5 Game Plan Points Gilbert Melendez Will Use Against Anthony Pettis

Cesar Gracie Black Belt and former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez will be the underdog when he steps in the Octagon to face UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 181. Pettis has 3 consecutive first round finishes against a murderers row of champions and contenders in former champion Benson Henderson, Cowboy Cerrone, and Joe Lauzon enroute to winning the lightweight crown. He has a dynamic striking game as well as a solid wrestling and submission game.

Like many fighters who had previously lost a close title shot like the split decision loss he had to Benson Henderson in 2013, Melendez might feel pressured to push the pace and put on a show in order to beat the champion. In order to beat Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez will need to execute the proper game plan that will make Pettis’s striking less effective while  using his superior wrestling and grappling skills to take Pettis to the ground. Clay Guida utilized this game plan when he handed Pettis his lone loss in the UFC when they fought in June 2011. Here are 5 game plan points that Gilbert Melendez will need to execute in order to beat Anthony Pettis at UFC 181.

  • Do not stay in the pocket or brawl – Fight a technical fight on the feet and pop in out of the pocket with combinations before stepping back out. Do not stay in Pettis’s striking range. Both Pettis and Melendez have 73 inch reaches, but Pettis can cover a greater range with his leg kicks. Cowboy Cerrone made the mistake of underestimating Pettis’s striking speed and power by continually moving forward on Pettis when they fought, which allowed Pettis to find his range to set up continued liver kicks that finished Cowboy. When Melendez faced Diego Sanchez, he was baited into standing toe to toe with Sanchez throughout the fight and got the better of most of the exchanges until the third round when he dropped with an uppercut by Sanchez. Sanchez needs to respect Pettis’s  knockout power with both his hands and feet and jump in and of the pocket. He cannot afford to constantly push   forward as Cowboy did or get baited into a brawl like he did with Sanchez.

Anthony Pettis vs Cowboy Cerrone



  • When Pettis jumps into the pocket, he is open for double legs– When Pettis jumps into the pocket to engage and throw a punch combo, his hips are exposed. Clay Guida took advantage of this several times during their fight in 2011 by quickly dropping his level and shooting well timed double leg takedowns right when Pettis stepped in to throw a punch combination. In addition to having a black belt in BJJ, Melendez also has very strong wrestling from his collegiate wrestling experience at San Francisco State.
  • Watch Pettis’s left leg kicks.– The southpaw Pettis has lethal kicks and used his left leg kicks to finish 2 out of his last 3 opponents. Pettis finished Joe Lauzon at UFC 144 with a devastating left leg kick to the head. He also finished Cowboy Cerrone with a series of left leg kicks to the body. Melendez has likely been working with his trainers and sparring partners on blocking and  catching Pettis’s kicks as a set up for a single or double leg takedown. Both Clay Guida and Benson Henderson were able to catch Pettis’s kicks in order to set up a takedown in their fights.
  • Do not stay in Pettis’s Closed or Open Guard – If Melendez does get top position on Pettis, he will need to quickly advance to half guard before starting his ground and pound attack. Pettis has very active hips from his closed and open guard and is constantly looking for arm bars and triangles from his guard. He won the belt by catching BJJ Black Belt Benson Henderson in a very basic arm bar attack. Melendez will need to flatten out Pettis’s hips and one of his legs to lessen the chances of the arm bar and triangle attacks and to advance to half guard or side control where he can more effectively and safely work his ground and pound.


End to Anthony Pettis vs Benson Henderson


  • Clinch and Press Pettis against the cage – Pettis showed great takedown defense when he was pressed against the cage by Benson Henderson. In recent fights, both Henderson and Jeremy Stephens pressed Pettis against the cage for takedown attempts. Stephens put Pettis on ground three times in their fight by initially pressing Pettis against the cage. Melendez has used this technique to set up takedowns, most notably against Josh Thomson in their trilogy of fights.


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