Top UFC featherweight title contender Chad Mendes voiced criticism against the reigning UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in an interview with Combate, saying he could not “see any sign of evolution” in Aldo.
No matter what anyone says, Mendes has definitely earned another shot at the title. While Mendes has clearly evolved and grown by leaps and bounds since his first fight with Aldo, where he was knocked out in the first round, will his evolution still be enough to topple the champion?
Aldo has not tasted defeat since November 2005. He is 14-0 under the Zuffa banner (8-0 WEC; 6-0 UFC). Aldo came into the UFC as the featherweight champion in 2011. No one has been able to wrest that belt from him in over three and a half years, including Mendes.
However, Aldo’s performances in the UFC often leave something to be desired. In the WEC, he only went the distance once against former featherweight champion and current top UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber. In the WEC, Aldo looked like a killer. It would be incredibly rare for his fights to get out of the second round.
One can argue the competition in the UFC is a lot tougher, but at the same time, Aldo does not look as if he has that same fire and killer instinct as when he stepped into the cage as an up and coming contender.
Now, let’s compare Aldo’s record to Mendes’ record in the UFC. Mendes is 7-1 in the UFC, the lone loss being at the hands of Aldo in their title bout. Before his loss to Aldo, Mendes was primarily seen as a wrestler. He would take his opponents down and grind them out in order to outpoint them to a decision.
After the Aldo loss, something in his fights clearly changed. Unlike, for example, the path Jon Fitch went down after losing his bid for the title against Georges St-Pierre, Mendes completely changed his game. Mendes started letting his hands go and started knocking people out.
The knockout loss to Aldo seemed to light a fire under Mendes and made him a finisher. With the tutelage and coaching of Duane “Bang” Ludwig at Team Alpha Male, Mendes clearly upped his game as well. He has scored four straight knockout wins, including a knockout over Clay Guida.
During Guida’s long career, no fighter had ever been able to knock him out before Mendes. Mendes also handed Darren Elkins his first defeat in the UFC featherweight division after Elkins had gone on a 5-0 winning streak.
Mendes’ accomplishments since losing the title are impressive. He’s clearly evolved and has become a much more well-rounded fighter. However, even if Mendes has evolved, does he still have a good enough game to beat Jose Aldo? While Aldo tends to slow down a lot after the first or second round in his UFC performances, other fighters still find it incredibly hard to deal with his technical striking and boxing.
No fighter has been able to figure out a way around his devastating leg kicks, and while Mendes is an excellent wrestler, Aldo has proven to have extremely strong takedown defense in dealing with wrestlers.
Another important aspect is the mental game. Team Alpha Male finally got some much-needed momentum after T.J. Dillashaw‘s win over Renan Barao, making Dillashaw the new bantamweight champion. The fight is also being held on friendly territory for Mendes in Los Angeles, California. The first fight between Mendes and Aldo was in Brazil.
These elements are interesting variables that could play into the mind games of both fighters. I cannot wait to see what happens in this contest.