Gilbert Melendez's return targeted for UFC 232 vs. Arnold Allen; 'El Nino's' last fight?

Former Strikeforce champion and two-time UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez is expected to return to the cage after an injury layoff, and he hopes to snap a long losing streak.

The fight could determine whether or not his career continues.

Melendez (22-7 MMA, 1-5 UFC) and Arnold Allen (13-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) have verbally agreed to meet at UFC 232, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to MMAjunkie. The person asked to remain anonymous because the fight hasn’t been made public. FloCombat.com was first to report the news.

UFC 232 takes place Dec. 28 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The event’s main card airs live on pay-per-view following prelims expected to air on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In a Wednesday interview with MMAjunkie, Melendez declined to name his opponent but hinted that a return was coming. He said he’s recovered from a serious leg injury suffered in a losing effort against Jeremy Stephens in September 2017 – his fourth straight setback.

Melendez was ruled out of a fight in July because of his leg, which he believes suffered nerve damage from bruises calcifying, or turning into bone.

“As a fighter, recovery takes a bit longer, and mileage is a little bit more, so with all that added up, I took some time,” Melendez said on Wednesday. “But I’m feeling great. My leg is better. I’m checking kicks right now, and I feel good about it.”

There’s little room for error in Melendez’s plan for the future. He hedged at declaring he would retire from the sport. But he made it clear that he couldn’t continue on his current path with another loss.

“I think it’s important for me to succeed in my next fight,” Melendez said. “It will be hard to go on if I don’t succeed. I really have to deliver. Even if I did come out with a victory, and I’m not happy with my performance, I’d probably have to consider everything.

“I need to succeed in this fight. If I do, that journey may continue. But if I don’t succeed, I can’t say forever-ever, but it’s definitely going to be time to step back for a long time.”

In Allen, Melendez faces a tough competitor on a major upswing. The 24-year-old Brit remains unbeaten in the octagon. In May, he submitted Mads Burnell to extend his current winning streak to six bouts, including four in the UFC.

The latest UFC 232 card now includes:

  • Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes – for women’s featherweight title
  • Corey Anderson vs. Ilir Latifi
  • Ryan Hall vs. B.J. Penn
  • Arnold Allen vs. Gilbert Melendez

For more on UFC 232, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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