to it after the fight, calling his girlfriend into the Octagon and dropping to one knee.

“I’m not perfect, I never have been, but you make me happier every single day, more than any man has the right to be,” said Henderson before taking one last swing. “I love you. Will you marry me?”

This decision didn’t sound near as razor-thin as the fight’s decision, as his girlfriend immediately answered, “Yes, I will.”

“It was a tough fight. We all know how tough Gilbert Melendez is,” said Henderson in his post-fight interview following his post-fight proposal, but added, “There’s a lot bigger things than fighting. I had to take care of one of those things just now to make sure she’s in my life for the rest of my life.”

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