Chad Mendes has scored three straight first-round knockouts. | Photo: D. Mandel
FeatherweightsChad Mendes (14-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Clay Guida (30-13, 10-7 UFC)
The Matchup: During his rise to No. 1 contender at 145 pounds, Mendes was often relegated to the prelims in part because the two-time NCAA All-American wrestler won his share of relatively uneventful decisions. However, since suffering a first-round knockout loss to reigning champion Jose Aldo at UFC 142, Mendes has reinvented himself as a finisher, winning three straight fights via first-round knockout. The most recent of those, a 68-second stoppage of the underrated Darren Elkins at UFC on Fox 7, was the most impressive of all, and Mendes’ striking proficiency only figures to improve under the guidance of Team Alpha Male boss Duane Ludwig.
The first step of Guida’s own personal renovation process proved to be successful, as “The Carpenter” relied on his takedowns and suffocating top control to win his featherweight debut against the world-ranked Hatsu Hioki in January. Undersized at 155 pounds, the change in divisions should often allow Guida to showcase his best Octagon assets: a bottomless gas tank and relentless wrestling and pressure. Against larger lightweights such as Gray Maynard, Guida was forced to rely solely on awkward movement and sporadic striking to frustrate his opponent and win on points. While that approach pleased virtually no one, it nearly worked, as the Chicagoan dropped a closely contested split decision to Maynard at UFC on FX 4.
Unfortunately for Guida, Mendes will pose some of the same problems Maynard did. A powerful featherweight with a large frame, “Money” has yet to be taken down in UFC or WEC competition. What that likely means is there will be plenty of herky-jerky motion from Guida here, as he will need to wear down Mendes with his unique rhythm while landing enough quick punching combinations to rack up points on the judges’ scorecards.
The problem is twofold. Guida is not an especially accurate striker, and he does not possess enough power to give Mendes pause. As mentioned earlier, the WEC veteran’s striking continues to develop, and he can do far more damage with a well-placed left hook or overhand to Guida than any of his opponent’s rapid-fire combinations can do to him. Additionally, Mendes’ kicks have improved, and he can use them to gradually slow Guida’s perpetual motion. Better standup also means a better setup for takedowns, and Mendes’ average of 4.72 per 15 minutes -- at a 57-percent success rate -- speaks for itself. Guida will be hard to keep down but could find himself on his back repeatedly.
The Pick: Considering Guida’s uncanny ability to recover from heavy fire, another knockout seems unlikely. However, a steady diet of power punches and takedowns carries Mendes to a decision.
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