Ex-champs Dominick Cruz, Gilbert Melendez to host new ESPN show breaking down fights

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will work with ex-lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to break down fights on an upcoming ESPN show called, “Unlocking Victory.”
Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will work with ex-lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to break down fights on an upcoming ESPN show called, “Unlocking Victory.”

To the untrained eye, a lot of what goes on during an MMA fight looks like chaos. UFC fighters Dominick Cruz and Gilbert Melendez will try to bring order to that chaos and provide fans with a deeper understanding of why a fight unfolds the way it does as hosts of a new ESPN series that debuts on Sunday called “Unlocking Victory.”

Melendez said he believes fans will learn to enjoy the sport more if they understand the strategy the fighters employ, which is why he said yes to the opportunity.

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“It’s really a chance for Dominick and I to educate the fans and give our perspective on how the fights are going to play out,” Melendez said. “What we’re going to do is go into the mind of the fighters and I’ll try to pass along how I would approach it. My perspective isn’t always the same as Dom’s, so it’s great to get into his mind.”

The show is scheduled to break down the main and co-main events of each UFC pay-per-view event. The majority of the show will be shot in the Octagon with the fighters in their workout gear. UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin joined them for the first episode, which was recorded at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, because Cruz’s right arm is in a sling as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

The first episode of the half-hour show will debut at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, prior to kickoff of the Super Bowl. It will follow the UFC 234 countdown show on ESPN, which begins at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Melendez was involved in one of the wildest slugfests in UFC history when he scored a decision over Diego Sanchez in Houston at UFC 166 on Oct. 19, 2013. For a lot of people, it looked like two men going out, gritting their teeth and firing punches indiscriminately.

Melendez, though, said it’s a lot more than that.

“There is an instinct you fight with, but you train that instinct,” Melendez said. “There is a lot of chaos going on, but I play chess in there, as well. In that fight, I knew Diego was coming with big punches, so I was pulling back and throwing my right hand. But I know in doing that I’m jumping into danger and taking that calculated risk. I try to weigh things out. Yeah, I could have tried to jab and moved backward, but honestly, that’s not my style. My style is I’m a forward fighter. I expected Diego would give me that and that’s what I had to respond with.

“What we did was complex and there was a lot of thought on both sides that went into it. It wasn’t as simple as just stand in the middle and trade. If it was just stand in there and trade, I would have gotten hit on the chin much more and it wouldn’t have been so good for me.”

Despite what looked like a wild brawl with Diego Sanchez (L), Gilbert Melendez (R) said there was a lot of strategy in that fight. He said he’ll try to explain that strategy to viewers in his new ESPN show. (Getty Images)
Despite what looked like a wild brawl with Diego Sanchez (L), Gilbert Melendez (R) said there was a lot of strategy in that fight. He said he’ll try to explain that strategy to viewers in his new ESPN show. (Getty Images)

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