Chad Mendes one step closer to title shot after besting Nik Lentz

There was just something about Nik Lentz and his pre-fight

interviews that got under Chad Mendes’ skin.

Several times leading up to the bout on Saturday, Mendes

remarked how Lentz was just too cocky and talked too much trash for

a fighter that hadn’t proved himself against an elite featherweight

so he was going to teach him a lesson in the Octagon.

Mendes’ prophesized that he would knock Lentz out cold and as he

came charging out of the gates like a bull seeing red, his

prediction almost came true.

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Mendes was throwing heavy leather and breathing fire as soon as

the referee said go, and it was Lentz’s chin the was tested. The

former All-American wrestler, who has developed quite the knockout

shot, tagged Lentz with a big punch early that left him rattled.

Mendes mixed in a series of takedowns as well to keep Lentz off

balance as the first round started to tick away.

The productivity for Mendes lessened in the second round, but he

still managed to toss Lentz to the ground just halfway through the

five-minute session. Lentz worked back to his feet, but it only

lasted for a moment before Mendes put him back on the mat begging

for air underneath the powerful wrestler.

As the third round started, Mendes slowed down with his

conditioning backfiring on him the longer the fight continued. It

opened up opportunities for Lentz to press the action and even

stuff one of Mendes’ takedown attempts. Lentz finally got Mendes

backing up, but couldn’t connect with the kind of punches to do any

kind of serious damage.

Out of nowhere with less than a minute to go in the fight,

Mendes uncorked a flying knee that surprised everyone, probably

Lentz most of all. The flashy move brought the Sacramento crowd to

their feet as the last seconds of the third round expired and

everybody knew their hometown fighter was going to get the win.

The judges saw the fight 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 all for Mendes.

Mendes (16-1) gets his fifth win in a row since losing in a

title fight against featherweight champion Jose Aldo in early 2012.

While the bout against Lentz stopped his knockout streak at four

fights, the win surely moves Mendes very close to another crack at

the belt in the near future.

Lentz (26-6-2) suffers his first loss since dropping down to

featherweight last year. The setback, while certainly

disappointing, shouldn’t push the veteran fighter too far down the

ladder after a valiant performance over the top ranked 145-pound

contender in the world.