The UFC lightweight title picture was turned on its head as a result of UFC 166 after Gilbert Melendez defeated Diego Sanchez in one of the single, greatest fights in MMA history.
The two competitors battled back and forth, all over the Octagon for 15 straight minutes and when it was over the mat was speckled with their blood, sweat and tears in a majestic display of athleticism and courage.
Melendez came out on top in his first fight since losing in his bid to become UFC lightweight champion against Benson Henderson earlier this year. Many believed that Melendez should have gotten the nod against Henderson in that fight, and given the epic nature of the war he just endured with Sanchez it’s hard to deny him a spot back near the top of the rankings.
"I think that’s for Dana to decide, but yeah I thought it was a pretty impressive fight and he said it himself Diego’s no slouch. I didn’t just beat a nobody, I beat a guy that I think is top in the division. I think I’m entertaining, I think the fans want it, and I think I have what it takes to beat (Anthony) Pettis and I have beat (Josh) Thomson twice," Melendez said. "With that said, yeah I think I do deserve it, I think I could beat both those guys."
Melendez might just get his wish because UFC president Dana White told FOX Sports after the press conference was over that a performance like what happened at UFC 166 is once in a lifetime and it’s hard not to allow him to catapult to the top of the contender’s list.
The unfortunate part is that Melendez becoming the No. 1 contender may come at the expense of TJ Grant, who continues to nurse a concussion that forced him out of two potential title shots already this year.
"TJ Grant’s in one of those unfortunate situations where he had the title shot and he had to pull out twice," White revealed. "He might come back and have to fight another fight. You’ve got to keep this thing rolling.
"Yeah, it’s a huge step back for TJ Grant."
Grant still hasn’t been given a definitive timeline for a return, but it’s going to be tough news to hear that without losing a fight he may have been knocked off the top of the pedestal given Melendez’s tremendous performance at UFC 166.
First things first, Anthony Pettis has to battle Josh Thomson in December for the UFC lightweight title before any contender can get in line.