By Jaime C. Feal
Despite the recent criticism at the UFC for watered-down fights cards, oversaturation, and injuries derailing big fights, it is nice to see them put on a solid show tomorrow night. Both the prelims and main card are loaded, with some great matchups early and often. For the co-main event, Brazilian banger Glover Teixeira takes on Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis. It’s a classic striker against wrestler fight, with the added bonus of Glover fighting on his home turf. In the main event, a title fight rematch goes down with a much improved Chad Mendes attempting to dethrone pound for pound great and UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.)
Fabio Maldonado (21-7, 4-4 UFC) vs Hans Stringer (22-5-3, 1-0 UFC)
Other than his last fight, where Maldonado temporarily moved up to heavyweight and got demolished by Stipe Miocic in less than a minute, Maldonado has proved to be extremely tough to put away. The durable Brazilian is notorious for engaging in epic stand-up wars, willing to take two punches to give one at times in an attempt to wear down his opponent. Maldonado makes no secret about his desire to stand and bang, imploring his opponents to come into range, leaving his guard down, and hanging on the cage. He lets people score on him way too much, but he relies on a great chin, cardio, and a will to win fights.
Hans Stringer has only one fight in the UFC, and it was a controversial decision win over a low ranked opponent. The scouting report on the relatively unknown newcomer is that he is well-rounded, but doesn’t exceed at anything. His record is impressive, but his opponents have not been big names, to say the least. He trains with a good camp in the Blackzilians, but this is by far the biggest test of his career, and it is against a Brazilian in his home country.
Prediction: Fabio Maldonado wins by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.)
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis (12-2, 8-2 UFC) vs. Glover Teixeira (22-3, 5-1 UFC)
This light heavyweight bout has big implications, as Glover will look to get back on track towards a second title shot, while Davis will attempt to build his case for a first title shot. Glover has a very underrated ground game, with solid jiu jitsu and strong, powerful submissions. It is just not often seen because he is so adept and standing up and knocking people out with his heavy hands. The one weakness in Glover’s game, however, is his wrestling, which is by far the strongest tool of his opponent’s tomorrow night.
Davis will likely be looking to take this fight to the ground as much as possible. Should he avoid getting tagged by the Brazilian’s overwhelming flurries, he has a good shot to take Glover down. Teixeira, however, is too strong, and also is dangerous enough on the ground to earn respect, that he will not be held down for long. A blueprint for a Davis win is takedowns and ground and pound, something he’ll have a hard time doing tomorrow night. Expect Teixeira to get back on the map in a big way with a resounding knockout victory.
Prediction: Glover Teixeira wins by KO, Round 2.
UFC Featherweight Championship (145 lbs.)
Jose Aldo (24-1, 6-0 UFC) vs. Chad “Money” Mendes (16-1, 7-1 UFC)
This rematch is intriguing due to the evolvement in Chad Mendes’ game. In the past two years, he has developed from a one-dimensional wrestler into a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Immediately after the loss to Aldo two years ago, Mendes worked diligently on his striking with Team Alpha Male coach Duane Ludwig. The results showed, as Mendes went on a four fight knockout win streak, then handled Nik Lentz in a unanimous decision victory.
In the meantime, Aldo has been steady, but not necessarily impressive. His only stoppage victory since the TKO over Mendes was a weird TKO victory over Chan Sung Jung after Jung dislocated his shoulder and turtled up. There is little doubt that Aldo is the more technically sound striker when compared to Mendes, but with the one-punch knockout power Mendes has displayed in the last two years, he has evened the playing field a bit on his feet.
Make no mistake, however, that Mendes will be looking to score points with takedowns. Engaging in a stand-up war with Aldo is a recipe for disaster, and Team Alpha Male coaches and teammates know this. Look for Mendes to use his punching to set up takedowns and ground and pound. Aldo will be trying to keep the distance to set up his nasty, chopping leg kicks. It is a very compelling fight, and the odds are fairly even this time: In their first encounter, Aldo was a massive favorite, and rightfully so. Tomorrow night, however, Aldo steps into the cage as just a 2:1 favorite, making this version of Chad Mendes the biggest threat ever to Jose Aldo’s UFC title reign.
Prediction: Chad Mendes wins by unanimous decision.