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Chad Mendes, UFC 179's 'Fighter to Watch' tonight in Brazil

Chad Mendes has a second chance to prove that he's the world's greatest featherweight tonight (Sat., Oct. 25, 2014) at UFC 179 when he rematches Featherweight champion Jose Aldo. It's a rare opportunity to avenge his only career loss and claim yet another title for Team Alpha Male.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A second chance at greatness is nothing to be taken lightly, especially in an individual sport such as mixed martial arts (MMA).

Chad Mendes, a product of the elite Team Alpha Male fight camp, is looking at what is surely the biggest fight of his career to date when he takes on Jose Aldo tonight (Sat., Oct. 25, 2014) in the main event of UFC 179, which will take place from Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Mendes comes into this bout sporting a five-fight win streak to Aldo's 17, which includes a win over "Money" back at UFC 142.

The aforementioned fight was Aldo's fifth consecutive defense of his Featherweight title since he claimed it, while it was Mendes' first loss as a professional. The bout was also staged in Rio, where Aldo was clearly very excited to defend his title. The bout culminated with "Scarface" putting away Mendes with a violent knee just one second away from the end of the first round before sprinting out of the Octagon to go and celebrate with his native audience.

As impressive as the knockout was, it wasn't without its criticism. Some seconds before the finishing blow was landed, Aldo stopped an attempted throw by Mendes, grabbing onto the cage and keeping him on his feet and still dangerous. Of course, Aldo had popped up within a second of being taken down by a similar technique just moments prior, so the significance of the cage grab may be irrelevant.

But, it is a point of contention nonetheless.

To many fans, this singular moment raised many questions about the fight. At the very least, a successful takedown would most likely have meant Mendes survived the first round as opposed to being violently removed from his consciousness.

But, how well would he have fared if this had not happened?

Breaking down all 4:59 of the fight, I suppose you could judge this to some degree. Aldo seemed to be in top form, looking sharp on the feet and warding off takedowns Mendes tried with relative ease. This looked very much to be a fight that Mendes would need to get to the ground in order to win, but it didn't seem like he had the ability to do so.

In my humble opinion, this is a fight Mendes would've lost no matter what -- cage grab or no cage grab -- though I will concede that that one moment of cheating did probably have an influence on how and when Aldo won the fight.

Now, Mendes comes into the rematch a clearly far more developed fighter. His game, formerly based entirely on his wrestling game, has developed into the slick, versatile style for which Team Alpha Male has become known. Along his impressive five-fight win streak, Mendes has notched four finishes ... all via (technical) knockout. The power in his hands has been honed into a sharp, crisp boxing game, one that he complements with agile footwork and the ever-present threat of a takedown.

This added element to Mendes' game could very well provide a new foil to Aldo, but it certainly isn't a sure thing. Though few fights in UFC are easy, Mendes certainly didn't face a Murderers Row on his way to his second title shot, especially considering that wins over notably awful Cody McKenzie and the unheralded Yaotzin Meza were part of his recent run. In addition, none of the fighters Mendes has fought since losing to Aldo have had a remotely effective striking games.

And perhaps that's the reason he has looked so impressive -- it was simply because his opposition had next to nothing to offer him there.

Regardless, Mendes has clearly made improvement to his stand up attack, though the magnitude at which he has done so may or may not be overblown. Those improvements could be a difference maker for him, especially considering the questions surrounding Aldo right now.

Aldo's fight camp, and Brazilian fighters as a whole, have been losing traction recently. And if you'd believe it, Aldo is actually the only Brazilian currently holding UFC gold.

Following T.J. Dillashaw's utter dismantling of Renan Barao for his Bantamweight crown, there is a clear narrative for the fight tonight. Dillashaw, representing Team Alpha Male, was the first fighter out of his camp to win UFC gold (and not for lack of trying), humiliating and shocking Barao in the process.

Mendes faces similarly long odds here against Aldo, especially in Brazil, but now that Dillashaw has made that first huge step, it could mean a bode of confidence for Mendes heading into this bout. At the same time, there are several questions surrounding Nova Uniao after Barao's weak performance, with many people questioning its ability to keep top fighters at the pinnacle of the sport for much longer.

Ultimately, Mendes' fight with Aldo is far more interesting the second time around.

With the additions to Mendes' game, as well as the questions surrounding Aldo, the time could not be more perfect for "Money" to usurp the 145-pound throne. There's no doubt that Aldo is a tough fight, especially in Brazil, but Mendes is fighting him at perhaps the most opportune time possible.

He'd be wise to make the most of it ... and die trying.

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