UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas – Toe to Toe Preview: Chad Mendes vs Ricardo Lamas

Chad Mendes fights Ricardo Lamas at featherweight in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas on April 4, 2015 at the…

By: Phil Mackenzie | 8 years ago
UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas – Toe to Toe Preview: Chad Mendes vs Ricardo Lamas
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Chad Mendes fights Ricardo Lamas at featherweight in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas on April 4, 2015 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia.

One-sentence summary?

Chad Mendes takes on one of the most underrated and weirdly dangerous opponents of his career.


Chad “Money” Mendes: 16-2
Odds: -440

Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas 15-3

Odds: +350

History lesson / introduction to the fighters

Phil: Chad Mendes was World Extreme Cagefighting’s fun vacuum. Whether blanketing fan-favourite Cub Swanson or putting a meticulously measured blend of strikes and takedowns on Michihiro Omigawa, he just seemed to stand alone as a bland bulwark against the non-stop in-cage thrills which defined WEC. Maybe I’m just romanticizing it, as I am wont to do.

Subsequently, he has followed the wider arc of the evolution of the wrestler’s place in the sport from “control” to “dynamic offense”. A string of knockouts got him a rematch at Jose Aldo, which he lost in a close and thrilling first-ballot FOTY contender.

David: Mendes was definitely the quintessential boring fighter coming up. But I’m not too harsh on him. He made his WEC debut after only 5 pro fights. Forget fan criticism. If your opponent can’t stop you from doing what you want, the onus is on them to make it exciting. Simple as that. Focus in honing your craft first. It’s exactly what Mendes did, and he’s benefited greatly from it. And yea, the WEC Effect definitely played a role; where everyone else was this unique Pride blend of action and Zuffa punk rock, Mendes was the corporate reminder; the Coldplay, if you will. .

Just to continue with these music analogies Ricardo Lamas was the unrefined grunge rock of the WEC. Like Silverchair’s later albums, there just didn’t seem like much to work with. His WEC career was bookended by losses to Alcantara and Danny Castillo. He could strike ok, and wrestle ok, but never seemed capable of moving beyond an archetype.

Phil: Lamas has blossomed in the UFC in a way more unpredictable way than Mendes did. The way he has improved hasn’t essentially made him look any better when he fights. He just has these brief moments where he looks simply spectacular. It’s like that grunge band suddenly explodes from a plodding bass-line into virtuosity. These sudden instants that normally end the fight are fundamentally what keep him a constant high-level threat in the division.

What are the stakes?

David: Pretty big. I think Lamas is unique in being able to position himself for a title shot because all that needs to happen is for Conor McGregor to take a potential win. The two have already exchanged twitter words. Lamas has even proven surprisingly capable. In fact, he’s, dare I say, perhaps even had the edge over Conor who didn’t have much to say about the video. Granted, that’s a big if. Aldo is pretty awesome, and needs to be singing Roy Jones Jr songs because the dude is king for a reason. Mendes will be in fine shape with a win too for the same reason. They’re also both fighters who are intriguing rematch options for Aldo. While Lamas got mostly dominated, he didn’t get embarrassed, and displayed far better durability than I’ve ever given him credit for.

Phil: McGregor is  savvy about picking opponents with some upside, and Lamas, simultaneously gritty and unpredictable, would (and still does) represent significant risk. But more people are definitely getting interested in both of these fighters and their place in the division: Mendes’s as the prince, and Lamas as the wild card.

Where do they want it?

David: Mendes wants it on the feet no question. On the ground, he’s fine there too. But Lamas still hasn’t evolved a truly threatening boxing game despite his raw strength. Mendes has evolved a legitimately frightening striking game. He’s comfortable on the feet, displaying a wide range of strikes you never would have guessed he’d be capable of when he first started. A lot of the Alpha Male guys never really settled on mechanics. Instead they focused on form. Mendes is the opposite. His uppercut is as clean a strike there is in MMA, and his left hook is as devastating as his straight right.

More to the point, he uses that classical Alpha Male movement to maximize his boxing rather than focus on phase shifting, and scrambles. He sometimes lances rather than boxes, and his defense is more than capable. Mendes will be at home on the ground too. Even though he’s still a little conservative, he no longer uses top control to stall and ride out the clock.

Phil: Mendes’s performance against Aldo was pretty sublime. He’s still almost entirely a power hitter- he doesn’t throw the jab with much conviction, or kick much, but his stocky frame and astonishing speed make his style of corralling the opponent with movement and then exploding inside particularly well-suited.

David: Lamas might just be the best ground and pound fighter on Earth right now. It’s an art that no longer gets its due, and seems lost, but not for Lamas. I still cringe when I think about Erik Koch, and what Lamas decided to do to him. Sorry MMA purists and hipsters, but not even Fedor ever achieved something so singularly violent with that top control assault.

He’s improved on the feet. Not enough for my liking, but certainly good enough to hold his own regardless of the situation. The big thing is positioning; he no longer sets himself up for the obvious options when upright. Where before he was just a moving target, now he moves well conservatively, but not uptight, and he strings his kicks together well with his rudimentary but polished combinations.

Phil: It’s a strange bric-a-brac style, cobbled together from bits and pieces, with little bits of gleaming polish (primarily in his top game, as you said) alongside bits which are essentially shiny, useless detritus, like his spin kicks against Aldo. The whole shebang rollicks along perfectly adequately, with some decent, functional hook to leg kick combos, and an ok jab, but it doesn’t look great until the opponent slips up. Then Lamas just destroys them, like he did poor Erik Koch.

He never really made much sense to me as a fighter until I realised what a great athlete he is. He’s just a rather idiosyncratically trained one. If some fighters are carefully pruned and directed in their development, then he’s an unpredictable but surprisingly strong tangled thicket of good and bad habits.

Insight from past fights?

David: The Dennis Bermudez fight, despite being so recent, is nonetheless a good example given the similarities Bermudez has with Mendes in a nominal sense. It’s not that the fight tells us anything about the dynamic so much as it tells us about when the dynamics don’t matter. Lamas does have one blue chip component to his game besides his ground and pound, and those are his chokes. It’s not exactly where you’d like to be. But the same goes for Mendes, who could pull out a guillotine at any time with just as much quickness.

Phil: Nik Lentz, another physical and grinding wrestler, was able to get to Mendes more than anyone except Aldo. I don’t think Lamas is nearly as skilled a pressure fighter as Lentz, but he can capitalise on much smaller errors.


David: Not many. Though when two “wrestlers” get together, I always go back to fence grabbing. When refs start getting harder on fighters for grabbing the fence, that’s when you’ll see less of it. I think. Maybe we should ask Joe Rogan about the kind of gloves we could create that would allow grabbing the fence to be functionally impossible.

Phil: I’m interested to see where Mendes’s head is at. I got the feeling when he fought Aldo that the two of them both wordlessly agreed that Aldo was superior, right at the end. Mendes seemed… accepting. Like he was happy to have just had such an incredible fight. Lamas is, to put it mildly, not a man to lose focus against.


David: Mendes is the safe, and predictable pick. Lamas needs a specific set of circumstances to position himself for victory whereas Mendes just needs to experience the bout on the feet, and possibly on the ground. Chad Mendes by Decision.

Phil: Aldo fought Lamas in the best way possible, by not giving him any mistakes to really work with. What Aldo did with clean, efficient distance striking, I think Mendes can accomplish with sheer speed. Never sleep on Lamas’s ability to suddenly finish the fight, but Chad Mendes by Decision.

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Phil Mackenzie
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