Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will return to action later this year for his second UFC bout when he faces Diego Sanchez in a pivotal showdown in the 155-pound division.
The two fighters agreed to meet, according to a message Melendez released via Twitter on Thursday, although no date or location for the fight has been announced.
In an interview with MMA's Great Debate Radio following his last fight, Melendez mentioned his time line for return would be around October. That would fit into the UFC's plans for an upcoming card slated to land in Houston, which will be headlined by heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez vs. former titleholder Junior dos Santos.
Earlier in the week, UFC Tonight also reported that Sanchez was targeting an October date for his return to action, so all of the pieces fit for the two lightweights to square off as part of the card tentatively titled UFC 166.
Melendez will enter the fight against Sanchez still haunted by the memories of his last bout in the UFC. At UFC on Fox 7, he came within one round on one judge's scorecard of becoming the UFC lightweight champion.
In his Octagon debut, Melendez battled Benson Henderson in a five-round war, but when it was over, the incumbent champion was declared the winner. Many believed Melendez should have received the nod when it was over, but now the San Francisco Bay area fighter will look to earn another shot at the gold when he returns to the cage later this year.
Greeting Melendez while hoping to work his way back to the top of the division as well will be former lightweight title contender Diego Sanchez, who will make his second appearance at 155 pounds since moving down to the weight class earlier this year. Sanchez has bounced back and forth between welterweight and lightweight over the last few years, but he decided that 155 pounds will be his home for now.
During his last stint as a lightweight, Sanchez made it all the way to a title shot, but he lost in his bid to become champion after being stopped by BJ Penn at UFC 107 in 2009.
In his last fight, Sanchez returned to the lightweight division (although he did miss weight at the event, coming in at 158 pounds) and won a close, controversial decision over former Pride champion Takanori Gomi.
Sanchez will try to make a much bigger statement this time around when he faces a fighter many consider to be the uncrowned UFC lightweight champion in Gilbert Melendez.
A finalized date for this lightweight fight will likely be announced by the UFC in the coming weeks.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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