It’s finally nice to see a contender go out and work their way back to the top for a rematch. Too many immediate rematches are given, even if a fight is one-sided or ends in a finish. For Chad Mendes, he’s hoping for a different result when he goes up against longtime champion Jose Aldo. Along with this fantastic main event, there are four other fights that bear analysis.
The first fight on the card pits Carlos Diego Ferreira against Beneil Dariush. Ferreira made his name known with a first-round submission win over Colton Smith and continued his improvement by knocking out Ramsey Nijem. Although the knockout was his first method of victory by his fists, his standup has grown and he boasts solid countering ability which I think will be the downfall of Dariush. Dariush last submitted Tony Martin with an arm-triangle choke in August and will be looking to take the fight to the ground and threaten Ferreira. Both fighters have excellent ground skills and a plethora of submission wins on their respective resumes. So of course, we’ll probably see a striking battle since neither man will get the fight to the mat. Due to that, I think Ferreira will do enough with his counters to score a decision victory.
The pick: Ferreira by split decision
Fight number two pits the grinding Darren Elkins against the streaking Lucas Martins. Elkins is coming off a loss to Jeremy Stephens where the difference in all-around skills was very apparent. While all of Elkins’ pressure and toughness can help him out of taxing situations, skills will come into play eventually. Simply put, I don’t think Elkins has the skills to deal with Martins. If Elkins cannot get this fight to the ground, there’s a good chance of his night ending early. Martins needs to keep this fight standing however he can. Elkins’ pace and cardio will be very tough to overcome, but after getting punched in the face a few times, that cardio could disappear quickly. Once again, I think counterpunching will make the difference and Martins will tag Elkins coming in and finish him.
The pick: Martins by TKO in the second round.
The third fight will most likely be a fan-friendly slobberknocker, which I can’t ever complain about. Surprisingly, Hans Stringer has more professional mixed martial arts bouts than Fabio Maldonado. Stringer boasts 30 fights while Maldonado has “only” 28. While that likely doesn’t make that much of a difference, the quality of fighters faced does play a factor. Maldonado has gone up against some strong names including Glover Teixeira and Stipe Miocic. This experience will push Maldonado ahead on my scorecard. It’s very hard for a training camp to replicate title contenders and Maldonado has firsthand experience with them. Most likely, these two will oblige each other on the feet and if this fight hits the ground, I would be surprised. If Stringer can get the fight to the ground, then he should be able to hold Maldonado down and pummel him from the top. But that’s easier said than done. The pace of Maldonado fights is like a less effective Diaz brother. All of the volume coming at Stringer is sure to cause problems with implementing his game plan. Without that game plan, this becomes Maldonado’s fight to lose.
The pick: Maldonado by unanimous decision.
This top-10 matchup is one I’ve looked forward to since it was announced. It will be the first fight for Glover Teixeira since his loss to Jon Jones, and the first for Phil Davis since his loss to Anthony Johnson. Both fighters are in a very similar spot, looking to get their names back into title contention with a big win over a heralded opponent. Glover Teixeira will need to get in close and negate the reach of Phil Davis. This plays right into the skillset of Teixeira as he loves to walk down fighters and exchange the whole way. If he can back Phil Davis into the cage and force him to fight off his back foot, then the wrestling advantage will disappear and Teixeira can look for a finish. However, if Davis controls the center of the octagon and jabs his brain out, he can control Teixeira and take him down at will. I really think the winner of this fight will be the one who can control distance and cage positioning. Without knockout power, Davis will have to work even harder to win this fight. Teixeria has shown that he hits hard in almost every fight, and I’m willing to bet that he finds the chin of Davis and walks him down. I expect a strong effort from Davis, but without proper power and technique, Texeira should beat him up on the feet and stuff his takedowns.
The pick: Teixeira by TKO in the 3rd round.
The main event is the fight I’m most excited for. Chad Mendes has earned his way back to the top of the featherweight decision and a title shot. With wins over Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins, Clay Guida and Nik Lentz, Mendes has stayed busy and greatly improved his game. He now boasts a much stronger striking game compared when he first faced Aldo in early 2012. Four of those five wins were finishes, and he nearly finished Nik Lentz. Mendes has improved his angles, which bolster his accuracy greatly. He has become arguably the most well-rounded fighter in the division other than Aldo and I can’t wait for this improved version to test his limits against the champion. Jose Aldo is all about making his offensive output count. When he throws, he throws with wicked intentions and when the blow lands, it sounds like a piece of beef hitting the ground. This explosiveness is something that is impossible to mimic in the gym, even for a great organization like Mendes’ Team Alpha Male. Aldo’s combinations are always crisp and powerful. He always seems in a good position to accomplish something. Whether it’s pivoting away from a takedown or throwing a low kick, there is no wasted movement in Aldo’s game. That’s what Mendes needs to test. He needs to try and take Aldo out of his game and force him to fight in a new way. We saw Aldo on his back for a round against Mark Hominick and Aldo did not look very good. Chad Mendes has to replicate that for 25 minutes if he wants to win this fight. But pulling the trigger against a fighter who has a counter for everything and uses every part of his body is a tough assignment. Although he has greatly improved, I still don’t think Chad Mendes has enough to become the new featherweight king.
The pick: Aldo by unanimous decision.
By Andrew Jerrick