Gilbert Melendez: The Greatest MMA Lightweight Champion?

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Gilbert Melendez: The Greatest MMA Lightweight Champion?
Gilbert Melendez delivering a vicious upper-cut

Ranked as the No. 2 lightweight fighter in the world by, Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez has an impressive overall MMA record of 19-2, with 11 knockouts.

The current Strikeforce lightweight champion is on a five-fight win streak since 2009, defeating top contenders, including Shinya Aoki and Josh Thompson.

Most recently, Melendez was successful in defending his title on April 9th in San Diego, California against the very talented and extremely tough Japanese star, Tatsuya Kawajiri.

As I sat cage-side, serving as a Bleacher Report correspondent for the night's fights, I was in awe as a fan at the unrelenting pace in which "El Nino" exacted on Kawajiri.

Successfully staggering Tatsuya with vicious strikes on his feet, Gilbert flipped a switch and elevated his unrelenting pace into turbo speed and followed the dazed Kawajiri to the mat, where Melendez unloaded with a barrage of tactically precise, yet explosively damaging elbows, earning a TKO victory at 3:14 of round one.

Still in awe at Melendez's abilities inside the Octagon, I asked Gilbert his thoughts about a future match-up against the winner of Frankie Edgar / Gray Maynard III on May 28th at UFC 130. 

Humbly, the current Strikeforce lightweight champ responded by saying, "I am looking to continue to re-invent myself some more and add some more things to my arsenal.  This is my job, I train hard and I'm 100 percent ready."

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Eager for a matchup of this magnitude to take place, my confidence in this fight coming to fruition was further supported by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. 

Referencing the purchase of Strikeforce by Zuffa, Coker sees a future in which Melendez will face either Edgar or Maynard, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will challenge Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza and a welterweight battle between UFC champion Georges St-Pierre and Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz will ultimately unify the belts.

Without a scheduled fight on the books for Gilbert Melendez, it is time for the "business as usual" approach to the current match-making philosophy between the world's two biggest mixed martial arts promotions to come to an end.

A cross-promotional matchup between the top lightweights in the UFC and Gilbert Melendez is a dream for every fight fan. 

Who doesn't want to witness Gilbert Melendez versus the winner of Frankie Edgar / Gray Maynard, or Anthony Pettis or Jim Miller or a rematch with Shinya Aoki or any of the extremely talented lightweight fighters in the roster of Zuffa talent?

This writer is looking forward to the future when the top fighters are challenging each other and the unification of the Strikeforce and UFC championship belts occurs. 

In the meantime, I can't wait to once again sit cage-side and allow the fan in me marvel at the fighting skills of Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez.

I welcome your comments.

Todd Seyler

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