Chad Mendes has been on the money more often than not. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
7. Chad Mendes
Mendes is the second-best featherweight on the planet behind only long-reigning kingpin Jose Aldo, but before he became a mixed martial artist, he was one of the best collegiate wrestlers in the United States. A Fargo All-American in freestyle in high school and a two-time NCAA All-American in college, Mendes was on his way to an undefeated senior season and national title. In the last match of the season, however, he lost controversially to Ohio State’s J Jaggers in the final -- a victim of the thinnest of judgment calls when he was not awarded points for a potential takedown.
Leaving wrestling behind for good, Mendes made his way to Team Alpha Male and a rapid rise to the top of the featherweight division. He possesses incredible drive on his preferred double-legs and finishes with incredible authority, effortlessly slamming his opponents to the mat. He relied on that rinse-and-repeat takedown game a great deal early in his MMA career, but since then has settled into more of a sprawl-and-brawl mode. He is well suited to it, with the ability to shuck off takedown attempts even when his opponent seems like a lock to finish one. Clay Guida was in on the hips and had his hands locked, and Mendes still somehow managed to dig an underhook and effortlessly shuck him off.
Mendes is one of the very best wrestlers in the sport and, had things gone just a touch differently, would have the national championship credentials to back up his MMA-specific wrestling.
Continue Reading: Number 6 » His wrestling credentials -- four-time NCAA All-American, two-time national champion and 2008 Olympian -- are beyond reproach and make him one of the greatest collegiate wrestlers of all-time. His seventh-place finish at the Olympics hardly diminishes an incredible career on the mats.