UFC 166 journeyed to the lightweight division for their third pay-per-view fight as Gilbert Melendez took on Diego Sanchez. The bout immediately became an instant classic as Melendez and Sanchez left everything they had in a fight that ranks as one of the best ever in the Octagon. That said, there had to be a winner and Melendez would receive the nod from the judges.
Melendez Edges Sanchez in “Fight of the Year” Candidate
It was expected to be a great fight but former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez and TUF 1 champion Diego Sanchez exceeded all expectations tonight in Houston. The two fighters were literally swinging for the fences at multiple times in a fight that brought the crowd to their feet. The fight was nearly stopped multiple times after Melendez sliced open Diego early in a cut that resulted in a bloodbath in the Octagon. Sanchez nearly rallied to score a knockout in the third, but Melendez rallied to his feet and again turned it on in an amazing display of heart by both men.
The victory would be Melendez’s first in the Octagon and keeps him in the title hunt. After the fight that Joe Rogan called “the greatest he’d ever seen,” Diego was adamant about wanting a rematch and both fighters thanked the crowd for their raucous backing. The fight will almost certainly win “Fight of the Night” and is the likely front runner for “Fight of the Year.”
Rd. 1- Kerry Hatley is our referee. Sanchez seizes the center of the cage immediately. Sanchez catches a headkick and takes Melendez’s back. Sanchez has the choke briefly but Melendez swings him off and connects to the body. Another right to the body by Gil. Nice legkick by Diego. Melendez is pressuring now as Diego shoots a single. Nice punch on the exit by Gil. Gil stuffs another takedown and Gil lands again on the exit. Another body shot by Gil. Nice uppercut by Gil. Pair of big rights by Gil. Sanchez with a body kick and Melendez catches the kick. Diego is already bleeding now Sanchez has almost no rhythm on his strikes so far. Nice body shots and combo by Gil. Two body kicks by Diego. Sanchez connects with a nice combo. At the ten second mark these guys just start swinging like Yasiel Puig in a batting cage. Diego is dropped but bounces up and survives. MMAFrenzy has it 10-9 Melendez.
Rd. 2- Sanchez is waving Gil to come in early. Body to head punches by Gil. Wicked rights by Gil as Sanchez storms. Diego swings wildly but gets countered easily. These two are just going with crazy exchanges now. Referee calls a stop to the bout to check a nasty cut on Diego but Diego says it’s just vaseline causing him to blink and we restart. Body shots by Gil answer a flying attack by Diego. Wicked right tot the chin by Sanchez. Another wild exchange by both guys and they both lands shots. This is a war. Diego slips on a kick and he escapes without serious damage. Both are smiling in the cage. Nasty body kick by Diego. Wicked combination by Gil. Sanchez with a takedown but Gil is right back up and lands a nasty strike on the exit. Sanchez connects. Sanchez gets dropped to a knee when Gil counters him but he is back up. Sanchez with another takedown that’s stuffed and eats a knee as he stands. Sanchez is a bloody mess as the round ends. MMAFrenzy has it 10-9 Melendez.
Rd. 3- Front kick to the head by Gil. Nice combo by Diego. Gil responds with a combo of his own. Wild exchange and Diego lands but Gil crushes his ribs. Nice 1-2 by Gil. Holy crap what an exchange, these guys are trading hooks and Diego is screaming at Gil to keep it going. These guys are going to war! Gil is starting to land more at the end and the referee again stops the action to the chagrin of the fighters and the crowd. Doctor waves it on and the crowd loves the blood bath. Sanchez to the ribs off the break. 2:30 left and the crowd is chanting Diego as these two are just going insane on each other. Absolute war as Gil gets caught with an absolutely nasty upper cut and Diego pounces and looks for the choke. The crowd is going in sane but Gil works out of the RNC and a guillotine and a big combo by Gil as they stand. This fight is amazing! Only 0:50 seconds left as Gil takes his back but Sanchez hits a switch to escape. Body kick by Diego. They’re swinging for the fences as the round ends and holy shit what a fight!!! Diego gets the round but Gil gets the fight 29-28.
Gilbert Melendez def. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)