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Gilbert Melendez 'in the mix for a title shot' after 'Mexican world war'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

HOUSTON -- Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez each gritted their teeth, both men drenched in Sanchez's blood, and time and time again met in the center of the Octagon to deliver an all-time classic brawl at UFC 166.

"That's one of the best fights I've ever seen," UFC President Dana White gushed afterward.

"That was a Mexican world war in there tonight. These are two guys who just move forward and just keeping swinging. It's just awesome, man. In the 13 years of being in this company, we've seen some amazing fights. I don't think I've ever seen a fight like that. That fight was insane."

For Melendez, the victor on all three judges' scorecards, such a grueling ‘Fight of the Night' performance was exactly what the former Strikeforce champion needed to rocket his name back into the public consciousness.

Prior to the bout, Melendez vowed to make a statement against Sanchez that would demand another title shot, even despite his recent controversial failed bid against Benson Henderson. And with each passing minute, as a sold-out Toyota Center erupted into a sustained frenzy, Melendez's promise proved to be sincere.

"I've been there plenty of times, it's just unfortunate I haven't been there on the UFC stage to do it," Melendez said. "I've done that plenty of times in a lot of my fights, but yeah, it's just something. You get lost in the moment. You don't want to back down.

"Diego is no slouch. I didn't just beat a nobody. I beat a guy that I think is top in the division. I think I'm entertaining, I think the fans want [to see me fight for the title]. I think what it takes to beat Pettis, and I think I beat Thomson twice. With that said, I think I do deserve it, and I think I could beat both of those guys."

Luckily for Melendez, a blown away White was in complete agreement about Melendez's title chances.

"It's obviously very fortunate for him that Pettis won, because he just came off a title shot against (Benson) Henderson. Definitely, Gilbert Melendez is one of the best in the world," White said.

"It definitely puts him back in the mix for the title shot."

However one name lost in the afterglow of Melendez and Sanchez's war was the last man to be dubbed No. 1 contender.

T.J. Grant rode a five-fight win streak into a promised title shot against Henderson, yet a concussion forced him to withdraw from the opportunity in mid-July. Grant has been out of action ever since, and according to White, the division may have moved on.

"T.J. Grant is in one of those unfortunate situations where he had the title shot and he had to pull out twice," White said.

"He might come back and have to fight another fight. We've got to keep this thing rolling."