UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes | The Face-Off

Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo

Finley-Lawson debate Aldo-Mendes

We didn’t send them to the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro to sip acai smoothies and ogle thong-clad women playing in the waves. But the sub-freezing temperatures and snow of Indiana is a close second, right?

HeavyMMA writers Duane Finley and Nate Lawson once again go head to head, this time to debate the main event at Saturday’s UFC 142 pay-per-view: the featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo, one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters, and his unbeaten challenger, Team Alpha Male standout Chad Mendes.

The Case for Jose Aldo (Finley 2-2)
When you have dumped two straight, and you are looking for redemption, there is no room for the mess around. Nate “Flossin’” Lawson not only took my coveted Heavy title, but he then mashed it in my face at UFC 141. Good thing for me it’s a new year and time to get busy.

Jose Aldo is one of the most versatile fighters in the game. His striking is on a level few can match and there is no one in weight classes north or south who could come close to keeping up with him in that department. Aldo’s natural ability has pushed him ahead of the pack and as he matures, his style is becoming calculated and precise. This will only make him more dangerous as time goes on and if he can find the “quiet storm” tempo of an Anderson Silva, his future could be legendary.

In the here and now is Chad Mendes. While the Team Alpha Male member’s power wrestling and ability to change levels are going to be his strengths, I don’t see it being enough to stop Aldo and claim the title. Mendes is no joke in the cage, and his will and determination are obvious. But outworking Aldo in his home country is going to be a tall order.

Mendes worked with former Aldo opponent and Alpha Male teammate Urijah Faber for this camp, and just as Faber was quoted saying Aldo’s leg kicks were more than he expected, it is hard to find someone who can properly mimic the power and speed of the young champion. I believe Jose Aldo will prove to be too much for Mendes, and I’m looking for a third-round stoppage for the current strap holder.

I will also add this theory: Should Mendes go into the third round having taken one of the first two frames, the doors of a possible decision are wide open for him. I know that is borderline hedging, but a man who has eaten back-to-back losses in face-off challenges can get a bit desperate.

The Case for Chad Mendes (Lawson 2-2)
With back-to-back wins under my belt, I now rely on featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes to pull off the upset over champion Jose Aldo to keep the streak alive.

Mendes may be the underdog in this contest, but I am not picking him to give my challenger an advantage, nor am I taking him because I simply like the odds (Mendes at +250). I’m taking Mendes because he has the perfect tools to take the gold on Saturday night. One tool in particular is on a level Aldo has never experienced, and you already know what that is.

It is Mendes’ elite wrestling.

The former PAC-10 Wrestler of the Year has ridden his incredible ability to a perfect 11-0 record and to a title shot against the world’s top featherweight, having yet to meet a foe to truly give him problems in the grappling department. He takes fights down early, often and seemingly at will. The only question is, can Aldo stop the furious takedown offense?

Looking back at the champion’s previous contests, the answer would seem to be yes. He has dictated basically every round of every fight he has been in since joining Zuffa in 2008, but the only problem is the types of fighters he has competed against. Just look at who he has faced since taking the belt from Mike Brown at WEC 44: Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber, Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian. No one on that list has wrestling equivalent to that of Mendes. The only one that comes remotely close is Faber, whom he trains with at Team Alpha Male.

Mendes brings a wrestling base unlike one Aldo has ever faced, along with incredible cardio that allows him to continue applying pressure round after round.

Sure, the fight starts on the feet – every round does, in fact – and Aldo’s striking poses a problem to everyone he faces. But if a beaten-down Mark Hominick can hold top position against a tired Aldo, surely Mendes can do that and a bit more.

The fight may not start out pretty for Mendes, as he adjusts to a title fight in the home country of his opponent for the first couple minutes. But he should come around after a short time and start setting up his takedowns and working the fight to the floor. It will likely be a close one, but takedowns score points and I fully expect Mendes to get his share of them while managing to maintain top position for a good amount of time. Still, it should come down to the judges, who will give Mendes the close, but unanimous nod.

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