Mixed martial arts (MMA) legends-turned bare knuckle pugilists, Chad Mendes and Eddie Alvarez, will throw down this weekend (Sat., April 29, 2023) at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) 41 inside 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
In Dec. 2018, Mendes came up short in what would be his final MMA bout opposite Alexander Volkanovski, who has turned out to be a pretty solid fighter in the five years since then. “Money” stayed on the sidelines fully until Feb. 2022, when he made his first bareknuckle appearance, styling on Joshua Alvarez en route to a fourth round knockout win (watch it).
Alvarez, meanwhile, left UFC in 2018, but he did so to chase gold in One Championship. Just one win in four fights didn’t result in the title he desired, but Alvarez is now back on the prowl for a scrap since walking away from One.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
MMA Record: 18-5
Key Wins: Ricardo Lamas (UFC Fight Night 63), Cub Swanson (WEC 50), Nik Lentz (UFC on FOX 9), Clay Guida (UFC 164), Myles Jury (UFC Fight Night 133)
Key Losses: Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 232), Frankie Edgar (TUF 22 Finale), Jose Aldo (UFC 142, UFC 179), Conor McGregor (UFC 189)
Keys to Victory: Mendes has beefed up in retirement. He was always a powerhouse Featherweight, but now at this 165-pound Catchweight, he’s retained his hand speed and added even more cracking power.
In this match up, Mendes wants to be on the inside, where his physical attributes will really shine. He’s going to have a decided quickness edge, and that really matters in the bare knuckle world, where any clean connection can create major damage.
The difficulty will be in closing the distance. Mendes has never been a tremendous jabber, as low kicks were his primary distance weapon in MMA. Without the takedown threat, squatting down then exploding forward is a less safe option as well. As an adjustment in the ring, Mendes has to move his head more, ideally by rolling beneath Alvarez’s shots and coming up firing.
It would also really benefit Mendes to attempt to take an angle before bursting forward.
MMA Record: 30-8 (2)
Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 90), Justin Gaethje (UFC on FOX 29), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 81), Michael Chandler (Bellator 106), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 188), Shinya Aoki (Bellator 66)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC 205), Dustin Poirier (UFC on FOX 30), Donald Cerrone (UFC 178), Michael Chandler (Bellator 58), OK Rae Yoon (ONE on TNT 4)
Keys to Victory: Alvarez’s boxing has always been the best attribute of his MMA game. Well, perhaps aside from pure grit and toughness! “The Underground King” is as game as they come, and bare knuckle combat seems like a perfect fit for him.
Alvarez is a gifted brawler and gifted counter puncher, and the latter seems like a much cleaner path to victory even if the former seems nearly guaranteed. At his best, Alvarez was always excellent at giving ground and moving laterally, working to line up a huge shot that changed the dynamic of the fight.
That’s how he toppled Rafael dos Anjos for the UFC Lightweight crown.
Inside the bare knuckle ring, it may be a bit more difficult to avoid Mendes. As such, Alvarez has to put linear shots, jabs and rights, in Mendes’ face and body to keep him back. His ability to pivot and roll back to the center will also be key, as keeping Mendes turning to face him will help ensure Alvarez is a step ahead in exchanges.
Worse case, Alvarez is the more proven scrapper of the two. If he’s getting touched up, biting down on the mouthpiece and throwing hard isn’t the worst plan.
It’s easy to see why fight fans like this match — it guarantees fireworks!
Mendes has made it clear that he has no real ambitions in the bareknuckle realm. He’s there for high-profile fights and the subsequent major paychecks that result. He’s still one of the biggest names on BKFC’s roster, so provided it can keep finding interesting match ups like this, everyone wins.
As for Alvarez, he tends to make it a point to capture the title wherever he goes. I’m not privy to his contract details or how long he intends to stay in this bareknuckle game, but victory here would be a huge moment for “The Underground King” nevertheless, proof that there’s still gas left in the tank at 39 years of age.
At BKFC 41, Chad Mendes and Eddie Alvarez will go to war in the co-main event. Which man earns the victory?
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