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UFC on Fox 7 will feature debuts from Strikeforce champs Melendez, Cormier

Long-anticipated fight between Benson Henderson and Melendez set in San Jose

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez makes his way to the cage before a fight in this file photo.

The UFC took a momentary pause promoting its first network television card of 2013 Tuesday to unveil plans for the next one.

UFC on Fox 7 will take place April 20 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., with another championship fight filling the main event. Benson Henderson (17-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) will attempt to defend his lightweight title against Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez (21-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who has won seven in a row dating back to 2008.

“Gilbert Melendez is one of the toughest fighters on the planet,” Henderson said in a statement. “I've said over and over that I just want to fight the best in the world. I don't care in what order I face them, but I want to fight the best in the biggest fights. He has been the Strikeforce lightweight champion and is going to be real hungry in his first UFC fight.”

Three 155-pound fighters have ranked as top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world over the last year — Henderson, Melendez and Frankie Edgar. With Henderson already beating Edgar twice, Melendez was the ideal opponent.

UFC-owned Strikeforce held its last event over the weekend, enabling Melendez to finally cross over into the octagon to meet Henderson.

He’s not the only Strikeforce champion making his UFC debut at the card. Heavyweight champion and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will face local favorite Frank Mir (16-6 MMA, 14-6 UFC) in the co-main event.

Cormier and Mir were initially slated to fight in Strikeforce last year. After Cormier knocked out Dion Staring on Saturday, he called out Mir — and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

“I’m going to let Jon defend his belt on April 27, and then I’m going to kick his (butt) in the fall,” Cormier said.

Jones is scheduled to meet Chael Sonnen a week after UFC on Fox 7. Cormier wants to drop to the 205-pound division because his teammate Cain Velasquez holds the belt at heavyweight.

The event will mark Henderson’s second straight fight on Fox. He won a unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 5 over Nate Diaz, who happens to train alongside Melendez.

“I'm sure there will be some strategy shared in his camp from my last fight,” Henderson said. “I don't concern myself with that, however. I will have my own game plan and it will be up to me to execute that."

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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