UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo squares off against number-one contender Chad Mendes for the second time this Saturday, October 25 (10 P.M. EST, Pay Per View), at UFC 179. And when the cage doors close at the Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, nearly three years of controversy and bad blood will be settled.
Aldo (24-1, 6-0 UFC) and Mendes (16-1, 7-1 UFC) met for the first time at UFC 148 in January 2012, with the champion handing the challenger his only loss with a stunning knee to the face late in the first round. But it was a contentious outcome, as Mendes controlled the majority of the contest, with Aldo landing his knockout blow after avoiding a takedown by grabbing the cage fence.
The grab became an instant source of debate; however, the result was never questioned.
Now some 34 months later, the pair are set to collide in a second installment, and all eyes will be watching to see if Mendes can unseat the UFC's longest reigning champion.
Undefeated since 2005, Jose Aldo is a dynamic striker out of Rio's Nova Uniao camp, known for his powerful leg kicks. Aldo has risen to the top of the mixed martial arts world on account of his evasive style, tactical genius, and pinpoint accuracy, but if there is any weakness in his game, it is his tendency to fatigue in the later rounds, perhaps on account of his tremendous weight cut.
For Mendes, who fights out of Sacramento's Team Alpha Male, his strength lies in his wrestling and punching power, which has blossomed during his current five-fight winning streak. Mendes also brings a tenacious and relentless pace to the Octagon, but having only faced one top-ten opponent (other than Aldo) during his UFC run, questions remain about the quality of his recent victories.
Regardless, expect Mendes to come out fast and look to get in close on Aldo and hunt for a takedown, while the champion pressures with his signature leg kicks and punches. The pace will continue throughout the early rounds, but Mendes' aggression will be his undoing, as Aldo lands leg blows, taking away the speed of the challenger.
And while Mendes will show a remarkable improvement in his cage savvy and game planning, look for Aldo to retain his title via unanimous decision.
Co-main event: Phil Davis vs. Glover Teixeira
It's been six months since light heavyweights Davis (12-2 1 NC, 8-2 1 NC UFC) and Teixeira (22-3, 5-1 NC) saw action, both dropping unanimous verdicts at UFC 172.
For Teixeira, the loss in a title fight took a toll on his elbow, which was hyper-extended in his bout with champion Jon Jones, while Davis simply looked lackluster.
A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who trains out of The Pit with former UFC champion Chuck Liddell, Teixeira brings a heavy punching style into the Octagon, which has seen him earn four finishes. Davis is a grinding wrestler, a four-time Division I All-American and former national champion, who has, at times, shown signs of brilliance, but as of late appears to be far from the title picture.
In this contest, look for Teixeira to come out swinging, attempting to pressure Davis to the fence and do damage with close punches. For Davis, the game plan is all about securing the takedown, which becomes tricky against an opponent as dangerous as Teixeira.
Expect these two to go the full fifteen minutes, with Davis earning a split decision.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Hans Stringer
One of Brazil's more revered fighters, Maldonado (21-7, 4-4 UFC) is the epitome of toughness. A boxer with solid hands and unrelenting pressure, he recently moved up a weight class, only to suffer a swift and devastating knockout at the hands of Stipe Miocic in May.
Stringer (22-5-3, 1-0 UFC) is a Dutch kickboxer who trains out of Boca Raton's Blackzilian's camp, and while he showed promise in his first Octagon appearance, he's yet to face competition on Maldonado's level.
Expect Maldonado to come out strong in front of the Brazilian crowd, and push Stringer to the cage, doing damage with close punches. He'll take the first round, but as the fight progresses into the third, the elder Maldonado will tire, leaving the door open for Stringer to earn the TKO upset in the final frame.
Darren Elkins vs. Lucas Martins
It's been nine months since Elkins (17-4, 7-3 UFC) has seen action. And coming off a unanimous decision loss to Jeremy Stephens, the UFC's thirteenth-ranked featherweight is looking to get back on track against Martins (15-1, 3-1 UFC), a winner of three straight.
For Elkins, his game is all about wrestling and top control. He wears opponents down with a grinding style, implementing takedowns and ground and pound. While Martins is a striker, earning 11 of 15 professional victories by either TKO or knockout.
Look for Elkins to hunt for the takedown early, and put Martins on his back in the first frame. Then, in the second, Martins finds his sprawl to avoid the takedown, and pulls the upset with a knockout/TKO.
Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Beneil Dariush
Undefeated for his career and winner of two straight inside the Octagon, Ferreira (11-0, 2-0 UFC) has quickly become one the most intriguing young fighters in the lightweight division. An accomplished Jiu Jitsu practitioner with heavy hands and cage savvy, Ferreira looked excellent in his most recent performance, knocking out Ramsey Nijem at UFC 177.
Dariush (8-1, 2-1 UFC), a Jiu Jitsu prodigy, has also stirred some interest, but with his lone loss, a first-round TKO, coming at the hands of Nijem in April, it's tough to give him an edge in this one.
Expect both fighters to come out fast and hungry, with Dariush looking for the takedown. But late in the first frame, Ferreira will capitalize on his opponent's aggressiveness and earn the TKO/KO.