#Conor McGregor #UFC Fight Night 83 #Nate Diaz #Luke Rockhold #Jon Jones #Michael Bisping #David Branch #UFC 215 #Saturday Night Fights

Standing next to Benson Henderson, Gilbert Melendez looks totally out of his league.

Henderson, the UFC lightweight champion, is built like an NFL strong safety. He's got a deep, broad chest and thick, powerful-looking legs. He oozes strength, power and intimidation.

Melendez has a much more slender, normal-appearing build. Only his cauliflower ears and flattened nose provide a hint about his occupation.

Instead of that lithe body, though, lies a whole lot of destruction and rage to prove the skeptics wrong.

"I've been under the radar a little bit too long," Melendez said on "Road to the Octagon," the preview show on Fox about his match Saturday against Benson Henderson for the UFC title at the HP Pavilion. "I've been campaigning for years to be the No. 1 guy in the world, and now it's really happening."

Scott Coker signed Melendez to a promotional deal in 2005 as he was putting together Strikeforce, his mixed martial arts company that would debut in 2006 and go on to develop a series of high-profile fighters.

[Also: Veteran Frank Mir can be Daniel Cormier's steppingstone]

Insiders have long considered Melendez among the best two or three lightweights in the world, but he hasn't gotten much notoriety beyond the hardcore fan base.

In the eight years that Coker has known him, there has always been one constant.

"He's always fought with a little bit of an edge, because he's always had this attitude that he had to prove himself," Coker said. "His goal is to fight the best in the world. Well, let me correct that: His goal is to fight and defeat the best in the world. He's a guy consumed by challenging himself.

"Back in the day, he was always talking about, 'Get me this guy, get me that guy.' [Shinya] Aoki was out there submitting everyone and doing a lot of damage and Gilbert wanted him. For Gilbert, it's been a long road to get that. He's not a guy who talks about himself or calls attention to himself. The only way he calls attention to himself is the way he fights."

He fights at a high pace and with a style that is almost a perfect blend of all of the major components of MMA. He wrestled at San Francisco State, but he's not known as a pure wrestler the way, say, former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what it is Melendez does best, except for win. At that, he is very, very good. His 11 wins in Strikeforce are the most in that promotion's history, and he held its lightweight belt on two separate occasions.

[Also: Ronda Rousey warns against $100K mistake]

He's 21-2 overall and enters his bout with Henderson on a seven-fight winning streak. He hasn't been stopped in either of his two losses – To Mitsuhiro Ishida on Dec. 31, 2007, in PRIDE and to Josh Thomson on June 27, 2008, in a Strikeforce title fight – and he's beaten a host of recognizable names.

Melendez may have escaped the notice of casual fans, but Henderson is certainly aware of his capabilities. Though the champion himself is on quite a roll – he's won six in a row and 16 of his last 17 – he's trained for Melendez as if it would be the toughest fight of his career.

"Gilbert's tough as heck," Henderson said. "He might not have like the biggest name. There might be bigger fights, super fights and all that, blah blah blah, out there, but I know how tough Gil is. I know he's the Strikeforce champ, [and has been] rated top two, top three, on the planet for a long time for a reason."

Melendez plans to show that reason. And while Coker went on at length about how impressed he is by Henderson, he conceded that he's learned the hard way not to doubt Melendez.

Henderson is a massively powerful man, but Melendez, Coker says, somehow finds a way.

"Gilbert's one of those guys who has a great overall MMA game and he's really dedicated himself to learning from the best and training with the best guys," Coker said. "He's a very smart fighter. If people are saying Ben's this much stronger, I know Gilbert will find a way to counteract that. He's a guy who time after time goes out and does what he has to do to win. He's fought a list of tough guys as long as my arm, so nothing he does any more surprises me."

Related UFC video on Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Watch: Which NFL prospects are ready to make an impact?
Bostonians showing resilience day after tragic marathon bombing
John Madden: Pat Summerall was ‘the voice of football’ | Slideshow
Sources: Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. will enter NBA draft

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.


Show Comments

Related News

Reinvented Gilbert Melendez seeks 'historic fight' with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215

  • 16 days ago

Wins and losses be damned: Gilbert Melendez is going to stick to his roots when fighting fellow brawler Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Jeremy Stephens postponed his wedding to fight Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215

  • 15 days ago

Jeremy Stephens postponed his wedding, which is why he hopes to make Gilbert Melendez’s first night as a featherweight miserable.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Gilbert Melendez Explains Why He's Seeking a 'Fresh Start' as a Featherweight |

  • 15 days ago

Gilbert Melendez has seen it all during his 15 year career in mixed martial arts. He's been on the highest highs while ranked as one of the best lightweights in the world as he competed in Japan as w read news >>

UFC 215 results: Vicious Jeremy Stephens low kicks destroy Gilbert Melendez

  • 13 days ago

Gilbert Melendez once again proved his durability in the cage, but he’d probably just as soon forget all about his featherweight debut against Jeremy Stephens.Filed under: Featured, News, UFC read news >>

Gilbert Melendez got talked out of quitting on the stool after gnarly leg injury

  • 13 days ago

Gilbert Melendez got off to a bad start against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215, which is another way of saying that after one round in the cage his left shin looked like it was ready to give birth.Filed read news >>

Jeremy Stephens Dominates Gilbert Melendez (UFC 215 Results) |

  • 13 days ago

No. 8 ranked featherweight Jeremy Stephens kicked off the UFC 215 main card with a dominating performance against former lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez. Stephens' leg kicks were the st read news >>

Gilbert Melendez Shows Off Battered and Bruised Leg One Day After UFC 215 (PHOTO) |

  • 11 days ago

Gilbert Melendez showed incredible toughness making it all three rounds with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215 on Saturday night despite largely competing on one leg. Stephens absolutely battered Melendez's read news >>

So yeah, Gilbert Melendez's leg was a mess the day after UFC 215

  • 11 days ago

Gilbert Melendez’s legs got a rude welcome to the UFC featherweight division on Saturday at UFC 215. Check out the aftermath.Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC read news >>

UFC 215 'Fight Motion:' In which Gilbert Melendez's lower leg swells up instantly

  • 9 days ago

The super slow-motion highlights capture the moment swelling began on Gilbert Melendez’s left leg, which sent him down to the mat.Filed under: News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Gilbert Melendez's beat-up leg is purple but looks better than before

  • 8 days ago

Gilbert Melendez is as tough as they come.Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC read news >>