Even though they're not top draws, Ben Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez is the match to make for UFC on Fox 7.
Now that UFC on Fox 7 has been confirmed for April 20 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, it's blatantly obvious what the main event should be—Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for the UFC Lightweight Championship.
Yes, that Gilbert Melendez.
Look, I know what I said about "El Nino" before.
Previously, I (correctly) pointed out that Melendez doesn't really deserve a superfight in his first UFC match due to his lackluster competition.
Moreover, he's historically been one of the worst draws in Strikeforce, holding a company record for third-lowest gate at the HP Pavilion out of 15 events.
And make no mistake—in any other situation, he still wouldn't be the most attractive challenger.
But UFC on Fox 7 is the best time and place for a Henderson vs. Melendez bout.
Strikeforce has been dying a slow, annoying death for years now, so much so that even a superstar like Ronda Rousey could barely draw an audience during her only California event as a headliner.
Bendo vs. Melendez at UFC on Fox 7?
In Melendez's case, he was constantly overshadowed by dynamic and interesting fighters, a problem made worse when Strikeforce regularly kept its lightweight champion out of the main event.
But with the combined marketing muscle of Zuffa and Fox, a UFC lightweight title fight in San Jose could be just the thing to boost his career for the better.
Granted, Melendez still has to turn in a much better performance than his near-loss against Josh Thompson, but fortunately for him, "Bendo" is the type of person who always seems to pull "Fight of the Night"-caliber performances out of his opponents.
Melendez might not be the most deserving challenger in the lightweight division right now, but the setup here is just too good to sign any other fight.
Plus, with a shot at Henderson's title, Melendez will finally have the incentive and drive to put up or shut up against the best lightweight MMA fighter in the world.
Additionally, it'll even benefit the UFC lightweight division in the long run.
Gray Maynard still needs time to recover from knee surgery, while the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis likely won't escape the UFC on Fox 6 fight with a clean bill of health. Eddie Alvarez might also be off the table, especially since it looks like Bellator is throwing up contractual roadblocks.
In a strange way, Melendez is the best option for the card despite a total lack of star power.
Simply put, it's the right fight in the right place at the right time.
Both Henderson and Melendez aren't valuable enough that the UFC can't afford to put them on free television. But with a strong undercard and the right marketing, this "champion vs. champion" matchup could be good for San Jose's action-starved MMA community and UFC on Fox's ratings woes.