Mendes thinks his style of wrestling is superior to Aldo’s past opponents
When word around the campfire was that Jose Aldo was working on his wrestling with Gray Maynard, the MMA world perhaps gave a collective raised eyebrow. After all, if one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters, a man with few deficiencies, was upping the ante on the one part of his game that could be a weakness for his next opponent to exploit, and was doing it by bringing in one of the best wrestlers in the UFC … well, folks figured, Chad Mendes might be in trouble.
The thing of it is, though – Chad Mendes could not care less.
“I don’t care who he trains with,” Mendes said. “I train with some of the best guys in the world. I’ve been wrestling since I was 5 years old – it’s what I’ve done my entire life. I haven’t taken a year off, ever, so I don’t care who he’s worked with. He can work with the best wrestler in the entire world for a camp, and it doesn’t mean he’s going to be anywhere near as good as mine.”
Mendes (11-0, 2-0 UFC) will try to use his wrestling – though he contends he’s worked tirelessly on his standup game, as well – to take Aldo’s featherweight title at UFC 142 on Saturday night. And he has to do it in hostile territory in front of Aldo’s home crowd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
If Mendes can pull the upset – Aldo is a more than 3-to-1 favorite in the main-event fight – it would be a remarkable story to tell.
“(Brazil is) the birthplace of MMA,” Mendes said. “Beating a champion in his own backyard, to me, there’s no better way to prove that I’m in the best company at 145 pounds. So overall, I’m feeling great. The camp has gone very, very smooth – the best. This is the best shape that I’ve ever been in, and I’m excited to get in there and showcase it.”
Aldo (20-1, 2-0 UFC), who defends the belt for the fifth time overall and third time in the UFC after two successful defenses in the WEC, brought in Maynard, a two-time UFC lightweight title challenger, to get a new look for his wrestling game and may wind up being quite glad he did.
“I’ve been training wrestling for some time, but I needed a well-versed guy who’s been a trained wrestler his whole life to kind of clear up things,” Aldo said through his translator. “Gray coming down in these last few weeks really gave me a lot of pointers and helped me out a lot for this fight. Gray’s a great guy – he talks and gives pointers before and after training and has really helped everyone in the gym.”
After finishing his first six opponents since signing with Zuffa and seven of his first eight, Aldo has been taken the distance in his last two title defenses against Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian. But the closest thing to calling his dominance over the featherweight division into question is to say that against Hominick and Florian, he didn’t sweep the judges’ scorecards. He lost a round against each of them – including a pretty rough showing in the fifth round against Hominick last April in Toronto, which Hominick took 10-8 on two of the judges’ cards.
And that round may be what Mendes looked at the most. And training with Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male doesn’t hurt – Faber went five rounds with Aldo at WEC 48, but was devastated by the Brazilian in the standup game to the tune of a whopping 84 percent striking accuracy for Aldo in the fight, including 83 of 86 strikes in Round 4. Aldo also stuffed all nine of Faber’s takedown attempts according to FightMetric’s stats. With the knowledge of that fight and a little measure of revenge for Faber in his pocket, Mendes believes he may have the formula to finally solve the Aldo riddle.
“I think a lot of fighters get in there and try to stand in front of him too much,” Mendes said. “You’ve got to keep the pressure on Jose. He’s the type of fighter who will pick you apart. He’s very explosive with his standup and he has pin-point accuracy. I think guys just need to get in there and get their hands on him more, and honestly, I don’t think any of the guys that have fought him have had the wrestling credentials or the wrestling abilities to be able to get a hold of Jose and get him down and hold him down. So I think my skills, the things that I’m good at, are going to be the key to beating a guy like Jose.”
But what about Faber’s wrestling pedigree? He was a no slouch at the UC-Davis. This, Mendes knows. And Mendes knows Aldo had the answers for Faber’s style of takedowns – and he believes his style is different, perhaps to the detriment of his opponent.
“I think Jose’s takedown defense is great especially up against a cage,” Mendes said. “But my style is more of an explosive kind of blast-you-off-of-your-feet takedown – and a lot of the times those are harder to defend. We won’t know until we get in there, but I believe that what I have and what I can do is going to work.”
Mendes and Aldo meet in the main event of UFC 142, which airs Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern on pay-per-view.