It wasn't pretty, but Gilbert Melendez retained his lightweight crown.
Melendez bested rival Josh Thomson once again in a hard-fought, split-decision victory. The bout was the champ's most difficult since, well, the last time he faced Josh Thomson.
The win, which did little to settle the score in this 75-minute long trilogy, called into question Melendez's status as a top three lightweight. But while some pundits might be quick to call El Nino's title reign overrated, last night's bout speaks more to Thomson's grit and his own skills being underrated.
Since the two fighters first squared off in 2008, their back-and-forth battles have yet to yield a definitive winner because they are actually pretty evenly matched.
Thomson has only lost to one other person not named Gilbert Melendez since June of 2006 and has strung together quite a few impressive wins throughout his career. As a gritty, hard-nosed fighter, it's no wonder El Nino had problems last night.
Analysts shouldn't look down on Melendez for the lackluster win because Thomson is a tough opponent. A former champ and UFC vet himself, Thomson has flown under the radar over the years and deserves more credit for the performance he put on last night.
Regardless, Melendez deserves his placement near the top of the lightweight rankings.
His unique skill set marked by his power punches and wrestling background are unmatched by any other lightweight outside of the UFC.
Owning wins over the likes of Shinya Aoki and Jorge Masvidal, Melendez is the best fighter outside of the world's largest MMA promotion. His record number of title defenses and dominance under the Strikeforce banner make him a fighter deserving of the hype.
Despite not being able to take out Thomson, Melendez is far from being overrated.