Fresh off of the highest-profile interpromotional fight since the Strikeforce merger between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, the trend continues on Saturday at UFC on Fox 7 when Benson Henderson defends his lightweight title against Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, while Frank Mir will take on Daniel Cormier.
Unlike Diaz versus GSP, however, the incoming class should present much more of a challenge to the current UFC roster than Diaz did, making for a very compelling card, tailor-made for the national television audience on Saturday night.
Here's a breakdown of the statistics and odds surrounding the fights to see where betting value lies in UFC on Fox 7.
Benson Henderson (minus-270) versus Gilbert Melendez (plus-230)
Though Henderson earned and first defended his UFC lightweight belt by the skin of his teeth, his most recent title defense against Nate Diaz left no question as to his rightful spot as the legit champion. Against Melendez, however, he'll be facing a fellow lightweight champion who held the position in Strikeforce for more than three years. Though Melendez has a more decorated history than Diaz, there are more similarities than you might think between the two training partners, which could point to a similar outcome.
Like Diaz, Melendez will hold a striking advantage against Henderson, landing 3.56 strikes landed per minute (SLpM) compared to Henderson's 2.93. But though Melendez possesses the volume advantage, as did Diaz, Henderson strikes with far greater efficiency, both offensively and defensively. Compared to Melendez, "Bendo" lands strikes with a 45 percent accuracy rate, compared to Melendez, who lands strikes at a 33 percent rate. And defensively, Bendo does a terrific job of avoiding attacks, with a very low strikes absorbed per minute (SApM) rate of 1.54 compared to Melendez's 2.08.
Though Melendez has a better takedown defense than Diaz did, successfully defending 71 percent of takedowns, Bendo has a way of neutralizing and controlling opponents regardless of where the fight goes (3.2 takedowns per 15 minutes).
And if Melendez's game plan is anything like that of his training partner, it could be that Henderson might already have Melendez's number. The one aspect of this fight in Melendez's favor, however, is that he has the ability to close out fights by knockout, having gained 11 of 21 of his victories in this manner. But with Bendo possessing a favorable matchup in nearly every other area, consider the UFC champion as a minus-270 favorite to be an accurate price for the strategically defensive fighter.
Insider's value pick: