The Team Alpha Male homecoming continues with a featherweight bout featured on the main card as former UFC title challenger Chad Mendes looks to cement himself as the next title challenger once again as he takes on surging featherweight contender Nik Lentz in a very interesting fight. Mendes comes into the fight riding a four-fight win streak that was capped off with a knockout win over Clay Guida at UFC 164 in August. Mendes has just one loss in his career. Lentz puts a three-fight win streak on the line as he looks to remain undefeated at 145 pounds. Lentz scored a decision win over Hacran Dias in his last fight at UFC On FX 8 in May. Lentz is 3-2 over his last five fights.
Fight Breakdown- Mendes has been on a roll since coming up short in his quest to become the UFC Featherweight Champion as he has won four straight fights, and all four wins have come by knockout. Mendes won his first eleven fights as a professional including six straight under the Zuffa banner in the UFC and WEC to earn a shot at the title held by Jose Aldo. Unfortunately, Mendes ended up on the losing end of a first-round knockout by Aldo at UFC 142 in January 2012, ending Mendes’ perfect professional record. Mendes bounced back with a 31-second kncokout win over Cody McKenzie at UFC 148 in July 2012, and followed that with another knockout win in under two minutes against Yaotzin Meza at UFC On FX 6 in December 2012. Mendes finally faced some stiffer competition in Darren Elkins at UFC On FOX 7 in April, and again Mendes won by first-round knockout with this one coming in 68 seconds. Mendes then fought Clay Guida at UFC 164 in August, and while it took some time, Mendes finally got the knockout win in the third round, which was the first knockout loss of Guida’s career. Mendes looks for another knockout win to cement himself as the true top contender at 145 pounds.
Lentz has seen a revitalization of his career since making the move from 155 pounds to the 145-pound division. Lentz had mixed success at lightweight, and he had developed a reputation for being a fighter who isn’t a crowd pleaser with some boring wins in the UFC. Lentz hit a rought patch following a four-fight win streak as he lost his last three fights at 155 pounds, though a loss to Charles Oliveira was overturned to a no contest. Lentz was actually cut from the roster following a loss to Mark Bocek, but was brought back quickly to fight Evan Dunham. Though he lost to Dunham at UFC On FOX 2 in January 2012, it won “Fight Of The Night” and gave Lentz another chance in the UFC. He then made the move to featherweight, and he has since won three straight fights. He debuted at 145 pounds with a first-round knockout win over Eiji Mitsuoka at UFC 150 in August 2012, his first knockout win in the UFC. Lentz has followed that with back-to-back dominant decision wins over Diego Nunes and Hacran Dias in fights in Brazil, and he returns to fighting stateside ranked eighth in the UFC’s featherweight rankings and looking to secure a title shot with a win over a former title challenger.
Mendes and Lentz are both wrestlers at their core and both were NCAA Division 1 wrestlers. Mendes had the better collegiate career as he was a two-time All-American and finished second in the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Both have translated that wrestling skill into MMA very well, and Mendes is still at a higher level than Lentz. Mendes scores a lot of takedowns, and he has yet to be taken down in his career. He even came close to taking Aldo down, and would have had Aldo not grabbed the fence during a takedown, a move that led to the outcome of that fight. Lentz likes to clinch with his opponents and score takedowns from the clinch, and he has some steady ground-and-pound. He is relentless with his approach of clinching with his opponents, and that can make for a boring style. His best chance of winning is to keep Mendez neutralized in the clinch as he will be unlikely to take Mendes down as Mendes is arguably the featherweight division’s best wrestler.
The big difference in this fight will come on the feet. Mendes has gotten stellar on the feet as Duane Ludwig has taken over as coach for Team Alpha Male, but at the same time, there will be four fighters from that camp fighting on this card, so Ludwig will have his hands full. Mendes has a ton of power in his right hand, and his mixes his strikes smoothly with his transitions to the takedowns. Lentz is not one to be afraid of on the feet, but he has underrated power, and anyone’s chin can be tested when hit in the right spot. Lentz does have a reach advantage, but he tends to leave himself wide open and Mendes will make him pay for that. Lentz is best served turning the fight into a grind, but that will be very hard to do against Mendes. Mendes is strong and powerful, and his wrestling will be able to keep Lentz off of him. Mendes also has strong conditioning, and his hands will make the difference in this fight. Mendes is on a roll, and it will continue here as he finishes yet another foe and stamps his case for the next title shot.
Why It Matters- Mendes and Lentz could both earn a title shot with a win, so this is a big fight for both men. Jose Aldo defends the title against Ricardo Lamas in February, and with fighters such as Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar waiting in the wings for potential title shots, a statement win made by either will go a long way in fully securing the next title shot. Mendes is a lot closer than Lentz is to the title shot, but if Lentz were to finish Mendes, it may move him next in line past everyone else. A fifth straight knockout win would be hard to hold against Mendes, and he does have a win in the past over Swanson. It is a big fight for both as the winner moves ever so closer to the title fight, and the loser sees their win streak ended.
Tags: chad mendes, Mixed Martial Arts, Nik Lentz, UFC, UFC on FOX 9