When Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes first fought at UFC 142 in January 2012, Mendes didn’t make it out of the first round. He went the distance with Aldo at UFC 179 on Saturday at Ginasio do Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro, but came up short on the judges’ scorecards after five back-and-forth rounds.
Mendes pressured the champion from the sound of the opening bell. It was clear it wasn’t the same Mendes from two years before. Mendes landed a counter left hook that knocked Aldo down in the early going of the opening round, but Aldo came charging back.
After catching an accidental finger to the eye and the fight being restarted, Aldo picked up the pace. He dropped the challenger with a right hand of his own and briefly mounted Mendes. The two were exchanging punches along the cage when the round came to and end. Aldo landed a clean combination after the bell that staggered Mendes. It wouldn’t be the only time the fight had to be stopped and restarted due to a foul.
In the second frame, Mendes missed with a knee and his foot caught Aldo in the groin. In the third round, Aldo was poked in the eye for the second time. Mendes was warned that if it happened again a point would be deducted.
Midway through the round, Mendes landed an uppercut that stunned Aldo. He closed the distance hoping for a finish, but Aldo clipped him with a counter right hand that staggered Mendes.
Mendes’ game plan was to wear Aldo down. He’s shown a tendency to fade late in fights in the past. But as the fight wore on, Aldo didn’t slow.
Mendes had his best round in the fourth where he opened up a cut over the champion’s left eye, but was behind on the scorecards. He was able to get Aldo to the ground in the final round, but Aldo worked his way back to his feet and delivered combinations.
At the end of five rounds of fighting that saw both fighters hurt, the judges scored the fight for Aldo by unanimous decision. All three scorecards read 49-46.
“I think every fight in my career is the toughest fight,” said the champion after the toughest test to his crown to date. “I think I deserved to win. He hit me a bunch of times, but I hit him a lot more.”
Having not lost in nine years, the target on Aldo’s back couldn’t be any bigger. Cub Swanson is on a winning streak and is poised for a title shot. Conor McGregor has called out the champion since arriving in the UFC. During his post-fight interview, Aldo took a shot at McGregor.
“I think I will face anyone they put in front of me, I’m the champion,” said Aldo. “I think the court is complete here. I’m the king, Chad’s the prince, and now we have a joker.”
Mendes waiting two years for the opportunity to get back in the cage with the champion. He came up short but was in good spirits following the loss.
“Holy (expletive) was that fun, dude,” said Mendes. “I was just going so hard that I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I was just trying to push myself and outstrike him.”
Mendes also threw a verbal jab towards McGregor after the fight.
“The one person that has to be glad the decision didn’t go my way is Conor McGregor. I’m still looking forward to whooping your ass one day,” he said.
The win was Aldo’s eighteenth in a row. He hasn’t lost since November 2005. It was his seventh consecutive UFC title defense, and he remains the only UFC featherweight champion in history.
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