The last reigning Strikeforce 155-pound titleholder has fought in every major MMA promotion on the planet outside of the UFC. He’s competed in the WEC, Rumble on the Rock, Shooto, PRIDE, and Strikeforce, but it wasn’t until he signed with the UFC that he’s received the recognition he’s deserved.
“It’s crazy. I’ve done a lot in the sport. Still, you don’t get the credit until you’re a part of the UFC brand. I can already see it just walking the streets the power of the UFC brand,” Meledenz said in a recent interview with former MMAWeekly.com Radio co-host Frank Trigg.
“It does feel good. It feels good to get the respect. It’s a big milestone. It’s quite an accomplishment just to say I’m fighting for the UFC title. It will be even better to say I won it, but it is quite an accomplishment already,” he said.
Henderson (18-2) is arguably the toughest opponent Melendez has faced in his career. He brings a diverse skill set and unparalleled conditioning.
“He doesn’t have the most devastating striking, the most devastating wrestling and grappling, but he transitions well and he’s a real mixed martial artist,” said Melendez about Henderson. “What he does best is he can put everything together really well. A lot of guys are a little more predictable or do a certain strength and he’s a guy that puts it together.”
Melendez does feel he’s faces someone similar to Henderson three times before, Josh Thomson.
“I have been fighting Josh Thomson quite a bit. He’s actually a guy like that as well, a real well-rounded mixed martial artist. People usually have their strengths and Josh Thomson and him are guys that I feel are really good at putting it all together,” he said.
Melendez won’t know until he’s in the Octagon with Henderson at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20, but feels he sees some tendencies from Henderson that he can exploit.
“I can’t say I see his tells. I usually get the feel while I’m out there. I try to create reactions when I fight. I try to make things happen,” said Melendez. “I try to make him bite, and I have my ideas to draw him into my fight, or to draw him into my fight. But I do see some tendencies that he does, the way he circles, the way he plays with his hair. There’s a couple of things I do see and that I want to capitalize on.
“You never really know until you lock horns with someone. You know he has that good footwork. You know he has that big kick. You know he has that shot, but you don’t know when it’s coming. The trick is to not be so scared of it, or wait for it. People run away from the kick. I’m not scared of the kick. I’m not scared of the takedown. I’m going to meet him head-on.”
(Follow Jeff Cain on Twitter @JeffMMAWeekly)