Thursday, January 12, 2012

UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes Preview

When UFC 134 was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil back in August 2011, it had been nearly 13 years since the last time they were in the birthplace of what is now known as MMA. However, this last time was so nice, they had to do it twice; so this Saturday they are back again in Rio, barely four months later, with another stacked card, which features one of the top five pound for pound fighters in the world.

In August it was the arguable number one on that list, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva that highlighted the show; this time it is none other than the exciting young UFC featherweight (145 lbs.) champion Jose Aldo. Aldo (20-1, 12 KO’s 2 subs) is one of the sports fastest rising young stars at only 25 years old. He hasn’t lost a fight in over six years and has won his last 13 in a row; including six in the WEC and his first three in the UFC.

His opponent this time comes in the form of an equally young, up and coming stud in Chad ‘Money’ Mendes (10-0, 2 KO’s 2 subs). The product of Hanford, California that fights out of the fabled ‘Alpha Male’ camp in Sacramento is a top notch wrestler whose overall game has improved with every fight. At only 5’6” he’s a powerful dynamo with explosive takedowns. The question is will that be enough against the all-around great Aldo.

Aldo, the former WEC featherweight champion as well, is truly the definition of a “beast” when it comes to MMA; fast hands, lethal kicks, vicious Muay Thai and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The one thing I didn’t mention was wrestling, where you would think Mendes would have the advantage. However, that didn’t stop him from destroying Mendes’s stable mate Urijah Faber when they fought.

On top of that, after just rolling through his competition, in his last two fights Aldo has survived two five round wars against top UFC contenders Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick. Thus, that experience against great competition will prove invaluable in the continuing growth of Aldo’s game. I fully expect him to finish Mendes via referee stoppage due to strikes by the third round in a successful homecoming.

In the co-main event, don’t blink because it is a barnburner featuring two fast handed, heavy-fisted middleweights (185 lbs.). The true homecoming is here for former UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort, as he’ll not just be fighting in his home country, but his hometown as he is a Rio native. Belfort (19-9, 13 KO’s 2 subs), was actually the main event draw at only 21 years old when the UFC first went to Brazil back in ’98.

At that time he used all of 44 seconds to pummel future legend Wanderlei Silva. While that is possible again, I doubt it will happen, at least not that fast, this time against his opponent Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. That is because Johnson (10-3, 7 KO’s) is an athletic physical specimen with great skills in both wrestling and kickboxing. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Belfort who got caught and put away that fast.

It’s because of the raw talent that Johnson possesses, including his strength that is truly making this a difficult fight to call. However, I think experience and a dedicated Belfort will win via TKO in the second round. I just think his overall boxing skills, superior hand speed and crowd support will be too much for the young ‘Rumble’, who I l believe will get shook a little by the raucous Brazilian crowd.

So far it’s two for two for the Brazilians, will it be more of the same on the undercard? I believe so as I see Rousimar Palhares (13-3, 1 KO 9 subs) wrapping up and twisting Mike Massenzio (13-5, 2 KO’s 6ubs) in one of his patented leg locks before their three rounds are up.

The same can be said for the next big thing coming out of Rio De Janeiro Edson Barboza. This kid who is (9-0, 6 KO’s 1 sub), is riding a three fight win streak in the UFC and I see him getting his fourth via decision against talented Terry Etim from England. However, Barboza better be careful in his approach as Etim (15-3, 2 KO, 12 subs) is no joke and can easily catch the native both standing and on the ground.

I can’t lose in the other fight as it is Brazilian vs. Brazilian when the crafty veteran Carlo ‘Neo’ Prater (29-10-1, 2 KO’s 16 subs) finally makes his UFC debut after a ten year career. His opponent is a young hungry lion in Erick ‘Indio’ Silva (13-1 3 KO’s 7 subs) who comes out of the Nogueira camp. Silva’s only fight in the UFC lasted 40 seconds as he won by KO back in August and I expect more of the same against the seasoned, but outgunned Prater.

As they say in Brazil, "Espero que gostem das lutas;" that is Portuguese for “enjoy the fights.”

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