The lightweights put on a memorable performance in front of a sold-out crowd at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. During the live broadcast, UFC commentator Joe Rogan called it the “fight of the century.”
In his live post-fight chat with Rogan, UFC President Dana White oozed with praises for both Melendez and Sanchez in a bout some are already calling one of the greatest fights in UFC history:
I like to cruise through Twitter and listen to what the fans are saying. In the first round, everybody was saying Diego Sanchez doesn’t belong in there with Gilbert Melendez. Boy did he shut everybody up on Twitter tonight, White told Rogan during the pay-per-view broadcast. Diego Sanchez has this heart like I’ve never seen before. He’s a maniac, he’s a fighter at the core. You can’t even put into words what Diego Sanchez did. …When you talk about hardcore real Mexican fighters, that was a Mexican world war here tonight. It was unbelievable.
Melendez was in cruise control in the early portion of the bout, outworking Sanchez on the feet with crisp striking and strong takedown defense.
He landed a hard right hook toward the end of the first round that opened up a gash over Sanchez’s eye. The gash eventually turned into a crater as the fight went into the later rounds. Bloodied and battered, Sanchez continued to push forward relentlessly with predictable one-twos and an occasional high kick, which were all effortlessly countered by “El Nino.”
Still, there is something to be said about Sanchez’s heart, and when all hope seemed lost, he dug deep and found a way to turn a predictable rout into one of the most memorable bouts in UFC history.
Sanchez charged forward like a bull in the third round and took the fight to Melendez. The two exchanged blows wildly in the center of the cage for the last five minutes in an incredible battle of wills.
Sanchez managed to drop Melendez during the wild exchanges with a devastating uppercut, but the former Strikeforce champion recovered and jumped right back into the haymaker fray.
Twitter exploded with excitement once the final bell sounded for the fight:
HOLY SHIT!!! Diego vs Gil— Dana White (@danawhite) October 20, 2013
Holy shit @ufc !!!— JWOWW (@JENNIWOWW) October 20, 2013
Wow @GilbertMelendez Diego Sanchez simply amazing! Congrats Gil— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) October 20, 2013
Diego Sanchez has more fight in him than WW1 #UFC166— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunsonMMA) October 20, 2013
Diego Sanchez seriously has one of the most insane chins I've seen in prizefighting or in streetfighting videos or in anything ever. Nuts.— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) October 20, 2013
Diego Sanchez is not from this planet. @ufc— Aaron Simpson (@aaronsimpson) October 20, 2013
So proud of mah brother @GilbertMelendez fotn ur tha man Gill..fight of the year— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) October 20, 2013
So proud of gilbertmelendez what a war!!! http://t.co/7gRVuarwDY— Jake Shields (@jakeshieldsajj) October 20, 2013
Melendez was awarded the decision in the end, but there obviously weren’t any losers after witnessing a fight like that.
Sanchez’s performance served as a lesson to all fighters who hang around idly hoping the judges will gift them a decision. He put it all on the line and left everything in the cage when he was behind two rounds.
Both Melendez and Sanchez shared an unforgettable moment on Saturday night, and quite frankly, it was an honor to have witnessed every second of it.