After days of promising a slugfest, the two lightweights finally met on the main card of UFC 166, and the ensuing war of attrition became an instant contender for 2013's ‘Fight of the Year.' Melendez outstruck Sanchez for a majority of the first two frames, opening up a wide and bloody gash above Sanchez's eye, before Sanchez nearly seized victory from the jaws of defeat with a third-round flash knockdown of Melendez.
Melendez survived to claim a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Sanchez. However the moment midway through that final frame when "The Dream" nearly stunned the UFC's No. 2 contender still burns inside Sanchez's mind.
"I had him broke," Sanchez said of Melendez on Wednesday. "My body kicks were paying dividends. I broke his conditioning, and I felt that I broke his spirit also. I felt that I had gained the momentum and I was breaking him down. He could not hurt me. I felt invincible in there, and I landed the big uppercut. I went for the submission when I should've gone for the ground and pound."
According to FightMetric, Melendez outlanded Sanchez by a count of 96 significant strikes to 42 over the course of 15 minutes. Nonetheless, Sanchez continued to pressure forward and still stood tall by the end of fight, leading him to downplay the impact of Melendez's striking disparity.
"I've fought at 170. I've fought at 185. And I'll tell you straight honest to God, Gilbert Melendez never fazed me or dazed me once," Sanchez said. "I was walking through those punches for a reason, because they felt like little nothings. I was walking through them because they felt like nothing. It was little tip-tap Nate Diaz, Nick Diaz punches to me."