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Benson Henderson to defend UFC lightweight title against Gilbert Melendez

UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (left) and challenger Nate Diaz pose on Thursday Dec. 6, 2012 in advance of their main event Saturday on a UFC televised card.

Neil Davidson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After winding down Strikeforce, the UFC has wasted little time matching some of its top talent against the newcomers.

UFC lightweight champion Benson (Smooth) Henderson will face former Strikeforce 155-pound title-holder Gilbert (El Nino) Melendez on April 20 on a televised UFC card in San Jose, which was the home to Strikeforce.

Daniel Cormier, the Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight tournament winner, will face former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir on the same card at the HP Pavilion. The two were supposed to meet last November in Strikeforce but Mir was sidelined by injury.

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The UFC, which owned Strikeforce, closed the organization after last Saturday's final show in Oklahoma City.

Cormier (11-0) won on that card, stopping journeyman Dion Staring in the second round.

Mir (16-6) is coming off a loss to then UFC champion Junior Dos Santos last May.

The 155-pound showdown of champions is a mouth-watering matchup for MMA fans.

Henderson (17-2) was many observers' fighter of the year in 2012 after dethroning Frankie Edgar and then beating him again in a rematch before earning a convincing decision over Nate Diaz.

Diaz, along with older brother Nick, trains with Melendez (21-2), who held the Strikeforce title from June 2006 to June 2008 and then from April 2009.

"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.

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"He has been the Strikeforce lightweight champion, and is going to be real hungry in his first UFC fight."

In other UFC news, injuries continue to take a toll on the Jan. 26 televised card in Chicago.

Middleweight Michael Kuiper is on his fourth opponent in the form of former All-American wrestler Josh Janousek (8-1) who follows Thiago Bodao, Caio Magalhaes and Buddy Roberts.

Sweden's Magnus Cedenblad has also been forced out of his planned middleweight bout with Rafael Natal. Sean (Black Magik) Spencer is his replacement.

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