Edson Barboza vs. Gilbert Melendez Pre-Fight Analysis - UFC on Fox 20

This Saturday afternoon, UFC on Fox 20 will be taking place at the beautiful United Center in Chicago, Illinois. To be completely honest, I'm not super interested in the card. Outside of a couple matchups, the event is looking rather pale in comparison to the stacked Fight Week and some of the incredible upcoming shows. Regardless, there is enough interesting content for me to tune in. Today, I'll briefly analyse and predict the co-main event of the evening. Be on the lookout for the Holm vs. Shevchenko article in the coming days. Enough babbling;let's get to it:

Edson Barboza vs. Gilbert Melendez

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Lightweight division currently holds my favorite group of fighters in the promotion. No other weight class is quite as competitive, unpredictable, varied, stacked, and exciting. Saturday's co-main will feature a clash with major repercussions when Edson Barboza faces off against the returning Gilbert Melendez.

Edson Barboza is among the most vicious strikers in MMA. A competitor in the UFC since 2010, he has made a name for himself thanks to his excellent fundamentals and ferocious kicks. What I particularly enjoy about Barboza's style is the way he's able to nullify his opponent's strategies. He doesn't allow you to get going or be comfortable. He's great at putting together classic, clean boxing combinations, and his counter abilities are fantastic. Typically, he's best when fighting at boxing range;setting his shots up in order to obtain the flashy finish. After picking Anthony Pettis apart back in April, another victory will likely place him in title shot territory. However, his upcoming challenge is no walk in the park. He will be battling the Mexican-American scrapper known as El NiƱo.

Gilbert Melendez is a two-time Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and a former WEC title holder. He's competed in PRIDE, Shooto, and Rumble on the Rock. Also, alongside guys like Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, Melendez is one of the only fighters to have ever been ranked #1 in the world in two weight classes. In a few words, he's extremely tested and successful. As a whole, Gilbert is very well-rounded and versatile. He can strike (his hooks are exemplary), he holds a wrestling background, he possesses a ton of heart, a solid chin, and a gas tanks that seems to be infinite. While his ideal gameplan is to pressure and eventually takedown and pound you out, he has no problem biting on his mouthguard and swinging for the fences (if required).

It's highly important to point out that Melendez was recently suspended for 12 months, after utilizing a PED and failing a drug test. While it doesn't justify his actions, Gilbert publicly acknowledged his mistake and apologized. No excuses. I understand if you can't, but I'm prepared to move on and see him step into the octagon.

How do I see the fight playing out? Honestly, I really like Edson's chances here. He's carrying a lot of momentum after defeating Pettis, and he will be fighting a man who's been out for a year (it'll also be his first bout off the juice). Basically, this is Barboza at his highest, and Melendez could be at his lowest. Now, strong, aggressive wrestlers (like Gilbert) have had some success against the Brazilian in the past. Nevertheless, he recently moved to New Jersey full time, working with the likes of Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez.

Edson's key are his kicks. Nobody in MMA can whip them with the quickness and power he applies. They will be crucial. He can use them to damage Melendez' lower body and keep him at distance, or to knock him out cold and finish the fight. On the other side, Gilbert must get the takedown. He must turn the bout into a dogfight, pressing him against the cage and grinding him out. Thing is, I don't believe he will be able to. That's why I'm sticking with Barboza.

Prediciction: Edson Barboza

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