Win or Lose, Gilbert Melendez Will Finally Prove He Is an Elite Lightweight

Dale De Souza@@DaleDeSouzaMMAAnalyst IApril 18, 2013

May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Gilbert Melendez defeats Josh Thomson (not pictured) at the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion.  Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson stands as the consensus No. 1 lightweight in the world of mixed martial arts. He came into the UFC on the heels of the arguable 2010 Fight of The Year with Anthony Pettis and went on to rack up five unanimous-decision wins in six UFC appearances, including two close wins over former 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar and a recent UFC on Fox 5 win over Nate Diaz.

Now Henderson faces arguably his toughest challenger in consensus No. 2 lightweight and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, against whom he will make the third defense of his title at UFC on Fox 7 this weekend.

Plenty of questions surround both fighters, but they especially surround Melendez, who gets the rare opportunity to debut against the champion and potentially unseat the world's top lightweight.

Obviously, nothing cements Melendez's claim as the world's best lightweight better than defeating Henderson. but with would-be contenders dropping like flies in 2013 and divisions transforming into dead pools, questions do arise if Melendez will finally prove that he is every bit as elite as everyone has claimed for the past few years.

Let the records show that not only can he prove it, but win or lose, Melendez will prove it.

Melendez blends his speed, aggression, boxing and wrestling together well. As a result, he entertains the masses while outworking and out-classing his opponents. While admitting some difficulty in finding motivation for his recent rubber match with Josh Thomson, he will not experience the same problem against the world's top lightweight.

Melendez plans on making this fight personal, but then again, Melendez fights like that so as to not take his foes lightly. That mentality helped forge his argument towards his elite status, and he honestly needs nothing more than to implement his game plan with the same in order to cement that status.

Right now, that goal matters just a bit more than beating the man on top. He will stand as the world's best lightweight in time, but in this sport, top fighters can earn plenty of momentum outside of the world's top MMA promotion, only to receive various doubts and accusations with so little as one off-night inside of the UFC.

Melendez may not avoid the various accusations, especially from his most persistent detractors, but if he brings his A-game to Henderson on Saturday, even the sting of defeat won't hurt his claim as one of the top lightweights in the world, no matter who anyone talks to in order to get a second opinion..