UFC 142 preview: Aldo vs. Mendes
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Brazil on Saturday night at UFC 142, where Aldo vs. Mendes emanates from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
In the featured attraction, explosive Brazilian destroyer Jose Aldo defends his featherweight strap in a potential stylistic nightmare against the undefeated American Chad Mendes.
Meanwhile, Brazilian superstar Vitor Belfort will try to make Anthony Johnson doubt his future at middleweight as they face off in a volatile 185-pound showdown.
Here's a breakdown of all the action on tap for the pay-per-view and the UFC's first preliminary card on the FX network:
Main Card (PPV):
Jose Aldo (21-1) vs. Chad Mendes (11-0)
The UFC featherweight champion carries a 13-fight winning streak into his Brazilian homecoming against the unbeaten American wrestler Mendes.
Aldo, 25, a product of Nova Uniao, has dominated the featherweight ranks since his North American debut at WEC 34, stopping the likes of Cub Swanson, Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan in emphatic fashion, while earning hard-fought decisions over Urijah Faber, Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian. His only career setback was a November 2005 submission loss to Luciano Azevedo, a natural lightweight.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and muay thai wrecking machine, Aldo has shown few weaknesses during his WEC and subsequent UFC stint, but he's never faced a wrestler the caliber of Mendes.
Aldo's conditioning was a major question mark in his fight with Hominick. After dominating the Canadian kickboxer with his striking arsenal for four rounds, Aldo's gas tank ran out. The Sao Paulo native was taken down and pummelled for the remaining five minutes, but it was too little too late for the challenger and Aldo retained his belt via unanimous decision.
His most recent bout with Florian was a highly competitive affair. Aldo broke the former lightweight title challenger down with strikes and exhibited solid takedown defense, but Florian's wrestling credentials are nowhere near the level of what Mendes brings to the table.
Mendes, 26, a member of Team Alpha Male alongside Faber and top flyweight prospect Joseph Benavidez, has recorded one-sided decision wins over the likes of Erik Koch, Cub Swanson, Javier Vazquez, Michihiro Omigawa and Rani Yahya.
A former NCAA Division I wrestler, Mendes possesses some of the most explosive takedowns in the division. The 2008 Pac-10 wrestler of the year continues to develop his hands, but he's most dangerous when he's hammering away with ground-and-pound on the mat.
Typical of Team Alpha Male fighters, Mendes is a cardio machine who has yet to show any signs of fading in the Octagon. But Mendes has had the benefit of fighting opponents armed with strong grappling bases as opposed to acclaimed strikers. Aldo is by far the best striker he has encountered and arguably the most dynamic hitter in the sport.
In order to prepare for Mendes' greatest offensive weapon, Aldo enlisted the help of recent UFC title challenger Gray Maynard, a former NCAA Division I wrestler himself. Maynard has had high praise for Aldo's grappling skills and ability to stuff shots, which could spell trouble for the aspiring American contender.
Aldo's brutal leg kicks annihilated Faber, who is Mendes' teammate and a stellar wrestler himself. If Aldo's conditioning is up to par, he should be able to effectively pick his shots and anticipate Mendes' takedown attempts.
Furthermore, Aldo's submission prowess remains one of his secret weapons. The Brazilian's training partners rave about his ground game, though he's content to smash most adversaries standing. If Mendes puts him on his back, he's still highly dangerous.
Aldo will look to prove his worth as a top-ranked, pound-for-pound mixed martial artist as he will patiently await his opportunity to explode before unleashing a thunderous fury of strikes to lay Mendes out, putting the first loss on his unblemished record.
Verdict: Aldo via KO, Round 3