Heading into the fight, Melendez said that he had something to prove after losing back-to-back fights for the first time in his 14-year mixed martial arts career. He hadn’t fought since June 2015 due to testing positive for exogenous origin of testosterone metabolites following his UFC 188 split decision loss to current champion Eddie Alvarez.
Barbara’s speed, footwork and kicks proved too much for Melendez. Barboza delivered leg kick after leg kick while defending off Melendez’ takedown attempts.
Melendez’ best moment of the fight came in the second round when he clipped Barboza with a right hand and briefly had the Brazilian stunned. Barboza recovered and ended the frame by securing a takedown and delivering heavy right hands.
The story of the fight was Barboza’s damaging leg kicks. He pounded his shin into the lead leg of Melendez throughout the contest. Melendez was knocked down by leg kicks twice and was forced to change stances. By the end of the fight, Melendez wasn’t putting much weight on his left leg. He was limping and the bruising was clearly visible.
Barboza headed into the fight expecting a war. He got a pretty one-sided decision instead.
“When my manager talked about this fight, the first thing in my mind was, man, it’s going to be a big war. I did my best. Thank God I was able to get my kicks off, and thank God one more win,” he said after the decision victory.
With the win, Barboza inches up the 155-pound ladder a step closer to title contention. He wants a fight against one of the top three in the division for his next outing. He’d like to face Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rafael dos Anjos or Tony Ferguson next.
“I feel very close to the title shot,” he said. “I’m thinking my next fight should be five rounds.”