After years spent as one of the sport’s premier competitors at 155
Melendez at age 35 has decided to return to the old familiar
haunts of the featherweight division.
The two-time Strikeforce
champion will downshift to 145 pounds when he squares off with the
notoriously heavy-handed Jeremy
Stephens in a featured attraction at UFC
215 “Johnson vs. Borg” this Saturday at Rogers Place in
Edmonton, Alberta. Their three-round featherweight showcase will
buoy a five-fight main card headlined by a pair of title bouts:
Johnson vs. Ray Borg and
Nunes vs. Valentina
Shevchenko. Melendez has yet to establish solid footing in the
Ultimate Fighting Championship, having compiled a disappointing
1-4 record since arriving in the promotion in April 2013. Worse
yet, he will enter the cage against Stephens on a three-fight
losing streak that dates back nearly four years. Melendez
nevertheless carries with him one of MMA’s strongest resumes,
highlighted by victories over Diego
Sanchez, Josh Thomson
Kawajiri (twice), Shinya Aoki,
Guida and Rumina
The man they call “El Nino” has compiled his share of intriguing
statistical data during what has been an outstanding career:
0: Career victories by submission, this despite
holding the rank of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under longtime
1: Ultimate Fighting Championship win under his
belt. Melendez defeated Sanchez by unanimous decision at UFC 166 on
Oct. 19, 2013.
6: Men other than Melendez who have held the
World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight championship. They are
Franca, “Razor” Rob
Henderson and Anthony
Pettis. Melendez became the first lightweight champion in the
promotion’s history on May 21, 2004, when he stopped Olaf Alfonso
on third-round punches at WEC 10.
7: Organizations in which he has competed during
his 15-year career. Melendez has fought in the UFC, Strikeforce,
Pride Fighting Championships, Shooto, Rumble
on the Rock and the WEC.
10: Championship bouts in Strikeforce, the most in
the history of the organization.
12: Career victories by knockout or technical
knockout. Melendez’s list of victims includes Kawajiri, Sato and
13: Consecutive wins to start his career. Melendez
made his professional debut at WEC 5 on Oct. 18, 2002 and pieced
together a 13-fight winning streak that included victories over
Sato, Guida, Kawajiri and Hiroyuki
Takaya and set him apart as one of MMA’s best young
133: The cumulative win total of the six fighters
who have defeated Melendez. They are Henderson, Pettis, Ishida,
Thomson, Alvarez and Barboza.
1,869: Days spent as Strikeforce champion.
Melendez’s stay at the top was spread over two title reigns, the
first covering June 9, 2006 to June 27, 2008, the second covering
Dec. 19, 2009 to Jan. 12, 2013.