MILWAUKEE – If you don’t think Chad Mendes is ready for another shot at UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, perhaps his recent body of work has changed your mind.
On Saturday’s pay-per-view main card at UFC 164 in Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, Mendes (15-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) eventually corralled and then scored a third-round knockout of Clay Guida (30-14 MMA, 10-8 UFC). It was the first knockout loss of Guida’s 44-fight career.
To earn his early 2012 title shot against Aldo (23-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), Mendes won four consecutive fights via decision. Since the loss, though, he’s won four straight via knockout.
“I’m excited for that rematch,” said Mendes, who earned a $50,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus for his efforts at UFC 164. “I think the fighter I was when I first fought Aldo was completely different from the fighter that I am now.”
A big reason for the change is Duane Ludwig, a former UFC fighter who’s earned rave reviews since taking over as head instructor for the California-based Team Alpha Male, which is home to Mendes and many of the sport’s other top lighter-weight fighters.
“My confidence in my hands and my standup is completely different,” he said. “We have a new head coach, Duane Ludwig, and the system that we’re training now at Team Alpha Male is completely different than it was, and I’m excited to get in there and go after it.”
Heading into Saturday’s event, Aldo and Mendes were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA featherweight rankings. However, the division has no shortage of contenders, including Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, Dustin Poirier, Darren Elkins and Nik Lentz, none of whom has fought Aldo under the UFC banner.
Could Mendes’ latest performance allow him to cut to the front of line and get a second shot?
“I don’t know,” UFC President Dana White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) after the event. “I have no idea about that stuff tonight.”
However, the UFC head honcho believes Mendes, a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, is a marketable commodity.
“I like Chad Mendes,” he said. “Chad Mendes is charismatic. He’s a good-looking kid. He’s exciting. He’s finishing people left and right. At the press conference, he got asked more questions than the main event or co-main event (fighters).”
Although it probably won’t translate into a title fight for his next bout, and though champ Aldo could be lined up for a champ-vs.champ bout with newly crowned lightweight titleholder Anthony Pettis to put the division on hold, Mendes can take solace in the fact he’s finishing fights, something he lacked and was dogged for early in his career.
At UFC 164, all three judges had him up two rounds to none, and he could have cruised in the third to lock up the win. Instead, he didn’t something 43 other opponents couldn’t do to Guida.
“I finished the fight, so I can’t complain too much,” Mendes said. “There were a couple of things that obviously I want to work on, but Guida is a very tough guy to prepare for. As soon as that fight started, I was trying to find his rhythm, but he’s just awkward as hell. It took me a little but, but I finally found it. I knew if I could slow him down enough to just get my hands on him that I could put him down, and I got it done tonight.”
For complete coverage of UFC 164, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.