Update: The booking has been confirmed.
According to a new report from MMAFighting that cites “sources with knowledge of the situation,” reigning UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson will attempt to make his third title-defense against longtime Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7, which is slated to go down April 20th at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
Henderson is coming off arguably the most impressive win of his career, dominating Gilbert’s homey Nate Diaz for five rounds in their meeting last month at UFC on FOX 5. It was the sixth-consecutive win for “Smooth” since he migrated to the UFC from the WEC, though Henderson has yet to score a stoppage victory in the Octagon. That’s not likely to change against Melendez, who has never been knocked out or submitted in 23 professional fights.
Melendez picked up his seventh-straight win in May 2012, winning a split-decision in a rubber match against Josh Thompson. Since then, the Cesar Gracie product has been sidelined by injury after injury. And though we were skeptical of Melendez’s latest withdrawal — the Cesar Gracie fighter had much more to lose from a fight against Pat Healy at Strikeforce’s final event than he stood to gain, and may have acted accordingly — it’s clear that his devious plan worked.
But before you go booking your travel plans, MMAFighting adds this caveat:
According to sources, there are still potential roadblocks to the Henderson vs. Melendez that could force the organization to take a different path, but that matchup is the organization’s intended direction.
If the fight goes through, it will be Melendez’s ninth appearance at the HP Pavilion, where he often competed for Strikeforce events. So, is Melendez really an elite-level lightweight, capable of becoming the UFC lightweight champion, or did it he just seem elite-level when he was tearing through the best opponents that Strikeforce could dig up for him? In other words, Bendo vs. Niño: Who ya got?