Chad Mendes is a decided underdog heading into his UFC 142 Rio bout with Jose Aldo.
Why should he be considered any threat to the UFC featherweight champion, who has rolled over nearly every one of his opponents since signing on with Zuffa’s WEC promotion in 2008. That’s 13 consecutive victories, including four title defenses against the likes of Urijah Faber, Mark Hominick, and Kenny Florian.
What’s Mendes ever done?
Sure he was a NCAA wrestling national championship runner-up and PAC-10 Wrestler of the Year.
He’s only won 11 fights – out of 11 attempts – in his mixed martial arts career, including six fights between his tenures in the WEC and UFC.
His hit list includes former Top 10 ranked fighters Rani Yahya and Michihiro Omigawa, as well as current No. 5 ranked Erik Koch.
But, really, how does any of that really count?
There may be many people that feel Mendes isn’t ready for a title shot, but don’t count him among them.
“The Aldo camp saying I am not ready for a title shot? They don’t know how good I am,” said Mendes on Wednesday. “They’ve never fought me or trained with me. I am very, very ready for this title shot. He has great takedown defense, but my type of shot is a ‘blast-you-off-your-feet’ type of shot.”
And everyone disregarding him, just stacks the chips that much more in Mendes’ favor. When there are no expectations, it’s much easier to lay everything on the line. Why not? He’s not supposed to win, right?
“He’s the one with the pressure,” said Mendes. “He’s the champ. He’s the headliner in his own town, while I am the up-and-comer, the underdog. There’s no pressure on me.”
Not only that, but Mendes believes he’s got Aldo figured out.
He’s not taking the champ lightly, of course, but he also has the added benefit of training alongside Urijah Faber, who has fought, and lost, to Aldo in the past.
Mendes, in fact, was one of Faber’s main training partners for that fight, so he’s all too familiar with Aldo and where they may have gone wrong in preparing Faber to fight him.
“When Urijah fought him, we didn’t red-flag his leg kicks, but obviously we have prepared for that in this fight,” Mendes relayed, although that is but one small piece of the overall puzzle.
“Other fighters have stood there and let him take them apart; I think I will get in there and get my hands on him. No one else he’s fought has my level of wrestling, to where I will get him down and keep him down.”
Confidence, belief, and expectation, of course, are all well and good, but execution, particularly against a champion as dominant as Aldo has been, is another story altogether.
Mendes, however, believes he has what it takes to blast Aldo off his feet, and we’ll all find out if that’s true come Jan. 14 in Brazil.