Despite the cancellation of Matt Brown against Carlos Condit, which would have resulted in guaranteed violence, this weekend’s UFC on FOX 9 card is still loaded with exciting fights from top to bottom.
The main event will be the highly anticipated rematch between UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. Despite what Toronto fans thought of the bout live, the two put on an intelligent and physical display in their first encounter, which Johnson took by a slim margin. After three straight wins, Benavidez is back to try and claim the flyweight throne.
Just as interesting are the two preceding bouts on this weekend’s card. In the co-main event, former WEC featherweight champion and UFC title challenger Urijah Faber will take on the explosive youngster in Michael McDonald, both of whom are looking for another opportunity at the bantamweight championship. At featherweight, the ever dominate Chad Mendes will look to earn himself another championship opportunity against the grinder Nik Lentz.
Both of those fights will have title implications, so let’s look at how these fighters stack up against the current champions. Three of the four fighters have already challenged the current champion, but rematches often don’t mirror the first matchup.
Faber is now 0-4 in his last four championship bouts, three of which took place in the UFC. He’s beaten everyone else he has faced outside of championship competition, including wins over Eddie Wineland, Raphael Assuncao, and Scott Jorgensen.
Despite losses to both Renan Barao and Dominick Cruz, it’s hard to ever count Faber out of a fight. His bout against Cruz was one of the most competitive and entertaining fights of 2011. Let’s not forget that Faber does also have an early career win over “The Dominator” and the UFC would love to make that trilogy bout if possible.
If Faber is able to defeat McDonald this Saturday, he’ll likely receive a world title bout against the winner of the upcoming bout between Barao and Cruz. Unfortunately for him, I see him losing a competitive decision against whoever may be the champion.
With vicious knockout power, McDonald is a rare breed for the bantamweight division. Knockouts of Miguel Torres and Alex Soto helped establish McDonald as an elite competitor and nearly finishing Barao with powerful shots cemented him as a young talent here to stay.
He eventually did end up losing to Barao via submission, but we saw McDonald show off some submission skills of his own last time out with a slick triangle choke on the durable Brad Pickett.
At only 22, McDonald has not even begun to brush the surface of his potential. We see new wrinkles to his game every time out, and I’m certain we’ll see that again on Saturday night.
He is the future of the bantamweight division and will be a thorn in the side of either Barao or Cruz for years to come. His developing skills combined with knockout power make him a one-hit threat at any point in the fight. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to pick him against either Barao or Cruz at this point, I do peg McDonald as a future world champion.
Many people thought Mendes would be the guy to finally put an end to the reign of Jose Aldo. His power wrestling combined with a relentless pace make him a danger to any fighter and seemed like the recipe for success. Of course, the knee of Aldo cared very little for Mendes’ recipe for success and quickly ended the challenger’s night in their first encounter.
Mendes has bounced back with four straight knockout wins, his most recent against Clay Guida being the most impressive of the bunch. He is a wrestler who has fallen in love with boxing, and he’s damn good at it.
If Aldo is able to survive the challenge of Ricardo Lamas, I suspect Mendes will finally receive his long awaited rematch. Last year, Frankie Edgar exposed Aldo’s less than stellar cardio and won late rounds against the champ. Mendes is capable of a similar game plan and has the knockout power to finish the fight. Despite how the first bout went, Mendes is still the likely candidate to dethrone Aldo.
If there’s an underdog in this race for a championship fight, it’s certainly Lentz. Hairy, pasty and hailing from Minnesota, he doesn’t have the tanned physique of Californians like Mendes or Faber. Thankfully for him, they don’t judge fighters on their looks.
Lentz has amassed three straight wins in an ultra-competitive featherweight division and another win over Mendes would certainly cement his spot at the top. His grinder style is often too much for fighters to handle and they wilt under the pressure.
I can’t see Lentz picking up a win over Mendes or Aldo. The power of Mendes will likely get Lentz out of the fight early, and if Lentz is able to defeat Mendes, the takedown defense and chopping kicks of Aldo will certainly tear him down. Crazier things have happened in MMA, I just don’t see him as a world championship competitor.
Tags: chad mendes, Michael McDonald, Mixed Martial Arts, Nik Lentz, UFC on FOX 9, Urijah Faber