Photo by Esther Lin via MMAFighting.com.
Title shots are about as rare as hen's teeth in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and losing one in a blowout necessitates a long road back.
In a way, that's probably good for Chad Mendes, because he'll continue to improve as he builds the case for another shot against Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, who may not be long for the division given his dominance and difficulty making the weight.
Cody McKenzie doesn't figure to sprawl and brawl on him, and should be taken down easily for a battle between a savant-like submission specialist and a guy that is equally good at rendering opponents horizontal, if not often unconscious.
Mendes' takedowns are tough to stop and McKenzie, despite dropping from 155-pounds, doesn't figure to have the spry hips or wrestling pedigree to stop him.
Mendes was unbeaten going into his title challenge of Jose Aldo last January, and that perfect record was subsequently scuttled with a brilliant move by the champion, delivering a monster knee after spinning out of a back clinch to end the affair right there. That being said, Mendes can take the experience and put it in his back pocket - tomorrow's another day, and he's still the best wrestler in the division with a big upside and a lot of athleticism to build on.
This is a curious matchup, as McKenzie is one of the most fascinating one-trick fighters in the game - with a lethal guillotine that's delivered 12 of his 13 wins, he's eminently watchable for his everyman physique and persona, and his gameness considering he's got limited standup, yet comes to mix it up from the jump. But the way the tea leaves line up in this one are obvious from here - Mendes is a Team Alpha Male fighter, a group of guys that are notoriously difficult to submit, and McKenzie is going to be there like a platter of burger all night. He'll be softened up appropriately and bloodied like the gamer that he is.
Mendes got jobbed somewhat in his title challenge of Aldo. The blatant fence grab by the champ denied him the takedown he needed to fight his kind of fight. That's not saying he necessarily would have won, but the fact that guys are getting a free fence grab without a deduction or restart on the ground lets you know the likelihood of said actions continuing ... roughly 100-percent.
This is something of a makeup call for him, and the appropriate move. For him to get a title shot in the foreseeable future, he'll have to put together some exciting, non-decision wins, and really make some statements. Or Aldo will have to no longer be champion. McKenzie is the first step back, and his lack of standup and general athleticism means he'll be a beat behind. Cody's guillotine is a thing of beauty with how he seems able to uncork one from all kinds of positions, but Mendes has spent years dealing with Urijah Faber's guillotine which is every bit as nasty and immediate. He's not submitting Mendes, and there is no plan B. Mendes takes him down, softens him up, and continues the pounding en route to a third-round stoppage.
Mendes via technical knockout in round three
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