Jordy: Gilbert Melendez will enter this bout a heavy favorite, but Jorge Masvidal is far from a pushover.
In June, Masvidal put a Muay Thai clinic on former EliteXC lightweight champion K.J. Noons. Melendez has cleaned up his boxing, but he could find himself in trouble should he opt to engage in unnecessary standup exchanges.
The outcome of this bout will depend heavily on Masvidal's ability to land on the feet and fend off takedowns.
Melendez will try to push forward with simple one-twos and feints to set up opportunities to change levels and sniff out takedowns in the open.
It's foreseeable that Masvidal lands a big punch early and steals a round, but it's hard to bet against the tenacity and world-class grappling skills of "El Nino."
Masvidal's superior striking will prompt Melendez to take the fight to the floor. Despite Melendez's strong top game, Masvidal will utilize a good defensive guard to avoid taking any serious damage on bottom.
A grinding effort will eventually come to a climax towards the end of the third round when Melendez capitalizes on a ground mistake and latches on the submission that sends the challenger packing.
Gilbert Melendez by Rear Naked Choke
John: The fighter who most people consider the No. 2 fighter in the world, Gilbert Melendez, is looking to punch his ticket into the UFC with a win here.
However, Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal is not an easy match up for anyone at 155 pounds and he certainly has a realistic chance of winning this fight.
While Masvidal has been a tad bit inconsistent recently (he's 3-2 in his past five fights), he does own quality back-to-back wins over Billy Evangelista and KJ Noons.
Despite being an underdog going into the cage with Noons, Masvidal thoroughly bloodied and battered his opponent with precise striking and superior grappling.
The easiest criticism of Masvidal is the level of competition he's faced, with his biggest win being a knockout over Joe Lauzon back in April 2005.
His striking is very good, but not elite, as we saw in a Shark Fights bout with Paul Daley last year.
However, his grappling is highly underrated, so opponents who expected to face off against a pure boxer suffered a rude awakening.
Of course, "El Nino" is the champion for a reason, boasting a super-aggressive style that opponents have found impossible to overcome a midst Melendez's five-fight win streak.
Whether it's defending the takedown or raining down some vicious ground-and-pound, the bottom line is that Melendez knows how to hurt you wherever the fight goes.
The Cesar Gracie brown belt may have some difficulty with Masvidal on the feet, but once this fight goes to the ground, there is no question who has the advantage and that will be the difference maker in this fight.
Gilbert Melendez via 4th round TKO
Dwight: Gilbert Melendez is not only defending his lightweight title on the weekend he is also looking to stamp his ticket into the UFC with a win over Jorge Masvidal. Melendez is a lightning-fast and very powerful fighter and many feel he is the best lightweight fighter in the world.
He is currently 19-2 in his career and on a five-fight win streak but in my opinion, he has not faced any of the best lightweights in the world to date.
Masvidal is a 27-year old rising star in mixed martial arts who earned his way to this shot with wins over Billy Evangelista and KJ Noons this year. He is 22-6 overall in his career and this is the perfect time for him to get his shot at Melendez.
Masvidal will look to keep this fight standing and pick him apart with boxing, but Melendez is a tough fighter to stop when he wants to put you on your back.
I see this fight taking place in Melendez' world and Masvidal will have a very tough time scoring from his back.
Melendez via unanimous decision
Brian: The American Top Team product in Masvidal is arguably the best lightweight fighter who isn't recognized as a legitimate top-10 stud. It's not because his talents wouldn't indicate his potential as a world renowned fighter, it's because he has yet to record a signature victory, though a win over a well-regarded fighter like Gilbert Melendez would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Too bad "El Nino" won't roll over so easily.
There's a reason that Melendez is recognized as one the best in his class. Not because he's the best wrestler or the best striker, but he's one of the best at mixing it all up. Expect Masvidal to stick and move, though Melendez will continue to cut him off and change levels when need be.
Melendez will be aggressive and relentless, chasing down Masvidal, keeping up a torrid pace that will begin to wilt the Miami fighter.
Some takedowns here and there coupled with some hard ground and pound blows will eventually call a halt to the battle in the championship rounds, where Melendez defends his belt for a fourth time and makes the case as the next guy to be in line for a shot at UFC gold.
Melendez defeats Masvidal by TKO in Round 4