Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez threw down on Saturday. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
On a night that saw MMA fans treated to multiple hard-fought contests and thrilling finishes, Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez were simply a cut above at UFC 166.
Though Melendez walked away with a unanimous decision in their “Fight of the Night”-winning showdown at Toyota Center in Houston, the victory did not come easily for the former Strikeforce ruler.
“[Sanchez] is a warrior. People back down from him. I was backpedaling a little bit, but I was holding my ground. It was a real honor to get in there and tangle with him,” Melendez told Fox Sports after his win. “I feel like he brought the best out in me, and I brought the best out in him. I don’t think anyone wants to fight us in a small cage. We’re warriors who fight. People who beat us tend to try to not fight us.”
Melendez took control of the contest in the first frame and methodically punished Sanchez with right hands throughout the first 10 minutes of the bout, only to see his bloodied opponent storm back midway through the final round.
“I knew he was a guy who I was going to hit with everything I [had], and he still might not go down. Trust me, I was crossing my fingers and hoping he’d go down. I hit him hard. Even when he was cut, I was hoping the doctor would stop it. I can’t lie. I’m human,” said Melendez. “I did my homework, and I knew no one had ever finished this guy. It’s a tough task. He’s a madman.”
Sanchez charged forward with reckless abandon and landed a solid uppercut that put Melendez on his back. The Jackson-Winkeljohn product could not find the finish, however, and the men ended the contest by winging blows at one another to cap off a strong contender for “Round of the Year.”
“He hit me. I blacked out,” Melendez said of the knockdown. “It was a blink. I woke up, and I was in a wrestling match.”
Despite the massive physical toll the bout must have taken on the lightweights, both men remain open to meeting again in the future.
“I think at some point, for the fans, we might need to [rematch],” said Melendez. “I don’t think there is anyone tougher than [Sanchez] in this division. There might be guys out there who can beat us on the scorecard, but there ain’t no one who has the balls and guts out there that we do. Doing this together, nothing is ever going to match that.”