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.
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.