UFC on FOX 7
April 18, 2013
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Benson Henderson (18-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Henderson -290, Melendez +230
Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will finally take his talents to the Octagon for a title bout against UFC’s champ, Benson Henderson, on Saturday night in San Jose.
It’s been a while since either of these fighters has lost. Henderson has won six in a row, with those half-dozen fights comprising all six of his career UFC bouts. All of those victories came via decision. Melendez has won seven consecutive bouts dating back to 2009 when he first claimed the interim Strikeforce belt. But there is a stark difference in these two fighters’ winning streaks: Henderson has consistently beaten the top lightweights in the world while Melendez’s competition has been fine, but never overwhelmingly impressive. Fighting somebody as talented as Henderson will be a huge step up in class for Melendez, who will likely need time to adjust.
Henderson first won the lightweight belt from Frankie Edgar in Feb. 2012 via unanimous decision. Edgar deservedly got a rematch but fell in a split decision. Since then, Henderson beat Nate Diaz in his most recent fight on Dec. 8. Armed with the best wrestling skills in the lightweight division, solid submission skills and a gritty ground-and-pound mentality, the 29-year-old Henderson is difficult to attack. In his career, he owns eight decision wins, eight submission wins and two knockouts, and has won 16 of his past 17 fights.
Melendez’s two career losses have both come via decision. His most recent defeat, in 2008, was to Josh Thomson, who Melendez has since beaten twice to keep the Strikeforce belt. The most recent of those wins over Thomson was his last fight on May 19, 2012, a narrow split decision. Like Henderson, the 31-year-old Melendez attacks with a ground-and-pound style. He focuses less on submissions -- having won that way just once in his career -- and more on his athleticism to give him victories. Eleven of his 21 career wins have come via knockout, including three of his last seven. "El Nino" Melendez will likely have to connect on some big punches and earn a knockout in order to come out victorious in this one, an unlikely proposition against the best lightweight in the world.
Frank Mir (16-6) vs. Daniel Cormier (11-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Cormier -500, Mir +350
Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion Daniel Cormier will put his unblemished record on the line against former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir on Saturday night in a main-card bout as part of UFC on FOX 7.
Mir has had two stints as UFC’s divisional champ, the first coming all the way back in 2004. His most recent fight was an attempt to reclaim it for a third time, but he fell in the second round to Junior dos Santos. This will be Cormier’s first UFC fight after wreaking havoc on Strikeforce and lower-level promotions where he compiled an undefeated 11-0 record. The most impressive of those wins was in 2011, when he KO’ed Antonio Silva in the first round. But Cormier is a surprising heavy favorite here given that not all of the competition he has faced has been the best of the best. Mir, on the other hand, has regularly fought and beaten top-level UFC fighters.
It has been nearly 11 months (May 26, 2012) since Mir last fought in his TKO (punches) loss to dos Santos. Before that, he earned an extremely impressive 1st-round submission against Minotauro Nogueira that won UFC Submission of the Year honors. But it is clear Mir can win in a variety of ways, as his wins before that were a decision against Roy Nelson and a KO of Mirko Cro Cop. Overall though, submissions are his preferred mode, winning nine of his 16 career bouts that way. A nasty Jiu-Jitsu artist who has developed a better striking game throughout his career, the 33-year-old Mir has a chance to end this one early. He cedes about eight pounds to Cormier, but stands four inches taller at 6-foot-3, which could prove to be decisive.
All of Cormier’s wins are convincing, the only question is the quality of the competition. The last two wins were a TKO of Dion Staring on Jan. 12 and a decision against Josh Barnett last May. Prior to that was the KO of Antonio Silva. Overall, Cormier's win breakdown consists of five knockouts, three submissions and three decisions. Although he is just 5-foot-11, small for a heavyweight, he tries to nullify that by bringing fights to the ground with his aggressive wrestling tactics. The 34-year-old will need to execute perfectly on those to justify being such a heavy favorite.