Brazilian news outlet Tatame has reported that the shoulder injury that previously sidelined Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez will not be recovered in time for him to headline the promotion’s January 12 event against challenger Patrick Healy. With rumors circulating that this will be the final Strikeforce event, it would appear as though Melendez will be able to head to the UFC as Strikeforce’s final lightweight kingpin, and Healy will never get his hard-earned shot to dethrone him.
Melendez should be able to transfer to the UFC with no problem, as it is a move that fans have been calling for since Strikeforce first came under the Zuffa umbrella. In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Melendez will either get an immediate UFC title shot or need only one win to get one. In all honesty, this is arguably the best case scenario for Melendez, because the potential bout with Healy was high risk, low reward. Due to Healy’s lack of name recognition, a win by Melendez probably wouldn’t do much for his mainstream appeal. On the other hand, a Melendez loss would considerably cool any thoughts of an immediate title shot in the octagon.
The opposite couldn’t be any more true for Healy. A good showing in a fight intended to showcase Melendez would provide Healy a great boost in connection with his transfer to the UFC. Further, if Healy could have pulled off the upset, Healy likely would have been thrust into a high-profile UFC debut, and he would forever be known as the last champion in the long and occasionally storied history of Strikeforce.
Instead, now Healy will enter the UFC as a relative unknown to the casual fan, and will potentially get lost quickly in the shark tank that is the UFC lightweight division. Looking at the current UFC roster, it is hard to come up with a match-up where Healy would the favorite against any of the top ten fighters in the division.
That is not to say that I don’t think Healy could beat any of the better lightweights in the UFC, as I think he is wildly underrated. The problem is in the perception, and his lack of name recognition. Because of this, I find it hard to believe that Healy will be given a name opponent in his UFC debut. It seems more likely that he will be buried on a Fuel TV card against another up-and-comer in the division.
Hopefully the UFC will reward Healy with something more than that, and give him the chance to make the big splash that has now been taken away from him twice due to Gilbert Melendez being hurt.