Conor McGregor had been training for months in anticipation of the thunderous kicks and striking prowess of Jose Aldo but now Chad Mendes is his opponent and it’s a whole new world for the Dublin Destroyer. Let’s compare the styles and see how this will affect our UFC picks on July 11th.
Chad Mendes (17-2, 7 KO’s, 2 Subs)
Chad Mendes is a two-time NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler, yet all that mat pedigree failed to overcome the world class standup game of featherweight champion Jose Aldo. However, Mendes, under the expert guidance of Duane “Bang” Ludwig, has become a far more dangerous striker than he was when he launched his MMA career. Mendes has been knocking opponents out with regularity and that combined with his expertise on the mat makes him one of the most lethal featherweights in the world.
Mendes faced off against top-tier opponent Ricardo Lamas in his last foray into the Octagon and blasted away at the UFC veteran rendering a first-round TKO and proving worthy of the UFC odds offering him as a -500 betting favorite. That was certainly an encouraging sign after losing a five-round war to Aldo only six months earlier. Mendes has five KO’s/TKO’s to his credit over his last six victories and his ground game, once the fulcrum of his strategy, is now just another tool in his ever expanding toolbox.
Yet it is not lost on the fighter or his camp that standing and trading with a striker of McGregor’s caliber may not be the best course of action. He has a severe height and reach disadvantage which will be difficult to mitigate unless he can take the fight to the floor. Once there he can control the pace and tempo of the match and unleash a fusillade of elbows and strikes from a more dominant position. The trick of course will be getting inside of McGregor without getting knocked senseless.
Conor McGregor (17-2, 15 KO’s, 1 Sub)
McGregor holds a three inch height and an astounding eight inch reach advantage over his opponent at UFC 189. McGregor has an eccentric approach that emanates from capoeira, a Brazilian martial art with African influences that often reveals itself in the mad Irishman’s herky-jerky style, particularly on defense which causes confusion on the part of his attacker. Oftentimes his opponents will launch with a series of punches or kicks and come up empty causing them to fall off balance and creating the perfect target for McGregor to counterstrike. This is where McGregor hits the hardest and becomes the hunter instead of the hunted.
However, unlike Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes is a natural born wrestler and though he can pack plenty of power into his diminutive 5’6” frame he is a grappler first and foremost, which does not mean he is a submission artist par excellence. He will attempt to get McGregor on his back and get into a striking match on the ground rather than standing up. It is therefore McGregor’s relatively untested takedown defense that will come to bear. Can he withstand the shooting and takedown of one of the very best takedown artists in the division?
McGregor has fought grapplers before and Dennis Siver was one of them. Siver, a German kickboxer by trade with plenty of power as well as a decent counter-striker, is a mixed martial artist that has honed his submission skills. He is a true hybrid, somewhat similar to Chad Mendes, and though he is more adept at submissions he is far less skilled at wrestling and controlling the match once it hits the canvas. Conor McGregor never allowed Siver to get close enough to effectuate those submission skills as he relentlessly nullified the German’s attack before ultimately overwhelming him en route to a TKO in the second round of their match in January of this year. McGregor does not often have to defend the takedown because he simply prevents it from happening by virtue of his withering assaults on anyone who gets close enough to try.
UFC Prop Odds
Total Rounds 2 ½ - The best line available is at BetOnline if you are so inclined, as am I, to bet Over the UFC odds total, which this offshore sportsbook is currently offering at +115. While McGregor can do serious damage, Mendes is a master at measuring distance and striking at the precise opportunity. He is not a swing for the fences kind of guy and takes a far more cerebral approach, which includes baiting his opponent with open palms using his hands as mitts to take the brunt of his opponent’s attack rather than offering his head. Based on the fighters we have in this one I believe this will last into the championship rounds but I am unwilling to declare this will go to the judge’s scorecards…just yet!