It seems so often lately that fans are continually disappointed when title fights take place, no matter the promotion. Anderson Silva's fight turned into a joke, while BJ Penn and Gegard Mousasi looked disinterested in retaining their belts.
Gilbert Melendez was anything but a joke Saturday night when he faced Shinya Aoki in Aoki's first fight on American soil.
Melendez took the fight to Aoki for five straight rounds, and he was in complete control from the outset. Even after Aoki continually tried to pull the champion into his guard, Melendez simply punished him with a plethora of punches and hammer fists.
Although Melendez made his fight look routine, he said afterwards it was anything but.
"I didn't think it would be easy at all," Melendez explained when asked about his dominance. "I knew he wanted the fight on the ground, but I did it on my terms. I didn't get sucked into making any mistakes. I fought a very good fight."
Some look at Melendez's performance as a slight on Japanese MMA; that the fighters over there just don't stack up to the talent in America. Don't count Melendez as one of those people.
"This isn't a knock against Japanese MMA or any of their fighters," Melendez explained when asked about Japanese talent. "There are a ton of great fighters over there. Not to be cocky, but this is more about how good I've become. It's not about what Aoki or any other fighter might be lacking, it's about me showing off my talents and skills and what I'm capable of."
The 28-year-old Melendez had previously avenged the only losses of his career, and now a win over one of the top lightweights in the world pads his resume in a great way.
Melendez must certainly be considered one of the top lightweight fighters in the world, but he's aware of the deep talent pool around the world at his weight.
"You could take the top 16 fighters at 155 and have a tournament, and you might get the eighth, tenth, sixth, and seventh seeded fighters in the final four," the champion responded when asked about ranking the best lightweights. "We all have different strengths, and we can do different things to have success."
"Fighter A might beat fighter B. Fighter B might beat fighter C, but then fighter C could turn around and beat fighter A. You just never know what will happen once you get inside the cage."
Of course, there are fights that he would like right now, but they aren't possible since the fighters aren't under contract to Strikeforce.
"I'd like to fight Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn too," he said when asked about possible opponents. "Those fights can't happen because of where they fight, but there are fights out there for me.
"I'd love to fight Eddie Alvarez if we can co-promote with Bellator. I'll probably also go over to Japan, face Aoki again, and try to win the DREAM title."
There is only so much a fighter can do to try and raise his profile in the sport. Despite what some fans think, the UFC isn't the end-all, be-all of MMA. There are great fighters outside of that organization, and Gilbert Melendez is one of those fighters.
It's time for the entire MMA community to recognize his talents and skills. He may not have the mainstream appeal of BJ Penn, Kenny Florian, or even Shinya Aoki, but he proved once and for all that he's every bit the fighter as any of those men, and in fact, he may be the very best in the world at 155 pounds.
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