This Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013), two Top 10-ranked Featherweight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters will clash in the Octagon when No. 1-ranked Chad Mendes faces off against No. 9-seeded Clay Guida on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 164, which will emanate from BMO Bradley Harris Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Both fighters are tough wrestlers looking to gain footing in one of the UFC’s hottest divisions
Mendes, a Team Alpha Male member, has been on a tear as of late, winning three fights in a row via stoppage after getting knocked out by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight champion Jose Aldo in Jan. 2012. "Money" was last seen dismantling the tough Darren Elkins with a first round technical knockout at UFC on FOX 7 this April.
His team’s integration of famed striker Duane Ludwig as head coach has paid off in spades for Mendes, who’s used the expert tutelage to take his game to the next level.
Guida, on the other hand, is looking to upset the streaking Mendes to prove that he’s still able to hang with the best after drawing much criticism from his last two fights. There’s no doubt that Guida has the potential to be one of most resilient, in-your-face fighters on the planet, but he’s seemingly lost that grittiness in recent showings.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory when Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida goes down in Milwaukee this weekend:
Record: 14-1 overall, 5-1 UFC
Key Wins: Cub Swanson (WEC 50), Erick Koch (WEC 47), Darren Elkins (UFC on Fox 7)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 142)
How he got here: Mendes began his career in regional shows in California, racking up an undefeated (5-0) record from August 2008 to Oct. 2009. That got him a job with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), and he took advantage of the opportunity by going an undefeated (4-0) in the promotion. Two of the wins came against current Top 10-ranked Featherweights Erik Koch and Cub Swanson, a huge testament to just how good Mendes truly is.
UFC had seen all it needed to sign Mendes. He was set up to fight Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 126 and impressed with a unanimous decision win. Six months later at UFC 133, Mendes returned to the Octagon to notch another decision victory over Rani Yahya. The two quick wins had Mendes set up to face one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters when he was signed to face Aldo in the main event of UFC 142.
It could be argued that it was a bit too soon for Mendes to face such a challenge, but the fight went down nonetheless. In his home country of Brazil, Aldo added another clip to his highlight reel when he landed a vicious spinning knee, finishing off Mendes with some power shots on the ground.
Mendes was defeated for the first time in his career, but he remained undeterred. Newly motivated, "Money" steamrolled through his next three opponents, finishing Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza and Darren Elkins via strikes. While previously known for his wrestling prowess, Mendes has taken the advice of his "Bang" coach to round out his game with deadly stand up skills.
The win streak has Mendes back to his lofty No. 1 status, and a convincing victory over Guida this weekend will have him knocking on the door of another title shot.
How he gets it done: Mendes continues to rack up wins with an excellent mix of conditioning, wrestling and newly-minted striking expertise. He continues to evolve as an integral part of Team Alpha Male.
Mendes brings an impressive wrestling resume thanks to his All-American status at Cal Poly, where he finished second in the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Mendes knows that Guida considers wrestling to be his main strength, and that’s got him very excited for this bout. It can be argued that Mendes possesses a far superior wrestling pedigree than Guida and his stand up has looked as good as any Featherweight on the planet in recent months.
The momentum will give Mendes a huge boost heading into UFC 164. He should be able to look for takedowns without having to worry much about being submitted on the ground. He’s never tapped out, but he does have two choke victories on his record. If he can gain the upper hand on Guida and take his back, he may find an opening for a submission of his own.
Look for Mendes to stand and trade, too. He may not have the output that Guida does, but he’ll make up for the difference in power. The expert tutelage of "Bang" Ludwig has the members of Team Alpha Male exhibiting crisp kickboxing that is near the top of MMA.
UFC 164 could be a showcase night for Mendes.
Record: 43-30 overall, 10-7 UFC
Key Wins: Anthony Pettis (The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 Finale), Nate Diaz (UFC 94), Josh Thomson (Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie)
Key Losses: Ben Henderson (UFC on FOX 1), Gray Maynard (UFC on FX 4), Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce: Revenge)
How he got here: "Carpenter" got to this point by winding an extremely long and difficult road through the best Lightweight talent in the world. He got his start in MMA by obtaining an 18-4 overall record in varied fighting promotions throughout the Midwest. He held the Xtreme Fighting Organization, Xtreme Kage Kombat, and Combat Do Lightweight title belts during that span. Guida was ready for the big stage, and got his chance to shine against Josh Thomson for the Strikeforce Lightweight championship at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie in March 2006.
Winning a unanimous decision, Guida now had a major title belt around his waist. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last long, as he relinquished the belt to longtime Strikeforce titleholder and current No. 1 ranked UFC Lightweight Gilbert Melendez.
After a bout in both Shooto and the WEC, Guida was signed onto the UFC and made his Octagon debut at UFC 64, submitting Justin James with a "Submission of the Night"-winning rear naked choke. Guida lost three out of his next four bouts to Din Thomas, Tyson Griffin and Roger Huerta, but he won two "Fight of the Night" bonuses in the process.
Guida went on to win his next three, defeating Mac Danzig and Nate Diaz before dropping two straight to top names Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian. Although he didn’t have a flawless record, fans were now accustomed to seeing Guida deliver the most exciting fights with his all-out attitude. Guida rebounded from the short skid to beat Shannon Gugerty, Rafael dos Anjos, Takanori Gomi, and finally Anthony Pettis, making him one of the top Lightweights in the world at the time.
When he squared off against Ben Henderson at UFC on Fox 1, a chance at a title shot was on the line. Guida came up on the short end, losing a unanimous decision to "Smooth," who would go on to win the belt. Guida returned to the Octagon against Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4 in June 2012. "Carpenter" disappointed many that night, deviating from his usually exciting style to implement a much more elusive gameplan. Maynard never did a ton of damage to Guida, but he continually stalked down Guida to earn a split decision victory. The loss prompted Guida to cut down to Featherweight, and he made his debut there at UFC on Fox 6, winning a split decision over Hatsu Hioki.
How he gets it done: When Guida is on top of his game, he gets the job done with an ultra-frenetic, high-volume pace that exhausts his opponents. He’s looking to make an impact in his new division, but he didn’t exactly send notice against Hioki. He’ll need to get back to that familiar hard-nosed style if he wants to stay afloat in the Top-10 at Featherweight.
Usually, he can use his wrestling against most of his opponents to make the fight an ugly, grinding match that heavily favors Guida. He did it to current UFC Lightweight title challenger Anthony Pettis. However, he won’t have that luxury at UFC 164 because Mendes has the much more accomplished wrestling.
Mendes also has an advantage in striking skill and power, but he most likely won’t be able to knock the incredibly tough Guida out. If he does, it’ll be the first time that "Carpenter" has been stopped by strikes. Guida will hold the advantage in output and experience, and he may have a better submission game. But Mendes won’t likely be forced to tap, so this bout could come down to the judges’ scorecards.
To win, Guida will have to go back to old style of stalking his opponent down with reckless abandon. While that could be a dangerous proposition against Mendes, his recent style of evading the action won’t score him any points. Guida will have to get in Mendes’ face from the opening bell and look to gain the upper hand in striking exchanges. He’ll also have to defend several takedowns, but one or two will most likely get through.
On the ground, Guida will again have to stay active in making transitions so he can advance to better position. He has a good variety of submissions at his disposal, but they’ll be tough to implement with Mendes using a smothering top game. All told, Guida has his work cut out for him at UFC 164. He’ll have the support of the Milwaukee crowd behind him, as he fought five out of his first six bouts in Wisconsin. A return to the non-stop action that once defined him may be Guida’s only chance to win against Mendes.
Bottom Line: Guida has been a UFC stalwart for years now, and he’s put on some insanely exciting matches in that time span. Problem is, his last two performances have been largely uninspiring. If he wants to have any sort of chance at beating the surging Mendes, he’s going to have to find his iron-chinned, never-say-die attitude once again.
Mendes is eager to prove that he’s the finest Featherweight in the UFC, and a win over a name like Guida will do nothing but further his case. "Money" won’t stop until he gets another shot at the belt, and he’s getting closer and closer with each passing bout. His newfound striking prowess could cause some huge problems for Guida if he chooses to take a passive route as he did against Maynard.
If the Guida of old shows up, fans will have a fast-paced battle on their hands. Mendes has the wrestling to take Guida down, but Guida could easily pop back up with ease. It’s all going to come down to how willing Guida is to engage with Mendes. "Carpenter" has never been knocked out, so the former Strikeforce champ could surprise fans by showing the fire that made him famous.
If he doesn’t, "Money" is going to take him to the bank.
Top Featherweight position will be on the line when Chad Mendes and Clay Guida clash at UFC 164. Who is your pick to make a statement in Milwaukee?