The Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Sanchez will face former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166 in October.
Sanchez (24-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC), who won the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005, was initially supposed to make his return to the Octagon at UFC 164 in August. He had been penciled in for the main event, and was working with matchmaker Joe Silva to find him an opponent.
“I did like I always do and said, ‘Look, you’re the man, Joe. You’re the one who makes all these big matchups. And I’m, in my opinion, in the most stacked division in the UFC, and there are plenty of great fights out there, and you’ll hook me up with a good scrap,’” Sanchez said. However, no match ever came to fruition.
Sanchez last fought Takanori Gomi at UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann, winning the bout by split decision. Prior to that, his last fight was against Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fuel TV on February 15, 2012. Ellenberger won the headliner by unanimous decision.
Melendez (21-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) made his UFC debut at UFC on Fox in April against lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Henderson won the bout by split decision for the unified lightweight championship.
Before that, Melendez’s last fight was in May 2012 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier, when he defended his lightweight championship against Josh Thomson, winning the match — his third with Thomson — by split decision.
Melendez said in May that he wanted to fight whoever would get him to a title match the quickest.
“There’s a lot of good guys. Whoever is hot right now. Whoever is the hot dude who is closest to getting that title shot, I’ll take it,” he said.
Sanchez vs. Melendez is the third fight announced for UFC 166, which will be headlined by the third fight between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Nate Marquardt will face Hector Lombard in a welterweight bout.
UFC 166 will take place October 19 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
[Pictured: Diego Sanchez, Nathan Rupert / Flickr]