Gilbert Melendez put on a good performance in his attempt to wear UFC gold, but two of the three judges thought he came up just short in his bid.
Melendez lost a split decision to champion Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 7 on Saturday night.
If the former Strikeforce champion proved one thing, it is that he belongs in the UFC as an elite lightweight. Many casual fans of the sport were introduced to Melendez last night, and they got to see what all the fuss was about.
Now, the question is what to do with Melendez. At the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White mentioned that the winner of Gray Maynard and TJ Grant was likely for the next title shot. So, where does that leave Melendez?
These are five fights that should be looked at for Melendez's next trip inside the Octagon.
Gray Maynard and TJ Grant will battle for the next lightweight title shot, or so says UFC President Dana White at the post-fight press conference.
However, we know by now to not write that 100 percent in stone. Anything can change the opinion of the matchmakers. What if Benson Henderson takes time off? Will the timing work out properly for this fight to happen, or will there be a long wait for the winner?
If something changes where there is time for a fight in between title defenses, then this fight should be made. It will solidify who the top contender is.
Melendez will not have dropped far in the rankings after Saturday, and the closeness of the decision will keep him in the mix.
This is probably the least enticing option, but there is a valid reason why it makes the list.
Melendez and Josh Thomson have already had a trilogy, but it took place in Strikeforce. The UFC crowd, largely, has not seen them duke it out. And for those of us who have seen them, we know those fights were fireworks.
This is a great opportunity to introduce this exciting fight to the masses with a title shot on the line.
If other fights fall through, and this is the fight to make, then it should be done. Although, it should probably be the B or C plan.
Jim Miller is 2-2 in his last four fights, but will meet Pat Healy in a big lightweight scrap at UFC 159 this coming Saturday.
Healy was a Strikeforce title contender. It is entirely plausible that he should have fought for the lightweight belt over there a while ago, but it never happened. He has won six in a row, and his only loss in Strikeforce was to Josh Thomson.
This will be Healy's first fight back in the Octagon since 2006.
Miller and Healy are not in the title picture yet, but a win at UFC 159 would make a good case for a contender's bout with Melendez later this year. And either one of these men would be a fun fight for Melendez.
UFC 160 will see an exciting matchup between Donald Cerrone and KJ Noons go down, and it will be a firefight.
Whomever exits with their hand raised would be a fun fight for Melendez's next outing. Although, neither man will be in a spot to claim they are a title contender entering a bout with the former Strikeforce champion. That makes it less enticing for Melendez.
However, Melendez may need an opponent who will ensure an exciting fight standing opposite him. It will give him a chance to earn a lot of fans, and that adds to his case for receiving another chance at the strap.
Cerrone and Noons are coming off losses, but no one can deny how fun a fight they would give against Melendez.
Yes, another Benson Henderson rematch should be in order. We may be tired of it, but Melendez earned it.
Their headlining fight at UFC on Fox 7 was almost as close as they come. Perhaps only Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson was closer, and Edgar got his rematch.
If the fight is clamored for and made, it still should not headline an event. It should be the co-main of a big pay-per-view with one of the stars of the sport headlining. It will only make the event more special to get more eyes on the lightweight title. That way they can start headlining shows afterward.
It was a fun title fight that flew by unlike other 25-minute battles. What tactical changes would be made? How will that impact the outcome of the fight? Will either man be able to finish the other?
Those are all interesting questions that can be answered in another fight.
Also, as much as the lightweight division is talked about in terms of depth of talent I urge you to look at the rankings and tell me what fight actually excites the fanbase of the UFC. The lightweight division is lacking exciting contenders. Melendez is one of the only ones, and he has the best case for a title shot.