UFC 142 fight card: Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes prediction, preview and breakdown

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JANUARY 13: (L-R) UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and challenger Chad Mendes face off after weighing in during the UFC 142 Weigh In at HSBC Arena on January 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via UFC.com).

Jose Aldo looks to make the fifth defense of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight belt in front of his native Brazilians when he takes on unbeaten powerhouse grappler Chad Mendes in the UFC 142 main event this evening (Jan. 14, 2012) at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Aldo's got a great opportunity to solidify his status as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game with a big win. At 11-0, Mendes has soldiered from obscurity to consensus top-contender status, with a strong takedown game, improving stand up, and the ability to essentially shut down anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves underneath him.

And while Mendes has been knocked for a decision-leaning style -- seven of his wins are over the distance, including five of his six bouts under the WEC/UFC banner -- the style match up virtually guarantees an exciting clash.

The Team Alpha Male-trained fighter will likely battle to get Aldo to the mat, something that's one hell of a risky proposition, precisely because the champ punishes people like few others. However, if Mendes can get Aldo there, it's a very winnable fight. He only needs to be superior in three of five rounds to take the title, and his conditioning is top-notch.

Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 142 fight between Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes:

The Breakdown

Despite his reputation as a dominant, almost machine-like fighter, the champ's last two performances are cause for concern. Compared to the destructive showings he put on against Mike Brown, Urijah Faber and Manny Gamburyan, it's not clear if Aldo's merely had two off performances through sheer chance, or if problems making the 145-pound limit are catching up to him. Either way, his volume and output of strikes against Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian were much diminished compared to his previous displays.

And he looked tired early in both matches.

Hominick's late surge in their April brawl turned a one-sided Aldo beating into a competitive fight, while Florian, despite going 1 for 19 on takedowns, was able to stifle and shut down Aldo with endless attempts against the cage that failed, but the champ wasn't able to punish him extensively in doing do.

This dynamic of limited Aldo output is precisely what Mendes will look to exploit. Mendes' stand up is based around high-percentage attacks, nothing exceptionally fancy, and he possesses a nifty right hand counter he'll explode down the middle when he sees an opening. Aldo figures to touch him up well in the early stand up, much as he did Faber, but Mendes will have to be durable and resilient enough to absorb these and keep pushing ahead, waiting for his opportunity to turn the fight on its head.

He can do this by tying up and pushing Aldo against the cage, working for takedowns, and punishing the champ with strikes in-close. If and when Mendes can get it to the mat, it will likely result initially into a tactical stalemate. Aldo was a world Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion with outstanding submissions, but Mendes is good enough to avoid these.

Mendes rarely looks to pass guard, so he'll be smart to lay in guard and pound on Aldo when spots present themselves, while pushing hard and taxing Aldo's gas tank. If Kenny Florian could run Aldo out of gas through endless failed takedown attempts, Mendes is going to do him one better by taking Aldo down and really pushing him to empty.

The Pick

This is a very tough fight for both guys.

Mendes in the sense that he's going to Brazil to take the title from an exceptionally dangerous guy, one who can strike and grapple with equal skill. But, Aldo has his hands full over five rounds, especially with an unbeaten guy like Mendes who doesn't figure to run out of gas, or quit trying. With the champ's reduced standup output of late, I think it's clear that his days at 145 are numbered, and Mendes has the best style to beat him.

Surviving some rough spots early, look for Mendes to score key takedowns in the middle of the fight to wear down Aldo, as well as some surprisingly effective stand up in the mid- to-late portions of the fight, which Mendes will also turn into takedowns. Mendes scores the upset, taking a hard-won bout by unanimous decision.

Mendes via decision

Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 142 results of all the "Aldo vs. Mendes" PPV action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:30 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Saturday morning.

See you then!

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