Strikeforce LW Champion Gilbert Melendez
In fact, he expressed this to me while walking the streets of Nashville last year, the day before he disposed of Dream Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki.
Judging by his record and the list of men he has defeated, Melendez has a valid claim to the lightweight throne.
After dispatching Tatsuya Kawajiri for the second time this past Saturday night, in an utterly dominant fashion, Melendez very confidently called for a unification bout, now that Zuffa owns both Strikeforce and the UFC.
If you compare the men Melendez has defeated to that of some of the lightweights in the UFC, the fact remains his record speaks for itself.
He has deteated Aoki, Kawajiri (2X), Josh Thomson, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Clay Guida. He has defeated the only two men to have beaten him—Thomson and Ishida—in a fashion that showed he is a better fighter than both his aforementioned rivals and can face them in the future with confidence.
What Dana White, Joe Silva and company decide to do with Melendez is anyone's guess. Featuring Melendez in the Octagon is increasingly looking like the best option.
Let's take a look at five bouts that would make sense for the man who has run steamrolled over the Strikeforce Lightweight Division.
Either one of these match-ups would be exciting, intriguing and give UFC fans, who aren't familiar with Melendez, an opportunity to see him showcase his skills against a fan favorite.
The winner of Guida-Pettis will more than likely be given a shot at the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard III. Pettis was next in line, but after the second Edgar-Maynard bout went to a draw, he chose to fight Guida rather than sit idly on the sidelines.
A rematch with Guida would give Melendez an opportunity to show that he has grown as a mixed martial artist since their first bout took place back in June of 2006.
Since that time Guida has gone from a fighter with never-ending stamina to a fighter who now knows how to finish his opponents and can use his wrestling to set his opponents up for the kill. Melendez is a more complete fighter as well, but it would be interesting to see which competitor has developed more in the past five years.
Pettis is a fighter that can take on a cardboard cutout and make the bout look exciting.
With his unpredictable style and aggressive striking, Pettis has shown the versatility that makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone. Pettis' six wins by submission and five by knockout were a result of his ability to confuse his opponents with his unique fighting style.
A bout with Melendez would be a high-octane, all-out brawl that would leave fans shaking their heads in disbelief when the final bell is rung.
UFC Lightweight Contender Melvin Guillard
Both Melvin Guillard and Gilbert Melendez love to bang, and what better way to introduce Melendez to UFC fans than to have him take on the surging Guillard?
After all, Guillard has been clamoring for a fight with a top contender since defeating Evan Dunham back in January. Guillard is riding a four-fight winning streak and would certainly be up for the challenge of fighting the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion.
Melendez may not hit quite as hard as Guillard, but he would have an advantage should the fight hit the floor.
Although Melendez has racked up few submissions (he has just one to his credit), he possesses better take-downs and is a better grappler than Guillard. That's not to say that Guillard should be taken lightly if the fight hits the canvas.
Guillard has showcased a much-improved takedown defense and a better ability to get the fight back to a standing position, since he started training with Greg Jackson.
One would have to believe Melendez would have an advantage, because he has fought in more high-profile fights than Guillard. However, this would be a great opportunity for Guillard to show the world that he is for real and a legitimate contender for the lightweight championship.
Fans everywhere love unification bouts. They have been calling for more of them ever since Randy Couture left the UFC in an attempt to fight Fedor Emelianenko.
When Brock Lesnar was the UFC Heavyweight Champion, people wanted to know if he could beat Fedor or Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, Alistair Overeem.
When the WEC was merged into the UFC, there was one division that both organizations had champions in: the lightweight division.
As I explained earlier, the WEC Lightweight Champion, Anthony Pettis, was scheduled to face off against the winner of the UFC Lightweight Title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and number-one contender Gray Maynard. On January 1, 2011 the UFC bout was ruled a draw and a third fight between the two men was scheduled for UFC 130 in May.
Now Pettis will take on Clay Guida and should he win, he would get the next shot at the UFC title, if Guida wins. One would have to assume he would be seriously considered for a bout with the champion as well.
What if the UFC decided that Guida wasn't ready or they weren't enamored with the thought of him being a kingpin of their lightweight division? Enter Gilbert Melendez and a bout between the Strikeforce Lightweight Division title-holder and the UFCs' 155lb champion.
Both Edgar and Maynard would have a significant wrestling advantage over Melendez, and Edgar would also have to be given the nod when it comes to his speed.
Maynard is probably the stronger of all three fighters, but his striking isn't as polished as Melendez. It would be a tough call to be honest, as Melendez could easily defeat either man and vice versa.