Chad Mendes may not be flashy, but he gets the job done. | Photo: Dave Mandel
The basic principle behind mixed martial arts is to implement your given skills in a way that makes the other guy fight your fight and unable to fight his. Nobody complained about Chuck Liddell during his run of terror, when “The Iceman” starched hapless opponents who could not stand with him or get within a cab-ride’s distance of taking him down.
Flipped on its ear, a dominant wrestler will be derided by some fans for doing exactly what serves him best, despite the fact that the opponent’s inability to prevent him from doing it is precisely why it keeps happening.
Chad Mendes, now 11-0, occupies this exact position. The featherweight contender was his workmanlike self at UFC 133 on Saturday in Philadelphia, as he took a unanimous decision from Rani Yahya and dominated over three rounds. Fighters like Mendes fall into the same stylistic vein as grinders like welterweight Jon Fitch, whose superior grappling makes them pretty much unbeatable unless one is an elite fighter with a top-notch grasp of the game.
It is also a lousy pathway to marketability. MMA is about proving who is the best but also about marketing, and selling a wrestler can be difficult.
In the context of the featherweight division, Mendes may well need the winner of the forthcoming Jose Aldo-Kenny Florian matchup: someone dangerous enough on the feet to present a viable threat, with the fantastic bottom game and scrambling ability to keep him working for takedowns. Sometimes, a wrestler forced to stand -- see Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard 2 -- can result in a compelling fight. You no longer hear people calling Maynard a “blanket” or “boring” after that classic.
For Mendes, a title shot may be inevitable simply because the winner of Aldo-Florian is the only featherweight likely to challenge him. Being exciting is often a conflict given a guy’s style and what he wants to do. For Mendes, there may be nobody else at 145 pounds who can push him.
Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or twitter.com/jasonprobst.