Two new matchups have been added to the nascent UFC 166 bill, as Nate Marquardt welcomes Hector Lombard to the welterweight division at the Oct. 19 event, while Gilbert Melendez takes on former title challenger Diego Sanchez.
UFC officials Thursday announced the bookings, which will precede a heavyweight title rubber match between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in the evening’s main event. UFC 166 takes place at the Toyota Center in Houston and marks the Las Vegas-based promotion’s first trip to the Lone Star State since October 2011.
Lombard, 35, signed with the UFC last year as Bellator’s reigning middleweight champion but struggled in his Octagon debut, dropping a split decision to Tim Boetsch at UFC 149. Though “Lightning” responded with a knockout of Rousimar Palhares, the expat Cuban was outpointed by Yushin Okami this past March, prompting his move to 170 pounds.
Another former middleweight, Marquardt was released from his UFC contract in 2011 after producing elevated testosterone levels in a pre-fight drug test. “The Great” signed with Strikeforce the following year and captured the organization’s vacant welterweight title by knocking out Tyron Woodley. The 34-year-old relinquished the belt to Tarec Saffiedine in his next performance, however, and was subsequently knocked out by Jake Ellenberger in his Octagon return this past March.
A two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion, Melendez challenged Benson Henderson for the UFC title on April 20, coming up short in a split verdict at UFC on Fox 7. Prior to that setback, “El Nino” had posted seven straight victories, topping the likes of Josh Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shinya Aoki during that stretch.
Sanchez, meanwhile, has won three of his last four fights. Following a failed lightweight title bid in 2009, “The Dream” returned to the welterweight division, falling to British prospect John Hathaway before posting decision wins over Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. A loss to Ellenberger would follow, however, and Sanchez attempted another drop to lightweight this past March. Though the Jackson’s MMA product earned a contentious split decision win over Takanori Gomi at UFC on Fuel TV 8, Sanchez missed his mark the day prior, coming in at 158 pounds at the weigh-in.