Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes, UFC 189, July 2015
UFC 189 may have been one of the best cards the UFC has put together in a long time. Every single fight in the main card turned into a bloody war of attrition, testing each fighters commitment to their craft, shaking each fighter to their very core.
The one fight that had me in suspense for the entire duration was Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes. The suspense was mostly because I was rooting for the underdog, Chad Mendes. Victory was so close yet so far. In the end, it was Conor’s durability and his accurate and powerful striking that won him the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship.
Many, including myself, would consider Chad Mendes the better fighter between him and Conor McGregor. He has certainly proven himself in the cage much more times than Conor. Before his first title fight against Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes tore through the featherweight division but usually relied on his wrestling to decision them into victory. In his first fight against Aldo, Chad Mendes was finished by the knee heard around the world.
After his first loss to Jose Aldo Chad Mendes went back to the drawing board. Under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, he improved his striking and his power and transformed himself into a dense ball of unstoppable destruction. He tore through fighters like the annoying Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins, The Great Clay Guida, and the durable Nick Lentz in a chain of KOs and TKOs. He earned another shot at the title. This time, he gave the champion a run for his money, showing off awesome angles and devastating uppercuts. Although he came up short once again, the fight world saw a new and improved Chad Mendes. Someone that the UFC would want to protect Conor McGregor from.
Some fight fans would consider Conor McGregor groomed and shielded to become the next Featherweight Champion Contender. Conor is the UFC’s marketing solution for building their European franchise while not alienating American fans. Conor has also brought brash attitude into American bars and living rooms, something that committed fans and mild-weather fans alike can either really love or really hate.
Under all the trash talking and the peacock walking, Conor McGregor, with the interesting tutelage of John Kavanagh has trained to become a deadly striker with a very unorthodox style. In short, he actually has the walk to back up the talk.
Unfortunately, in his path to title contention, it seems that the UFC have been pairing Conor up with semi-easy fights. Dangerous opponents, but not always top tier. Dustin Poirier was likely to be Conor’s biggest name, but not his biggest test. Conor is a very fluid and confident striker, it was risky to put Conor in the ring with a wrestler.
Finally in Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes, we see Conor paired with a wrestler. Arguably the best wrestler in the featherweight division. And what makes the fight more dangerous is that this wrestler has proven that he can also punch really hard.
Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes begins like how you would expect. Conor McGregor and his famous pressure game. He runs right up to Chad Mendes at the ring of the bell. Eager to land the first punch, to show dominance, and to get his opponent in a defensive position. Conor’s game plan was disrupted when Chad Mendes was able to duck under Conor’s reach advantage and land some very solid punches. Conor’s game continued to be delayed when Chad Mendes started landing take downs. Keeping the fighting Irishman on the ground. There were instances when Chad exposes Conor’s weaknesses, delivering some brutal ground and pound, even landing an elbow that cut Conor open above the eye.
The suspense came from the possibility that Chad might actually be able to win this fight via lay and pray. He would have to walk through a barrage of very accurate and powerful punches to land a take down. But the possibility was there! As any fight fan knows, the risk in a lay and pray strategy is that it usually takes the full course of the fight to implement. Was Chad really going to be able to do this for 25 minutes? Especially when each round started on the feet?
Chad has already proved himself to the fight world. But in this fight, Conor McGregor, finally paired with a worthwhile featherweight contender, proved that he is not only able to talk and punch (sometimes doing both at the same time) but he is incredibly durable. After nearly spending the most of the second round on his back, he got up to his feet with 20 seconds left on the clock. He stalked down Mendes and with some pinpoint accurate and powerful striking, he connected a good one-two and down goes Mendes.
The UFC is going to continue to elongate their use of Conor McGregor the Marketing Machine until the fight world is sick of him. This means that there is going to be a season of The Ultimate Fighter with him coaching opposite Uriah Faber. This means that there is once again going to be a huge build-up and promotion of the fight to unify the belts against Jose Aldo.
But after UFC 189, all I really want to see is Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes 2!
Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes full fight video