This Day in MMA History: April 20

By Ben Duffy Apr 20, 2020

After the loss of its broadcast television partner and several cancelled events, Strikeforce breathed its last gasp in January 2013, as it was acquired and absorbed into the Ultimate Fighting Championship. While the 2007 purchase of Pride Fighting Championships remains the biggest name in the UFC’s scalp collection, Strikeforce may well have represented a greater windfall of talent.

Much of that talent was on display at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20, 2013. While the UFC had put on a half-dozen events since Strikeforce folded, the Fox card took place in the defunct promotion’s hometown of San Jose, California. As such, it featured several prominent former Strikeforce fighters and at least one fight—Daniel Cormier-Frank Mir—that had originally been planned for a Strikeforce event.

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One of the most promising new arrivals was outgoing Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. “El Nino” owned a 21-2 record, was riding a seven-fight win streak and, with the possible exception of Cormier, was the most highly regarded incoming talent from Strikeforce. He was slotted into an immediate title fight with UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

Henderson edged Melendez in an entertaining, fast-paced five-round affair, prevailing by split decision. It turned out to be a high-water mark for both men. Henderson lost his belt to Anthony Pettis in his next fight but has remained a high-level contender since then, first in the UFC and later in Bellator MMA. For Melendez, the fall was far quicker and harder; he won a barnburner against Diego Sanchez in his next outing but has since gone on a five-fight losing streak, a precipitous decline for a man who entered the UFC with such lofty expectations.

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