UFC Lightweight contender Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez has enjoyed a 22-4 record in MMA, including title stints with Strikeforce, Shooto, and WEC. Along the way, he has fought in some of the most memorable bouts in MMA history, including an epic trilogy with Josh Thompson for Strikeforce — and many observers’ 2013 “Fight of the Year” against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166.
Most recently, the Cesar Gracie disciple has begun a second career as a broadcaster, breaking down fights for UFC on FOX.
Caged Insider had the pleasure of visiting Melendez today to get some expert analysis on Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver.
Caged Insider: Thank you very much for taking the time to visit today!
Gilbert Melendez: Thanks for having me.
Caged Insider: It’s a big event Sunday in Boston, with the “Notorious One,” Conor McGregor, competing in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd in Boston. Will you be in attendance? I know it’s a big weekend for MMA in general, including your friend Jake Shields fighting in Vegas for WSOF.
Gilbert Melendez: I’m not going to make it to Vegas to see Jake. I’m going to be on FOX in Los Angeles promoting the McGregor fight. These things happen sometimes — but I’ll definitely be watching.
Caged Insider: It is a big fight; Conor McGregor is a polarizing figure, to say the least. How do you feel about the ascension he has had? There is a planned title shot should he beat Dennis Siver – do you feel like he’s leapfrogged some other contenders?
Gilbert Melendez: It’s possible… but, I like this whole Conor McGregor thing. He’s a talented fighter and there’s a strong argument, if he wins the Siver fight that he merits a title shot. Is there someone else, like Frankie Edgar, that possibly deserves it a little more? Yeah, I do believe that. But would I be upset — if he dominates here — if McGregor receives a title shot? No. I’d definitely love to see him fight José Aldo. I’d buy that PPV and enjoy it!
Caged Insider: We don’t want to look past Siver; he’s a tough guy, who like your friend Nick Diaz says, enjoys his “spinning s—t.”
Gilbert Melendez: Ha! Yeah.
Caged Insider: Do you feel the betting odds unfair to Siver? I’ve seen him as much as twelve to one.
Gilbert Melendez: Yeah, I think that’s pretty ridiculous. But, I still feel Conor’s the favorite: just, more like a two to one favorite. At five rounds, maybe make it two and a half to one, because I do question the cardio of Siver.
Caged Insider: Is it safe to say the way McGregor has risen so rapidly up the featherweight rankings because of the way he has won, and not the actual results — the names he has beaten?
Gilbert Melendez: I think that helps out a lot. He’s called out that he’s going to win in the first round, and then done just that. He’s talked and backed up his talk. That goes a long way. He did have that one fight with Max Holloway which went three rounds, but Holloway is a very tough kid. Overall I’d say Conor’s style has played a big part in it.
Caged Insider: I saw Siver brought up his upset of George Sotiropoulos in a recent interview, which kind of resonated with me. I remember George was indeed seen as a possible future title contender, and had some very impressive wins — I think you could argue his submission win over Joe Lauzon is as impressive as any result on McGregor’s record. Do you agree?
Gilbert Melendez: I would definitely agree. Siver is a veteran, he beat Sotiropoulos in his home country, playing the spoiler. They were really pushing Sotiropoulos so it was a similar situation, if maybe not to this extreme. He’s beaten some tough guys. He has what it takes. It won’t be a walk in the park for Conor. I see the fight as interesting right out the gate.
Both guys are aggressive. Siver is more active, he’s going to be throwing a lot of punches and kicks, even just trying to ‘touch’ Conor. I see McGregor becoming more of a sniper, more calculated with his shots. Look for him to use his jab and make Siver miss. Siver is going to try and close the distance, to land a heavy shot. It’s going to be a tough fight, but I think Conor is going to be able to control the distance with his jab and keep his chin from one of those heavy hands.
But sure, if Siver can hit him – he hits hard, and he can turn everything around. I’m leaning toward McGregor.
Caged Insider: What do you think Siver has to do to win?
Gilbert Melendez: Siver needs to stop the forward pressure of McGregor. Use his kicks, and take out that front leg of Conor McGregor, so he can’t really establish a good rhythm with the jab. Slip some punches, get on the inside, and land that big left hook. Conor doesn’t have the best head movement, so maybe he can land those big punches – then, get out, and repeat the process.
Don’t get too gassed out, either. That’s Siver’s biggest issue at times.
But that’s what I like about Siver, too. Although he’s fighting a twenty five minute fight, I don’t see him pacing himself. I see him going out there and pushing the pace – fighting on whether he’s tired or not.
UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver goes down Sunday night at the TD Garden in Boston. The event will be televised on FOX Sports 1. We will also offer a play-by-play coverage here at Caged Insider!