Gilbert Melendez vs. Anthony Pettis: Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Gilbert Melendez vs. Anthony Pettis: Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis have been selected as coaches for the upcoming 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter. The elite lightweights will then fight for Pettis' lightweight championship after the season concludes.

    Melendez failed to capture the UFC Lightweight Championship last April when he dropped a contentious split decision to then-champion Benson Henderson. He got back on the winning track with an exciting victory over Diego Sanchez at UFC 166.

    Pettis became the champion with a slick, first-round armbar over Henderson at UFC 164. He has yet to defend the strap due to sustaining an injury.

    The lightweight battle will be one of the most anticipated 155-pound title fights in a long time. Melendez and Pettis are two of the most exciting fighters in the game today.

    This is an early look at the fight that will take place later in 2014.

Striking

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    Melendez has a very solid boxing attack, but there is little question as to who the better striker is in this matchup. It is Pettis.

    Pettis is more diverse and more creative than Melendez. His technical proficiency equates to fight-ending strikes in various forms.

    Pettis' "Showtime Kick" is still on highlight reels for the UFC, but he is much more than that one kick. He has head-kick stoppages, KO punches and strong leg kicks. Yes, Pettis did submit Henderson at UFC 164, but it was his leg kicks that altered the fight prior to that moment.

    Melendez loves to scrap, but he will not be able to do that against Pettis. He is simply too technically talented with a wide array of strikes for that to be a successful strategy for the challenger.

    Edge: Pettis

Grappling

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    "Showtime" Pettis' grappling ability has been one of his weaknesses, but it has slowly developed over the years. Since working with noted wrestlers like Ben Askren, Pettis' defensive grappling has been fantastic. He will need that against Melendez.

    The Cesar Gracie product is a very good grappler. He uses his wrestling ability in nearly every fight, and he has proven to have the ability to take down the very best in the division. If Melendez has a flaw in the department it is that sometimes his aggressiveness gives his opponents opportunities.

    Melendez does not have a slow pace. He will not hold position on the mat. He will try to posture up and throw strikes, or he will seek a submission. When he gets aggressive with his offense his opponents can then spring back to their feet.

    Pettis may be taken down on this fight, but he will also be able to get back to his feet quickly. Melendez holds just a slight edge in the overall category.

    Edge: Melendez

Submissions

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    There is little question that Melendez has top submission abilities. However, he prefers to dish out ground-and-pound rather than seek the submission.

    In his MMA career, Melendez has one submission win—by strikes.

    Pettis is most known for his flashy striking, but he has an offensive guard that is very underrated. Pettis showcased this against Henderson at UFC 164, but he also has several triangle submissions to his credit. As noted in the previous slide, Melendez's aggression on the mat could give Pettis opportunities to latch on to a submission when they meet.

    The abilities of both men on the ground make this an exciting matchup, but Pettis' proven submission ability, in a fight, gives him the nod.

    Edge: Pettis

X-Factors

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    Melendez's X-Factor: Fight IQ

    The former Strikeforce champion has a high Fight IQ, and it needs to be showcased against Pettis.

    Melendez loves a scrap, and to the casual fan, it may seem like that is his style. However, he picks and chooses his exchanges. He was the better, faster and more technical striker against Sanchez at UFC 166. He still ate a few shots, but by and large, he brutalized Sanchez.

    He won't be able to do that against Pettis. He will need to outgrapple him or make the fight dirty in the clinch. His game-planning and in-fight adjustments will be the crux of the fight.

     

    Pettis' X-Factor: Returning from Injury

    Pettis has been injured before, and he has typically come back just as good as before—if not better. Regardless, the question will be there again due to the nature of his knee injury.

    As the champion, he will not get to have an easy return fight to test it. He has to take on one of the top contenders immediately.

    Pettis will be well prepared, but until he steps inside the cage and is pushed by a fighter looking to take his crown, we will not know the after effects of the injury. How will it impact him in the training room and in the fight? These are questions we won't know the answer to until fight day.

Prediction

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    This fight is already being highly anticipated—and for good reason.

    Melendez vs. Pettis is a phenomenal matchup between two of the best lightweights on the planet. Their contrasting styles will make for interesting game plans, and it will put an emphasis on the execution of tactics.

    This fight could end in any round by any method by either fighter. It is that close.

    The challenger and the champion are both tough to finish. That is why I believe this fight goes the full 25 minutes regardless of who comes out on top. Who do I side with when pushed to chose a winner? 

    Melendez.

    I believe Melendez can score enough points with takedowns and ground-and-pound throughout the five rounds to accumulate the necessary scores to win the title. If he can put Pettis down early in the fight, it will take away some of the speed and pop he will want to have in the later rounds. As the fight draws on, it will make it that much easier for Melendez to dictate where the fight takes place.

    He will force Pettis into becoming a reactionary fighter, and that will prevent Pettis from getting off his offense first.

    Melendez will do enough to take Pettis' title as the best lightweight in the world.

    Prediction: Melendez defeats Pettis by unanimous decision