If anyone is qualified to predict the winner of the UFC on Fox 10 main event, it is Gilbert Melendez.
“El Nino” faced Josh Thomson three times during his time with Strikeforce, posting a 2-1 record against “The Punk” in one of the more memorable lightweight trilogies in MMA history. The two-time Strikeforce champ would then face Benson Henderson in his Octagon debut, falling via split decision in a hard-fought UFC title tilt last year.
According to Melendez, Saturday night’s headliner between his two former foes should be a competitive one. However, the 31-year-old nevertheless gives Henderson the edge due to his wrestling skills.
“I think Benson will be the winner, not by a large favor, but a good favor. I think if he imposes his wrestling, his takedowns and body locks, and he focuses on holding Thomson down that he can absolutely be successful and win,” Melendez recently told UFC.com. “I think it’s a strong possibility for the fight to go the five rounds, unless Thomson knocks out Benson, because I think Thomson has [a better] chance to knock him out.”
Melendez feels that Thomson’s best route to victory will involve throwing heavy amounts of leather when he squares off with “Smooth” at Chicago’s United Center.
“[Thomson’s] best way is to try to close the distance and throw a lot more punches -- heavier punches -- but also be ready to defend the takedowns and disengage,” said Melendez. “Don’t play the kicking game. Obviously, Benson has strong kicks, and he’s a tactical guy. I think it is a very high-caliber fight and a very winnable fight [for Thomson]. I’m giving my decision to Benson, but it will be a very competitive fight, and Thomson can absolutely win this if he comes really prepared and sticks to a solid game plan.”
Although much is at stake for both men in this battle of top-10 lightweights, Melendez believes that both fighters will likely remain near the top of the divisional pecking order, win or lose.
“There’s definitely pressure because they are both two top fighters, but it’s a good fight for both of them,” said Melendez. “Losing to Josh Thomson isn’t a bad thing for Benson, and losing to Benson Henderson isn’t a bad thing for Thomson. Two of the top fighters -- No. 1 in the [UFC rankings] versus No. 4 -- it’s a good matchup. I think it should be exciting, and there’s more to gain than to lose in this one for both of them.”