El Nino tests dirty, Iaquinta taken off FN 71 card

Published on Tuesday, 7/7/15, at 11:58 a.m. Eastern.

When Gilbert Melendez came over to the UFC after a long run as the Strikeforce lightweight champion, the sky appeared to be the limit for the next phase of ‘El Nino’s’ career. However, after failing a post-fight drug test for PEDs at UFC 188, Melendez’s days of contending for the 155-pound strap are probably over.

For starters, he’s suspended for one year and won’t be able to compete until next June. Also, he’s clearly out of next week’s co-main event bout with Al Iaquinta, who has been pulled off the card entirely. Therefore, the new co-main for UFC Fight Night 71 is another lightweight scrap between Josh Thomson and Tony Ferguson, who is the -195 ‘chalk.’ Thomson is +155 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $155).

Melendez nearly tasted UFC gold in his Octagon debut, but former champ Benson Henderson was given the nod in a controversial split-decision win at UFC on Fox 7 in 2013. Melendez would bounce back to beat Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision in an epic slugfest that garnered Fight of the Year honors at UFC 166.

Melendez was given another crack at the belt at UFC 181 last December, but he lost by second-round submission to Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Three weeks ago at UFC 188, Melendez got the wrong end of another split decision against Eddie Alvarez.

Look for that result to remain as is since Melendez lost. When he’s eligible to fight again next June, ‘El Nino’ will be 34 with a 1-3 UFC record. Those aren’t good numbers for a fighter hoping to make one last push toward a title shot.

The odds are stacked against Melendez, who has to be at the lowest point of what has been a spectacular career. Whether he can pick himself back up and achieve greatness again remains to be seen.

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