First of all, I’ve never been a big BJ Penn fan, but obviously you have to respect his body of work. And skill wise, Gilbert Melendez and Penn is a good fight. Unfortunately that is all that people are dwelling on, and if you go deeper, there are real problems with the fight. The number one question is how does it help Melendez if he wins? I am all for the UFC and Strikeforce actively interchanging fighters, and I think the powers that be should work to overcome whatever obstacles exist to see this happen. I just disagree that Penn is the guy.
Beating a guy like Penn is a nice feather in anyone’s cap, but will it really help elevate Melendez’ status at this point? BJ Penn is no longer a title contender in the UFC in any division (lightweight or welterweight). Penn has gone 1-3-1 in the last two years in his fights. Jorge Masvidal, Melendez last opponent has a better overall career win loss record than Penn.
Then there is the fact that Melendez trains with the Diaz brothers. Before the fight between Penn and Nick Diaz, though a terrific fight, both expressed a little bit of discomfort because they had trained together at one point. We should find out if that same condition exists with Melendez before even suggesting the fight.
Interestingly, the UFC has some fights coming up that could lead to an opponent for Melendez.
How about the loser of the Ben Henderson-Frankie Edgar match, A UFC Lightweight title fight scheduled for the UFC Japan? Obviously they are near the top of the division, and a win over either guy, even if they are coming off a loss, would be a very worthy qualifier for Melendez as he works to a UFC title shot.
Another interesting fight would be Donald Cerrone. Cerrone is slated to battle Nate Diaz at UFC 141. Should he beat Diaz, who as I mentioned is a teammate of Melendez’, this would give you a match against a guy whose stock is on the rise, and a match with a story line.
Gray Maynard makes more sense than Penn. So would Joe Lauzon or Melvin Guillard. Remember 99% of the people will agree that Melendez deserves a title shot in the UFC, but it serves the UFC image to have their title higher on a pecking order than Strikeforce.
Any of the top contenders in UFC who is trending up. Even if, like Maynard or Guillard, they are looking to rehab after a loss, that adds to the pressure of the fight. Unfortunately Penn is no longer trending up, not at 1-3-1 in the last 2 years. So pick another guy!