Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight standouts Chad Mendes and Nik Lentz squared off on the main card of last night's (December 14, 2013) UFC on Fox 9 from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California.
No. 1-ranked Mendes came in on a tear, having finished all four opponents he faced since dropping a title bid to Jose Aldo in Jan. 2012. "Money" was last seen at UFC 164, becoming the first-ever fighter to knockout former Lightweight contender Clay Guida.
Team Alpha male-trained product Mendes had some bad blood with No. 8-ranked Lentz, an opponent he deemed unnecessarily cocky in the media.
Lentz had quietly racked up a decent mixed martial arts (MMA) win streak of his own. He last knocked off Hacran Dias via decision at UFC on Fuel TV 10 in June. Lentz was looking to make a name for himself by upsetting the surging Mendes in Sacramento.
Unfortunately he couldn't pull that off.
Despite looking less effective than usual, former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler Mendes put Lentz through a mat clinic. "Money" had Lentz wobbling early but couldn't finish the job.
He slowed down dramatically in the later rounds. While it wasn't his most impressive performance, Mendes blamed a sinus infection that affected his breathing. It may not have been pretty, but a win's a win.
Let's break down Mendes' win from Sacramento.
The fight started out with Mendes throwing his trademark bombs. He rocked Lentz with a flurry and had him in trouble. Lentz survived to go for a takedown. Mendes tagged him with some big hooks then scored a big double leg takedown. Lentz ate some shots but got back to his feet.
Mendes caught him with a short right hand as "Carny" rushed in and Lentz was bleeding. "Money" got another takedown but didn't do much with it. Mendes threw a hard punch and got his third takedown as the opening frame came to a close.
Mendes started the second with a hard low kick. Lentz appeared the fresher fighter as he pressed forward to land some kicks and punches. Mendes threw a left and took the fight to the ground. Lentz recovered yet again and clipped Mendes. "Money" got a fifth takedown but continued to do little to no damage on the mat. Lentz lifted Mendes out from underneath him but got slammed one more time. It was a much slower frame from the number one contender.
Lentz pressed forward in the third, nailing Mendes. He countered a Mendes uppercut with a good hook and a kick to the body. Mendes missed on a takedown and threw a glancing headkick. The match continued on the feet until Mendes got a weak takedown. Lentz kept kicking the body and went to a work with a series of Muay Thai knees. "Carny" was winning the round hands down with Mendes' pace slowed down to a crawl.
"Money" picked it up to land a flying knee, going for a guillotine choke. He couldn't lock it up and hit Lentz with a right at the bout came to a close. Mendes took home the unanimous decision victory, but as Joe Rogan noted, he didn't quite do the damage that he has been doing.
Mendes will await the results of the Featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169 in February. He didn't exactly make a strong case for fighting for the belt again, especially if Aldo wins. He was finished decisively by the champ and failed to capitalize on an opportunity to finish a tough Lentz. Perhaps an upcoming bout against the returning Cub Swanson would prove if Mendes is truly the best contender for the belt.
Maybe illness was the cause for his sluggishness; we'll have to wait and see how he bounces back.
Lentz will go back to the drawing board after talking a big game but failing to deliver on his words. The former University of Minnesota wrestler was totally outclassed on the mat, being taken down almost at will against Mendes.
While "Money" didn't turn those takedowns into a whole lot of damage, it proved that he could out-grind the grinding Lentz. He's going to need to shore up his takedown defense if he wants to contend in the rapidly improving Featherweight division.
He should have a decided power advantage after cutting down from Lightweight but he failed to rock Mendes. He did hurt him with a body kick or two, however. Lentz will go back to fighting fighters toward the bottom of the 145-pound top 10. A bout with either Clay Guida or Darren Elkins would make sense for him.
Although he didn't earn a stoppage, Chad Mendes continued his win streak against Nik Lentz at UFC on Fox 9. But was it enough to warrant another title shot for ‘Money?'