LAS VEGAS - Gilbert Melendez showed Anthony Pettis no fear in their UFC lightweight title bout on Saturday night. Melendez pressed forward for the bulk of the fight and won the first round on most observers scorecards.
But he walked right into a big right hand early in the second round. Before you could blink, Pettis caught Melendez in a guillotine choke, kept it while reversing into mount and became the first person ever to submit the former Strikeforce champion.
Pettis, defending his title for the first time 15 months after winning it, got the tap at 1:33 of the second round in the co-feature of UFC 181 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"Fifteen months is a long layoff," said Pettis (18-2), who has won nine of his past 10 fights. "I'm here, but I reminded everyone why I am a champ for a reason, the king of the toughest weight class."
Melendez appeared to have a strong game plan for Pettis, answering all of his kicks with punches in bunches and using his wrestling to neutralize the champ. Still, Pettis managed to score with a handful of strikes over the course of the round.
Round two was shaping up as similar to round one until Pettis landed the fight-changing right hand.
While there was no love lost between the two leading up to the fight, and they refused to touch gloves before the bout, the fighters were complimentary toward one another after the bout.
"Gilbert is tough, he was throwing heat," Pettis said. "Big ups for Gilbert, he's been a great fighter for a long time. He was doing this when I was a kid and now I get to be in there with him."
"You know he's a fast, slick youngster and he made me feel a little old with his speed," Melendez said. "There's a lot of chaos there and he capitalized. Hat's off to Anthony, he's that new breed out there."