MEXICO CITY -- The long-awaited grudge match between Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez wasn’t the barnburner everyone expected.
But it was a slow burner of a performance by Alvarez. The Blackzilians fighter overcame a left eye which was swollen shut early and turned up the heat over the second half of the fight Saturday night at Arena Ciudad de Mexico.
Alvarez got the nod in a split decision at UFC 188, getting two out of three 29-28 scores from the judges in the long-awaited grudge match.
There was little action in the opening round, but Melendez got the best of it when they did engage. Melendez landed several solid jabs, and, most notably, a standing elbow which closed Alvarez’s left eye.
The crowd grew restless in the second round as the action continued to crawl. But Alvarez showed surprising resilience, given the condition of his eye, and scored both a late takedown and a spinning back elbow in the closing seconds, which was enough to take the round.
In the third, Melendez gassed, and Alvarez had more left in the tank. Alavrez was active in scrambles, transitions, and takedown attempts, and opened a big cut on Melendez’s forehead with an elbow in the closing seconds.
That was enough to give Alvarez the decision in a bout fans had anticipated since Melendez was Strikeforce lightweight champion and Alvarez his Bellator counterpart.
"I would have liked to open up a little more than I did at the beginning, but he shut my eye with the elbow," Alvarez said. "At end of first, I got the takedown, I thought, he’s not that strong here."
Alvarez improved to 26-4 and 1-1 in the UFC. Melendez dropped to 22-5 and has now lost three of four.