On April 20, 2013, Benson Henderson (19-0) won a close split decision against Gilbert Melendez, the Strikeforce Champ (21-3). The event was held at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California. Fans were treated to a close contest throughout with the UFC Lightweight Title see-sawing in the balance. This fight was between the classicly aggressive and powerful Henderson (UFC Lightweight Titleholder) versus Melendez (Strikeforce Champ) who is an excellent counterpuncher and escape artist. The judges rated the contest in favor of Henderson (48-47) on two of the three scorecards. John Mc Carthy was the referee.
Melendez scored big in round 1(10-9) by slamming Henderson to the mat and landing a knee to the body. Henderson tried feverishly to land roundhouse kicks to the body of Melendez but to no avail.
Melendez is one of those rare MMA fighters who can catch roundhouse kicks and pull the combatant’s leg across the ring floor. In addition, Melendez has a thinner body frame with much less musculature. Henderson has legs as thick as tree trunks and a lot of muscle bulk on the arms. His huge muscles get in the way when opposing someone with a thinner body frame like Melendez.
Henderson won narrowly in round 2 (10-9) by delivering hard elbow shots and punches by the end of the round. Both fighters stalked each other and traded many punches, although Henderson was busier.
Round 3 was similar to round 2 with Henderson scoring two knockdowns with an outside leg kick and a kick to the body. Despite these knockdowns, Henderson was unable to end the fight. In both cases, Melendez broke away from Henderson easily to continue the fight. Henderson won the round (10-9). MMA fans learned an important thing in this round. Essentially, Melendez simply cannot be pinned by Henderson.
Round 4 went narrowly to Henderson (10-9). Henderson landed a body kick which was countered with a right by Melendez to avoid a possible take-down. Henderson scored with elbow shots. He attempted a take-down but was unable to prevail. Melendez landed 2 hard body shots and a right hand. Although Henderson got the round, Melendez demonstrated superior skills in escaping from the pin and landing vicious punches of his own. Henderson got the round purely on aggression.
Round 5 went big for Melendez (10-9). He caught a vicious middle kick and scored with a tremendous right hand punch followed by many others. The fight ended with a very close decision in favor of Henderson (48-47). He retained his UFC Lightweight Title albeit by the narrowest of margins. For sure, a rematch will be in the making. To prevail in a rematch, Melendez must be more aggressive by tracking down his opponent more often in the fight and delivering more effective punches and kicks.
Photo credit: AP