UFC releases former lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez is no longer a member of the UFC roster.

Melendez (22-8 MMA, 1-6 UFC) was released from the promotion following five straight losses. The 37-year-old Melendez confirmed his release with ESPN on Monday night after an initial report by MMA Fighting.

A former Strikeforce lightweight champion, Melendez ran through most of his opposition in the well-regarded promotion. Melendez’s key wins in Strikeforce include Jorge Masvidal, Josh Thomson (twice), Shinya Aoki, and Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Upon the UFC’s purchase and subsequent absorbance of Strikeforce, Melendez was added to the roster. Holding the Strikeforce title at the time, Melendez was granted an immediate title shot at then-lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

In the five-round main event of UFC on FOX 7 in April 2013, Melendez lost a split decision to Henderson. The defeat was highly controversial among MMA fans and media alike.

In his return to the cage at UFC 166 in October 2013, Melendez and Diego Sanchez engaged in an instant classic. A spirited 15 minutes turned in by the two men resulted in a fight many MMA observers believe to be one of the most exciting in the promotion’s history.

After he picked up his first UFC victory, Melendez earned a second crack at the 155-pound title – this time against then-champ Anthony Pettis in December 2014 at UFC 181. Melendez lost the bout by second-round submission due to guillotine choke.

From 2015-19, Melendez competed four times. In that span, Melendez dropped decisions to Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Jeremy Stephens, and most recently Arnold Allen at UFC 239 in July.

Matchup Roundup: New UFC and Bellator fights announced in the past week (Nov.4-Nov. 10)

MMA fight announcements are hard to follow. With so many outlets and channels for news to break through, it’s nearly impossible to organize.

But here at MMA Junkie, we’ve got your back.

Each week, we’ll compile all the newly surfaced fights in one spot. Every Monday, expect a feature listing everything you might have missed from the UFC and Bellator.

Here are the fight announcements that were broken or confirmed by MMA Junkie from Nov. 4–Nov. 10:

UFC on ESPN+ 22: Nov. 16, Sao Paulo

Women’s flyweight: With Priscila Cachoeira out, Veronica Macedo (6-3-1 MMA, 1-3 UFC) steps in to fight Ariane Lipski (11-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) (MMA Fighting)

UFC on ESPN 7: Dec. 7, Washington, D.C.

Heavyweight: With Walt Harris out, Jairzinho Rozenstruik (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) steps in to fight Alistair Overeem (45-17 MMA, 11-6 UFC) (ESPN)

Middleweight: With Alonzo Menifield out, Makhmud Muradov (23-6 MMA, 1-0 UFC) steps in to fight Trevor Smith (15-9 MMA, 5-6 UFC)

Bellator Salute: Dec. 20, Honolulu

Heavyweight: Josh Barnett (35-8 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7 MMA, 0-0 BMMA)

Bantamweight: Erik Perez (19-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) vs. Toby Misech (11-7 MMA, 1-1 BMMA)(KHON2)

More matchups on next page:

Bellator 234 pre-event facts: Roger Huerta seeks first Bellator win since 2010

Bellator’s busy November continues this week with Bellator 234, which takes place Thursday at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, but won’t air until Friday on Paramount via tape-delay.

A heavyweight matchup serves as the main event of the card. Sergei Kharitonov (29-6 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) will look to inch close to getting a fight for Bellator gold, while Linton Vassell (18-8 MMA, 7-5 BMMA) looks to get his first win since moving up to the heavyweight division earlier this year.

For more on the numbers behind the headliner, as well as the rest of the card, check below for 16 pre-event facts about Bellator 234.

* * * *

Main event

Kharitonov is 11-1 (with two no contests) in his past 14 fights dating back to September 2011.

Kharitonov’s five-fight Bellator unbeaten streak at heavyweight is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Cheick Kongo (nine) and Tyrell Fortune (eight).

Kharitonov has earned 27 of his 29 career victories by stoppage. That includes all three of his Bellator wins.

Kharitonov vs. Matt Mitrione at Bellator 215 marked the third shortest no contest in Bellator/UFC/WEC/Strikeforce/PRIDE combined history at just 15 seconds. Only Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachim Spiritwolf (6 seconds) at Strikeforce Challengers 12 and Kevin Casey vs. Antonio Carlos Junior (11 seconds) at UFC Fight Night 80 were faster.

Vassell’s three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since May 2017.

Vassell was unsuccessful in his heavyweight debut when he lost a decision to Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 218 in March.

Vassell’s seven victories in Bellator light-heavyweight competition are tied for fourth most in divisional history behind Liam McGeary (nine), Phil Davis (eight) and Emanuel Newton (eight).

Vassell’s three submission victories in Bellator light-heavyweight competition are tied with four other fighters for most in divisional history.

Co-main event

Roger Huerta (24-11-1 MMA, 1-4 BMMA) is 0-2 since he returned to Bellator for a second stint in April 2018. He hasn’t earned a victory with the promotion since April 2010.

Huerta is 4-10 in his past 14 fights dating back to August 2008.

Remaining main card

Olga Rubin (6-1 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) competes in her sixth Bellator women’s featherweight bout, the third most appearances in divisional history behind Arlene Blencowe (nine) and Julia Budd (seven).

Sinead Kavanagh (5-4 MMA, 2-4 BMMA) is 1-3 since she moved up to the Bellator women’s featherweight division.

Grachik Bozinyan (10-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) is the youngest of the eight scheduled main card fighters.

Bozinyan has earned all 10 of his career victories by stoppage. He’s finished seven of those wins in Round 1.

Aviv Gozali’s (3-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) 11-second submission win at Bellator 225 stands as the fastest in company history.

Gozali, at 18, became the youngest fighter to earn a bellator win at Bellator 209 in November 2018.

UFC on ESPN+ 22: Make your predictions for Jan Blachowicz vs. Ronaldo Souza

We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 22 event in Sao Paulo.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMA Junkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

Those MMA Junkie reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC on ESPN+ 22 event staff predictions we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC on ESPN+ 22 takes place Saturday at Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo. The card streams on ESPN+.

Make your picks for all five main card fights inside:

Stipe Miocic wants to fight boxer Tyson Fury, not interested in Daniel Cormier trilogy

Despite their series being tied at one fight apiece, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic isn’t interested in a trilogy against former champ Daniel Cormier.

Instead of facing Cormier (22-2 MMA, 15-2 UFC) for a third time, Miocic (19-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) wants to taken on a different former champion – one outside of the MMA bubble.

In an interview with ESPN on Monday, Miocic made it clear he wants to fight boxing superstar Tyson Fury upon his return.

“I saw Tyson Fury is coming into the mix now here,” Miocic said. “I like a new challenge… With DC, I didn’t fluke knock him out – I beat him. I decisively beat him. Our first fight, congrats to DC. But he caught me with a punch in the first round.

“There was a lot going on in my mind that night. No excuses, but he beat me. The second fight I won. There’s no taking it away from me. I didn’t get lucky, I just straight outworked him.”

Throughout the interview, Miocic praised’s Fury’s abilities calling him a “good fighter” and a “good dude.” However, Miocic believes he has what it takes to defeated him inside the cage – or the boxing ring.

“He’s a talented fighter, so he’s definitely going to have good striking,” Miocic said. “But anyone can make a (30-second) highlight reel. It’s still good, but I can do that too.”

“… Definitely if he wants to step into the Octagon, I’ll love it. I’ll step in the ring. I’d love to box him. I would love to box him. He’s a great fighter. He’s a good dude and we’d put on a good show.”

In fact, Miocic said the prospect of fighting Fury inside the ring was more intriguing to him than inside the cage. A new challenge, Miocic said, is what he’s striving for.

“It’s something new – something different,” Miocic said. “In mixed martial arts, there’s a lot more to go with. You’ve got a bunch of martial arts to work with. In boxing, we’d just go toe-to-toe and slug it out.”

Since he defeated Cormier at UFC 241 in August, Miocic underwent eye surgery. Miocic said he procedure was done to repair a retinal tear as a result of eye pokes sustained in the first two matchups against DC. He’s not sure exactly when, but he’s planning on a 2020 return.

“Probably multiple eye pokes from my last two fights,” Miocic said of why his eye was damaged. “Yeah, I mean it didn’t help my cause, but getting punched doesn’t help either.

“I got done with the fight seeing spots in my eye. I (saw things) I’ve never saw before. It just didn’t feel right. We actually went to the retinal doctor. He’s like, ‘Yeah, you have a tear in your retina.’ A little procedure will fix it up, so hopefully it’ll heal up and stay that way.”

Monday’s interview wasn’t the first we heard of Miocic wanting Fury in MMA. After Fury posted a video training elbows, knees, and takedown defense alongside former UFC title challenger Darren Till, Miocic issued a statement on Twitter.

Jorge Masvidal’s team channels ‘Scarface’ in official response to Nick Diaz

Jorge Masvidal’s team issued a prompt response to Nick Diaz’s apparent fight callout.

Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) surfaced for a rare interview Monday which seemingly served as the building block for his return to the octagon after an abcense of four years. He had some words for Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 12-6 UFC) throughout the conversation, indicating that he would like to fight the man who won the “BMF” title with a third-round TKO of his brother Nate Diaz at UFC 244.

Not long after the interview aired, Masvidal’s manager Malki Kawa issued a direct response on social media (via Instagram):

@gamebredfighter official response to nick diaz. #supernecessary #baptized #bmf

This isn’t the first time a matchup between Diaz and Masvidal has been broached.

The UFC announced a fight between the two for UFC 235 in March, but it was never made official. Diaz insisted from the beginning that he never committed or signed a contract to end his hiatus from the sport.

In the aftermath of Masvidal’s UFC 244 victory over his brother, though, it appears Diaz may have rediscovered his motivation to fight.

Masvidal has never shied away from a fight, and while he seems to have a bevy of options that could include a welterweight title shot or Conor McGregor, it appears “Gamebred” is willing to beat his second Diaz brother, too.

Nick Diaz: Jorge Masvidal ‘in a (expletive) position’ if we fight, ‘BMF’ title is ‘my belt’

If Nick Diaz ever fights again, it appears a matchup with Jorge Masvidal is among his top interests.

ESPN released a long interview with Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) on Monday in which he touched on many subjects revolving around his absence from the octagon since January 2015.

One of the leading narratives, though, is that Diaz was irked by some of the comments Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 12-6 UFC) made in the buildup to and aftermath of UFC 244, where “Gamebred” beat Diaz’s younger brother, Nate.

According to a follow-up report from ESPN.com, Diaz is interested in making his comeback in 2020, and Masvidal is the desired opponent.

“You want to talk about baptizing my younger brother? That’s on you,” Diaz told “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.” “I never had nothing disrespectful to say. But you don’t talk about baptizing my younger brother. So you’re already in a (expletive) position if you fight with me. You don’t talk about (expletive) baptizing someone’s brother. That’s my baby brother. You don’t talk like that to nobody.

“So who is riding on whose side? You want to say that, you want to do that, you want to walk, that’s on you. I can relate to you, that’s why I ain’t mad at you. But if you want to walk that’s on you.”

The UFC announced a fight between Diaz and Masvidal for UFC 235 in March, but it was never made official. Diaz insisted from the beginning that he never committed or signed a contract, and as a result felt slighted by the UFC brass.

“I’m on the poster with this guy I’m like, ‘What the (expletive)? Nobody talked to me. What are you talking about?’” Diaz said. “I’m on a poster. What the? C’mon. That’s cool if I’m going to be fighting this guy, but like, why are you doing this to me? You’re just giving this advantage and giving more power to the opposite team. No offense to the opposite team. Let’s just play fair a little bit.”

Diaz indicated his younger brother gave him the green light to do a rare interview and seemingly push the agenda for a Masvidal matchup.

Getting Diaz back in the cage seemingly won’t be easy. He said he needs to be paid and it must be something “big” like a AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Ultimately, Diaz said the choice will be hi. He’s only fought three times in the past eight years and is nearing the four-year anniversary of his most recent bout, an infamous UFC 183 meeting with Anderson Silva after which both fighters were suspended. Nothing has forced Diaz to operate outside of his chosen path, and he said that won’t change now.

“The BMF, the 170, that’s my belt,” Diaz said. “But I’m not going to get in my brothers way of taking it. As far as I’m concerned that’s my belt. … This ain’t up to no UFC. We’ve seen that in the past already. I don’t need to do anything more than what I’ve already done here. I don’t know what to tell you people. All I know is I’ve got a whole lot of people who feel the same way.”