Will Henderson prove he is the best 155lb fighter?

UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson aims to prove he is the best 155lb MMA fighter in the world when he takes on Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20th. Will he succeed or can Melendez tarnish the champions record on his UFC debut?

Henderson favourite to win with Pinnacle Sports


Ben Henderson is the 1.405* favourite with Pinnacle Sports to beat the Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez 3.200* when he makes his third defence of the UFC lightweight championship at UFC on Fox 7.


On the back of his destruction of Nate Diaz, Henderson wants to beat Melendez to prove that he is the best lightweight in the world. Melendez has been considered one of, if not the, best lightweight in the world for the last three years and will make his UFC debut on April 20th.


Since arriving in the UFC Henderson has won six consecutive fights including the defence of his belt against both Diaz and Frankie Edgar. When he enters the cage at the HP Pavilion, the champion will hold an impressive 17-2-0 record.


The 29-year-old American is renowned for his exceptional wrestling skills, intelligent submissions and an aggressive ground and pound. His opponent Melendez has exceptional endurance and will look to utilize his own solid ground and pound.


The 30-year-old ‘El Nino’ also boasts a fantastic MMA record of 21-2-0, with his last defeat coming in 2008 – seven fights ago.


There is no difference in height between the two men (both 5’9″), however Melendez will hold a slight 1″ reach advantage. More notably, ‘El Nino’ will face a southpaw for only the fourth time in his career.


Does Melendez have a weakness against southpaw fighters?


Coming into the fight following a shoulder injury he suffered in September – forcing him to withdraw from his Strikeforce fight with Pat Healy – Melendez has only had experience fighting southpaws three times with a record reading 2-1.


As an orthodox fighter, the first time he fought a southpaw was against Mitsuhiro Ishida in 2007. The encounter resulted in ‘El Nino’ tasting defeat for the first time after the Japanese fighter won by unanimous decision.


Melendez gained his revenge against Ishida in 2009 with a third round knockout and then went on to beat Shinya Aoki in 2010 via a unanimous decision.


Although Melendez has a winning record against southpaw fighters, the others are not in the same league as Henderson, who will look to create awkward angles in both attack and defence.


Can Melendez strike it lucky?


Melendez will hope his speed will give him the striking advantage, however Henderson dealt with Edgar with ease – who is considered a quicker and more technical striker than Melendez.


The challenger will hope his one-inch reach advantage over Henderson will prove pivotal, however the champion nullified the six-inch reach deficit he faced last time out against Diaz.


Despite not being renowned for his striking, Henderson himself has the ability to mix speed with power.


‘El Nino’ has won 11 fights via KO, compared to just two for Henderson, while neither man has been stopped in the cage – a testament to their impressive strike defences. Henderson rebuffs 63% of his opponents attacks, while Melendez’s percentage is higher at 66.


Melendez lands an impressive 3.56 strikes per minute but connects with just 33%, while Henderson lands 2.93 strikes with an accuracy of 45%.


Henderson will look to dominate the ground battle


Both fighters are accomplished wrestlers and masters of ground and pound. Winning this battle could determine the outcome of the fight.


Melendez – 44% takedown accuracy – uses his powerful takedowns as the foundation for his game, while Henderson – 51% takedown accuracy – is possibly the most explosive wrestler in UFC. When the two men face-off in the cage it will be noticeable that Henderson is the bigger of the two men, while his experience against top opposition cannot be rivalled by his opponent.


Both men have excellent takedown defence. Henderson avoids 67% of his opponent’s attacks, while Melendez repels 77% of attacks – with this said Melendez has not fought a wrestler in the same caliber as Henderson.


In terms of submissions, eight of Henderson’s has 18 career wins have come via a tap-out, compared to Melendez who has made his opponent slap the mat only once in 23 fights. The statistics don’t lie as Henderson attempts 1.02 submissions per 15 minutes, compared to just 0.3 by Melendez. But while the latter has never tapped out – Henderson did early in his career against Rocky Johnson.


Mental & physical conditioning could prove key


The mental and physical conditioning of both fighters could prove key in determining who wins this bout.


It’s highly probable that the fight will last five rounds as Henderson’s last seven fights have been decided by the judges, while four of Melendez’s last five reached the final bell.


Melendez is known to have a fantastic engine, while Henderson himself can fight at a good pace for the championship rounds. However, Henderson could hold the mental advantage.


The UFC lightweight champion has fantastic mental strength and an undeniable belief in his own ability. His advantage however is the fact his opponent has never fought in the razzmatazz of a UFC main event – Melendez may be one of the best fighters in the world, but surely everyone needs to acclimatise to the UFC.


Click here for the best Henderson vs. Melendez UFC on Fox 7 odds.


(Source: Pinnacle)




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