Winner of Mendes vs. Omigawa in the title mix.
There is a reason why the featherweight battle between Chad Mendes and Michihiro Omigawa will kick-off the Spike TV prelims broadcast; the winner could very well be next in line for a title shot in the 145-pound division according to Dana White.
“Do you know what’s funny? You’re first person to ask me that out of all the interviews I’ve done today,” White responded when Heavy.com’s Megan Olivi posed the question to the UFC President. “You’re right; that’s a great fight and it definitely puts one of those guys in the mix.”
Though new to many UFC fans, both Mendes and Omigawa are elite contenders within the featherweight division, and each will be looking to keep their own impressive streak intact on Saturday night.
Mendes, a former All-American wrestler at Cal Poly SLO and teammate of Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, has found nothing but success since stepping off the wrestling mats and into the cage. The 25-year-old is unbeaten through the first nine fights of his career, including a quartet of impressive performances in the WEC over the last ten months.
The Team Alpha Male member handed up-and-comer Eric Koch his first and only loss in his debut before adding victories over Anthony Morrison and Cub Swanson to his resume in the span of five months. In his final bout under the WEC banner, Mendes used his forceful top game to control jiu jitsu ace Javier Vasquez and earn a unanimous decision in November.
Saturday night, the undefeated wrestler will face the toughest test of his career, as Omigawa returns to the UFC after a three-year hiatus. During that time, the 35-year-old veteran reinvented himself.
After going 0-2 as a lightweight during his first stint in the UFC and sitting with a record of 4-6 through ten pro fights, the black belt judoka transformed himself into an elite featherweight.
Omigawa has gone 8-1 over his last nine fights, defeating the likes of Nam Phan, Marlon Sandro and Hatus Hioki along the way; his only loss being a split decision defeat to Masanori Kanehara in the finals of the 2009 Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix.
The Hidehiko Yoshida trainee has had experience dealing with powerful American wrestlers in the past, having scored a unanimous decision win over former WEC stalwart LC Davis in the opening round of that same Featherweight Grand Prix two years ago.
When Mark Hominick and Jose Aldo fight for the featherweight title later this year in Toronto, don’t be surprised if the winner of this bout is waiting to congratulate the victor and be introduced as their next opponent.
Tune in to Fight Day Live, our new 90-minute pre-fight show, this Saturday live from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas at 4:30pm ET/1:30pm PT