A loss is a tough pill to swallow for any fighter, but it goes down even harder when the majority of the MMA world is telling them that they should have won.
Following a long stint as Strikeforce champion, Melendez finally got his shot to fight on the biggest stage in the MMA world and came within one round on a judge's scorecard from holding the UFC gold he's coveted for so many years.
Since the defeat, Melendez has re-watched the fight and he believes in his heart that he should have gotten the nod that Saturday night in San Jose.
While he's obviously going to be a little bit biased towards his own performance, what makes the loss even tougher to deal with are the mass amounts of fans and media who all believe Melendez should have walked home that night as UFC lightweight champion.
"Sometimes I feel like that belt should be with me right now. Sometimes it actually makes it a little bit harder knowing that everyone thinks I did win," Melendez told Bleacher Report. "It does feel good. I think a lot of the people that do think I won still feel I'm the best lightweight in the world. Maybe not the champ, but still the best lightweight in the world right now."
Going back and breaking down the video of the fight, Melendez knows he did more to finish the fight than Henderson ever attempted during their 25-minute bout. He believes the UFC champion was there to win on the judges' cards and did not actually attempt to put him away.
"When I did attack, I had intentions to make it a fight. I believe when he attacked, it was to score points and to flee as quick as possible," Melendez said. "He had some good leg kicks. A lot of people tell me I didn't do enough and I just ask what did he do? What did he really do? I felt like I thumped him a lot. I felt like I was under control the whole time.
"At times I think he considered it. He considered it and when it was time to stand toe-to-toe, he considered it and as soon as we stood toe-to-toe, he said I don't want nothing to do with it. The first round he attempted to fight me and after I did pretty well, he adjusted and said I have to stick and move.
"He adjusted well, but I just don't think it was the fight people wanted. I was hoping two guys would warrior it out a little bit more, toe-to-toe at times."
Melendez understands that Henderson had a strategy going into their fight and he obviously stuck to it to get the win. If there was one regret he has looking back, however, it's that he gave the UFC champion a little too much respect when it came to his skill set as an opponent.
"I did give Benson a little more respect than I think I should have," Melendez admits. "I respected the wrestling and the grappling a little too much. I stuck to my game plan, but if I were to fight him again, I would do things differently."
As hard as the loss lingers in his mind, Melendez is moving on despite his greatest wish to score an immediate rematch with Henderson. He's taking some time off to spend with his family before booking his next fight inside the Octagon, but it's a calculated move on his part.
Melendez wants to get a title shot after his next fight and right now there is no top contender waiting in the wings that he could face and score another crack at the belt. His plan is to let the lightweight division play out over the next few months and then sign for a fight that will guarantee him another shot at besting Henderson in the cage.
"Whoever the top guy, is I couldn't get in there soon enough. It's kind of tough, I wish I knew who that guy was right now," Melendez stated. "Any UFC guy would be great. As long as it's not (Josh) Thomson or (Jorge) Masvidal I have to fight again, some other guys it would be nice to get some new blood. (Donald) "Cowboy" Cerrone, maybe Diego Sanchez, Pat Healy just won, I haven't fought him that's a possibility as well. You tell me who are the top 10 guys, whoever they got."
Melendez plans on fighting at least once more in 2013 and promises to return in less than six months time. Until then, he will do his best to get over a loss he knows shouldn't be on his record as the angst inside fuels him towards another run at the UFC lightweight title.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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