As is now standard operating procedure in 2015, the UFC has lost a much anticipated title headliner on a big money card, but due to the magnetism of one of the competitors, the event still holds substantial significance.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its’ annual trip to Las Vegas, Nevada for International Fight Week on Saturday. UFC 189 has been widely labeled as the biggest card of the year, even after the fallout of the top pound for pound fighter in the sport, Jose Aldo was to put his featherweight title on the line against brash, Irish star “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, unfortunately a broken rib suffered in training two weeks ago led to his withdrawal of the title fight. In most cases, this would be the worse news that a promotion could receive, but Conor McGregor does not fit in the “most cases” category.
Chad “Money” Mendes, the two-time title challenger and number one contender, had received word that Aldo might not be able to compete on July 11 and began training immediately, as he would take Aldo’s spot and fight McGregor for the interim featherweight title with the winner getting the first crack at the undisputed title upon Aldo’s return.
Conor McGregor Vs Chad Mendes: In-Depth Breakdown and Prediction
Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise up MMA’s stardom is still lost on some, but fans and pundits alike both seem to forget that although his trash talking may be entertaining, it is McGregor’s fighting skills that brought him to the big show. McGregor’s pace and unique style of kickboxing is something new to the UFC spectator, and it has so far befuddled all five of his opponents inside the Octagon. The decimation of Marcus Brimage, the ruthless domination of Dennis Siver and Diego Brandao, the sub-two minute KO of perennial contender Dustin Poirier, and even the well-fought three round decision over now top-five contender Max Holloway, has been nothing short of impressive. McGregor’s movement, speed, and pace gave all the men mentioned problems, but Chad Mendes could arguably be the single worst matchup for “The Notorious” one.
Chad Mendes is a world-class athlete, his dynamism is really something to behold. Mendes is also an elite wrestler with a blast double leg takedown capable of putting any featherweight on the mat, and his newly acquired arsenal of striking has given him the ability to knock out any man at 145 pounds. Last October, Chad Mendes put on an outstanding effort against Jose Aldo in their title rematch, that was named by many, the fight of the year and is easily the best featherweight title fight in history. Back and forth for five rounds they went, and although Aldo looked more beat up at the end of the fight than he ever had in his career, he managed to snag four of the five rounds from the judges to win a unanimous decision. Six months later, Mendes made quick work of perennial top contender Ricardo Lamas. After exchanging some kicks in a feeling out process, Lamas was countered by a powerful right hand that staggered him and was subsequently finished by some unrelenting ground & pound. Mendes’ only losses in his professional career are to champion Jose Aldo, and a win against McGregor can get him the seldom-seen third crack at a man he’s 0-2 against.
Anyone that says Conor McGregor doesn’t have good striking is a fool. His striking is very unorthodox, yes, but his mechanics, proficient understanding of distance and knockout power make him one of the craftiest and effective strikers in MMA today. McGregor has an amateur boxing background, and it is displayed quite evidently in his shot selection and the fluidity of his punches. Moreover, his traditional martial art kicking style allows McGregor to use his 74 inch reach to optimum levels. The southpaw utilizes a double jab followed by a left cross or overhand left as his money combo – Brandao, Poirier and Siver all fell victim to it. McGregor’s knockout power is the biggest talking point when discussing his striking, but his sense of rhythm should be the real talking point. McGregor throws very well-timed strikes, but can also throw super effective off-beat combos & counters. Although Mendes is a good striker with legitimate knockout power, his process is not as sound and layered as McGregor’s.
The most misunderstood and ambiguous branch of judging criteria is something Conor McGregor knows better than anyone. A pressure fighter by nature, McGregor pushes a sneaky and troubling pace, averaging over five significant strikes landed per minute, according to the ufc.com website. McGregor’s awareness is also quite exceptional, there is never a feeling out process in his fights, he takes the center of the Octagon within seconds and immediately engages, he’s never been put in any real trouble or been bullied inside the Octagon. His distance management is superb, using his versatile kicks and jumping knees to both establish range and push opponents back to the fence, he also has a very interesting manner of maneuvering fighters to continuously move to one side by repeatedly throwing a kick from the opposite side. Not many people can control movement and keep themselves out of danger like McGregor does, he has looked like a lion tamer inside the Octagon thus far.
Team Alpha Male is notorious for producing top shelf MMA fighters with amateur wrestling backgrounds, and no one in that camp has the wrestling credentials of Chad Mendes. Mendes is a two-time All-American and runner-up in the 2008 NCAA wrestling championships. No longer the one-dimensional wrestler that entered the UFC in 2011, Mendes now uses great boxing skills to stay in the pocket and utilize his remarkable blast double leg takedown whenever the occasion strikes. Mendes has also never been taken down in a fight, his 100 percent takedown defense accuracy should most certainly stay in place against McGregor as the levels of wrestling knowledge is night and day with these two men. In addition to the striking, Mendes has some seldom seen submissions that could easily have McGregor in a world of trouble, Alpha Male has taught Mendes well, and you can bet that trademark guillotine of theirs will make an appearance should Mendes be able to successfully control McGregor on the floor.
With all the hype and attention on McGregor, it could seem lost on some folks that he is a relative rookie to big stage MMA. Chad Mendes has had two title fights against featherweight champion Jose Aldo, the last of which went the distance. This is McGregor’s third bout scheduled for five rounds in the UFC, but has only gone three full rounds in his entire career. Although McGregor is an intelligent fighter with an economic process to his pace, the sudden fatigue that hits fighters in the championship rounds is something all too common in MMA. Mendes has been here before, it’s nothing new to him and he will look to tie up the Irishman, neutralize him and grind him out for five rounds.
This will undoubtedly be one of the most closely matched fights MMA will see this year. Mendes’ wrestling against McGregor’s striking will be the clear narrative of the fight, and it will be the way the fight most likely plays out. Mendes will make it ugly, he’ll fight in close quarters and get some tie ups and takedowns, the question is for how long? The problem with Mendes executing this conspicuous gameplan is that McGregor’s skill set seems to pair rather poorly with his. McGregor is one of the biggest competitors at featherweight and will have a substantial eight inch reach advantage, he has also had an extensive training camp and has been preparing for five rounds, as opposed to Mendes who will have little more than a week to prepare for a fighter who is as tricky and unique as him. The first round could be a total toss up with Mendes landing takedowns and McGregor landing big shots. As the second and third rounds progress, expect McGregor to start setting the pace and land combinations on Mendes. McGregor’s angles and footwork should start to pose problems for the Alpha Male product midway into the fight and will likely culminate with McGregor landing a powerful cross.
CONOR MCGREGOR VIA 3RD ROUND TKO.