After years and years and years and years and years (I think you get it) of waiting, finally Gilbert Melendez is coming to the Octagon. Can you believe it’s already been 36 months since he dominated Shinya Aoki in Nashville to retain the Strikeforce title? Now he fights Ben Henderson to unify the two lightweight straps in a clear battle of number one vs. number two. Or 1A vs. 1B. That seems fair.
If I was a betting man, I would lay the house down on this being one of the best fights of the year. We’ve seen it before from Gilbert, and dare I say he’s the one perfect matchup for taking Henderson’s belt? The one knock on the Cesar Gracie camp aside from Gil and Jake is their defensive wrestling, and that’s something Henderson exploited against Nate. We think he’ll be hard-pressed to take down Gil that many times in the fight. That’s not to say Ben is going to roll over, this is a fight I could easily foresee going to a controversial judge’s decision, especially considering of the two of them, only Henderson has been stopped — a submission loss in his third ever career fight.
So we’re pumped, the fans are pumped, the 209 is ready to go and you know Benson is looking to quiet the critics and continue his rise to greatness. So how is Gilbert doing? He told MMAJunkie Radio:”I’m ready as heck, and I’m so happy it’s happening,” “I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve had 13 weeks’ notice for a camp, and that’s the longest I’ve ever had for a fight.”
“I’m ready as heck, and I’m so happy it’s happening,” “I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve had 13 weeks’ notice for a camp, and that’s the longest I’ve ever had for a fight.”
“It’s tailor-made for Benson,” he said. “He’s definitely a strong guy, and you can see it out there. I’ve seen it firsthand. He has those big legs. He’s shredded. He’s a huge 155-pounder. I knew it was necessary. I wouldn’t say I put on that much muscle, but a good extra three pounds. I feel more shredded – I feel more durable, and I want to be able to take his kicks and take the punishment. It also helped me stay more durable during my training camp.”
“I’m at peace right now,” he said. “Sometimes you have doubt in your mind. ‘Should I have run? Should I have done that? Should I have not done this?’ I know I’ve done everything possible to get ready for this. It’s a weight off your shoulders and it gives you some sort of confidence. I know I can go 25 minutes nonstop right now, so I feel good about that.”
A Gilbert that wants to make an example out of you is a scary Gilbert. Remember Kawijiri?
“No matter what, there’s heat,” he said. “I respect Benson. He’s the No. 1 guy right now. He’s the UFC champ. But come fight day, I’m going to try to kill him. I have bad intentions, and it is personal. I don’t need to be mad at someone. I’m a professional, and I know how to turn on the switch and turn it on and off when I need to. Some people turn it on a month out. I turn it on right when it’s time.
“It’s going to be heated. It’s going to be personal. It’s just how I fight – I’m going to try to kill the guy. I don’t need anyone talking crap on me. But let it be known, on fight day, Benson is not my friend. In fact, he’s the enemy that day and I have to destroy him. That’s the mentality I have to have.”
Let’s not forget both of these guys were WEC lightweight champions at one point.