After negotiating a new eight-fight extension, Benson Henderson appears poised to accept his next marching orders in the form of a highly anticipated champion vs. champion matchup.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the UFC has its sights set on April 20's UFC on FOX 7 event to pair UFC lightweight titleholder Henderson against Strikeforce's last reigning divisional champion, Gilbert Melendez.
The event is likely to take place in Melendez's backyard, at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, where he competed eight times while on the Strikeforce roster. That promotion went out of business after last Saturday night's event.
Henderson (18-2) has shot up the world's pound-for-pound rankings since defeating Frankie Edgar for the belt last February and successfully defending it twice. Most recently, he dominated Melendez's teammate Nate Diaz in a lopsided unanimous decision victory at UFC on FOX 5.
Melendez (21-2) has been for a long time considered among the top fighters never to appear in the octagon. The two-time Strikeforce 155-pound champion currently boasts a seven-fight win streak, although he has been shelved since a decision win over Josh Thomson last May. Melendez was twice expected to face Pat Healy in recent months but was forced to withdraw due to lingering shoulder problems. If he fights Henderson in April, it will amount to an 11-month layoff.
According to sources, there are still potential roadblocks to the Henderson vs. Melendez that could force the organization to take a different path, but that matchup is the organization's intended direction.
Just last week, it was reported that coveted free agent Eddie Alvarez could find himself fighting for the UFC championship in his promotional debut, but legal wrangling between Alvarez and Bellator over his UFC offer sheet and Bellator matching rights have stalled his career for the time being.