Chad Mendes got familiar with the name Alexander Volkanovski earlier this year when his teammate Darren Elkins was preparing for a fight with him in July.
Volkanovski got the win over Elkins by unanimous decision to move to 5-0 in the UFC and take another step up the rankings in the featherweight division.
Now at UFC 232 the Australian prospect will face his toughest test to date when he draws Mendes in a featured bout on the pay-per-view main card.
Mendes is a former two-time title contender and has been considered an elite fighter at 145-pounds for most of his professional career between the UFC and WEC. Mendes has faced the best of the best in the division and back in July he ran through Myles Jury in his first fight back in over two years to prove he was still an elite featherweight.
So when Mendes got the call about facing Volkanovski, he was admittedly a little confused but ultimately that’s what the UFC wanted so that’s what they’re getting.
“To me it honestly didn’t make sense to fight backwards but this was the fight the UFC demanded I fight, so honestly there’s not much I can do but do what they tell me in this instance,” Mendes said when speaking to MMAWeekly. “It’s a fight that I’m taking very serious. He’s a guy trying to work his way up and work his way up the rankings and trying to make a name off me and I can’t let that happen.
“This is a guy that I need to go out there and put away and completely dominate and prove that I am where I am because I deserve to be there and because of how good I am. Beating a guy like this hopefully the UFC will see that I’ve taken this time off and I’m beating good guys and now let’s put him back in line for the title shot. That’s the goal, that’s the plan. I’ve just got to get in there and whoop this dude.”
In many ways, Mendes will be staring across the Octagon at his mirror image.
Volkanovski is the same exact height and fights with a similar style as the former All-American wrestler as he tends to just over power, out muscle and simply out work his opposition on the feet or on the ground.
“I feel like we have a very similar fighting style,” Mendes admitted. “He was a 200-plus pound rugby player. He’s used to being able to bully guys in the Octagon but he hasn’t fought anybody like me in his career. Once he’s in there and he realizes he can’t bully me around, it’s going to change his entire game plan.
“Ultimately I feel like my speed, my wrestling is a lot better. I feel like as long as I keep my fight IQ up the entire time, there’s no way this guy beats me.”
Obviously Mendes has tremendous respect for his teammate who faced Volkanovski earlier this year but he also knows that he brings a whole different skill set into the cage than Elkins did in July.
That’s why Mendes welcomes Volkanovski to try and come take his spot this weekend but he might not like what he finds when he faces a true top five featherweight.
“I love Darren but this is a completely different matchup, a completely different animal than Darren Elkins,” Mendes said. “This guy has never faced anybody like me.”