The case for Chad Mendes versus Ricardo Lamas
The UFC featherweight division will shortly showcase a championship duel between Brazilian phenom Jose Aldo, from Nova Uniao and versatile striker Erik Koch out of Roufusport. However, there's no clear number one contender once the fight between Aldo and Koch concludes. The Korean Zombie has received fan wide support as the next deserving challenger for Aldo, but he is having surgery next week.
This is why I propose a number #1 contender matchup, between Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas. Mendes is coming off a brutal body shot knock out of Cody McKenzie at UFC 148, while Lamas is coming off a surprising upset decision win over Japanese star Hatsu Hioki at UFC on FX: Maynard vs Guida.
Lamas and Mendes are both powerful wrestlers that have proven their worth, and have a long list of victories that put them above their competition. Mendes has won all but one of his fights, with his sole loss coming from the champ. Lamas hasn't lost in nearly two years.
Mendes has a heavy, wrestling-based top game, and a fearless attack in the guards of some of the most dangerous fighters in the world. Some argue that Mendes hasn't always been offensive enough on the ground. However, he recently he fought both Javier Vasquez, a Rodrigo Medeiros Black belt, and Rani Yahya, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt who placed second in ADCC 2005, and won ADCC 2007. Mendes had less than 3 years of BJJ training when he fought them. He may not have been super confident in his striking, but he jumped right into where his opponents were most comfortable, and beat them. How entertaining a fight is should not affect respect for the difficulty of Mendes' accomplishments.
Mendes' striking technique has increased, as has his confidence, most evidently in his recent KO of McKenzie. Chad no longer feels the need to bring the fight to the mat to feel safe. Chad has steamrolled everyone he has fought, except Aldo. Even after the loss he remained in the top five, and with a new victory, he is now on the road to a second title shot.
Lamas recently defeated the man many handpicked to beat Aldo. Now undefeated in the UFC, with a three fight win streak against Hioki, Cub Swanson, and Matt Grice, Lamas has made his way to the elite of the division. A Div III All-American wrestler, Lamas has dominated many of his opponents with an aggressive and tenacious top game. He holds a brown belt under Daniel Valverde, and has submitted Cub Swanson via arm triangle this past November.
Lamas also shows great confidence on his feet.
If this fight comes to pass, expect Mendes to be the favorite, but not by a large margin. While Mendes will have a distinct wrestling advantage, he will have to be wary of becoming overconfident on the feet, and being careless on the ground. However, he has yet to be seriously threatened by a submission. With those wins over high level grapplers, Mendes could coast to a victory against Lamas on his wrestling alone.
Lamas has a few key steps he must take to get a victory over Mendes. The first is takedown defense. Lamas has proven himself a well-rounded fighter with solid wrestling, but he will be facing one of if not the most dynamic and explosive wrestlers in the division. Secondly, he must get off first, but not over commit. Mendes has such speed in his shot that if he gets ahold of his opponent, they will end up on their back. Lastly Lamas must not be discouraged if he does find himself on his back. Find the cage, push on the head, and work to the feet. This is easier said than done, but defeating Chad Mendes is not easy.
As Aldo versus Koch approaches, fights like this must be made to keep the division from feeling stagnant. The featherweight division is coming into its own, with talent pouring in.
At this point in their careers, both men are fighting for their chance at the title. This fight would deliver a man worthy of the #1 spot in the division.
The only thing left now is for Dana White, Joe Silva, and Sean Shelby to see it!