Alvarez overcame being hurt in the first round and having a badly swollen left eye to defeat Melendez by split decision.
Like most grudge matches do, the fighters did not touch gloves to start the fight. Alvarez took the center of the cage while Melendez worked to establish his jab. During an early exchange, Melendez landed a elbow flush on the face of Alvarez that staggered “The Silent Assassin.”
Following the frame, Alvarez’ left eye nearly swelled closed after the fighter blew his nose to clear it of blood.
In the second round, Alvarez pressed forward and looked to get the fight to the ground while Melendez continued to work his jab. As the round came to a close, Alvarez delivered a spinning back-elbow that glanced off the head of Melendez.
During the course of the first two frames, the two began to respect one another and they touched gloves to start the final round.
Alvarez quickly looked to get the fight to the ground in the third stanza. He secured three takedowns in the round, but was unable to keep Melendez down. At the end of fifteen minutes, two of the three judges scored the fight for Alvarez.
“I would have liked to have opened up a little bit more than I did. He shut my eye in the very beginning. Honestly, just fighting through that was tough,” said Alvarez after the fight. “We fought through it. That’s what it’s about, just fighting through stuff like this.”
Alvarez attributed the win to him changing game plans during the opening round.
“I think it was at the end of the first when I got the takedown. I felt like, he’s not strong here. A big thing about MMA is just checking his arsenal, checking if his takedown defense is good, his stand up, etc. I found that chink late in the first, and I had to go after it.”
The win was the first in the UFC for the ninth-ranked lightweight. Defeating fourth-ranked Melendez will move him up the divisional ladder.