Mendez is a promotional newcomer coming in against someone the UFC has some hopes for as a prospect. It’s relatively low pressure, as this isn’t a major card but it is in Brazil and in Sarafian’s backyard.
Fight breakdown: This is as basic it gets: striker vs. grappler. Neither guy is special in their respective strength but both are in that awkward building phase as prospects. We don’t know their ceiling in terms of talent but they’ll dance with the partner that brought them to the UFC in the first place.
Sarafian has an extensive backyard in martial arts but shines as a grappler. So far we don’t know his ceiling but it’s starting to come into focus. Look for him to get to the ground and work his game from there. Sarafian has shown the ability to engage in some brawls on his feet, of course, and needs to be focused. Mendez is going to want to goad him into a sloppy brawl, one the “Just Bleed” crowd will adore, but his edge is going to be in the ground game. Look for him to exchange only to get close, throwing jabs and darting inside to grab a hold of Mendez. He’s got a high level judo game and look for him to try a trip takedown, et al, after throwing punches.
Mendez is a bit of brawler but his ground game is something that isn’t nearly as good as his standup. His game plan will be to keep it standing and goad Sarafian into a brawl. That’s his best shot at winning. The key is that we don’t really know all that much about Mendez going in; he’s a guy who’s fought his way into the UFC from the regional scene but hasn’t ever really been this amazing, can’t miss prospect. He’s also in his first UFC fight, period, and Octagon jitters are a real thing.
That could play a factor, especially as the fight progresses. Sarafian is still a popular fighter in Brazil but he’s not coming off the massive wave of popularity he had in his first two fights from TUF: Brazil. He’s more settled now, a UFC veteran, and his potential is going to shine more.
Why it matters: Mendez is making his debut and draws a tough out in Sarafian, who’s in his home country. A big win here and he’s done something fairly noteworthy.
Sarafian lost his first big test as a prospect and is now in rebuilding mode. Mendez is more appropriate a first test for him, especially considering he’s a TUF: Brazil prospect, and how he looks here will go a long way in helping us figure out how good he could be. Losing a close fight to CB Dollaway isn’t a bad thing, especially early in his career. If he’s going to be an elite fighter, and he has the talent to do so, he’ll need to steadily improve and this is a fight to show how much better he’s gotten since then.
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts