Chad Mendes faced Irishman Conor McGregor on Saturday with a record-setting Las Vegas audience in attendance. Mendes, the UFC #1 ranked fighter, entered the octagon just two weeks after his last bout, to fight a fresh McGregor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the UFC interim featherweight title.
McGregor was slated to fight the current featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, for the undisputed UFC featherweight championship on Saturday, but in the days leading up to the highly anticipated face-off, Aldo pulled out, citing a rib injury incurred during training. With Aldo canceling, Mendes stepped in with only two weeks to prepare for McGregor.
There was much debate in the media debating the nature and severity of Aldo’s rib injury, but UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta was quick to clear up the issue that led to the UFC 189 change in lineup.
“Aldo went in and had an MRI,” Fertitta said in an interview with ESPN. “There were multiple doctors that looked at his scans and – it’s not as simple as looking at typical broken bones because there was cartilage involved – he obviously was hurt. We are not questioning that at all. Whether it was a bruise or fracture is up for debate. Some doctors say yes [it was broken]. Some say no. All I know is that sometimes, bruises and hurt cartilage hurt worse than a fracture, so that really doesn’t matter.”
Mendes entering the competition meant that McGregor would be fighting an opponent with a much different fighting style than that of Aldo, and that of McGregor himself.
Chad Mendes, a former All-American high school and collegiate wrestler, comes to the octagon with a shorter stature, and a more grappling fighting style than the kickboxing and martial arts background of McGregor. McGregor is also several inches taller than Mendes, posing a potential problem for Mendes as McGregor would have an advantage in terms of reach. That being said, both fighters are exceptionally competitive and assured that they were ready for the bout, prompting a record $7.2 million in American sales for the pay-per-view event.
Both fighters came out of the gate hitting with everything they had. McGregor established an aggressive presence in the first round, pushing back Mendes with a powerful back kick. Mendes responded with a takedown and several punches, and even opened up a cut over McGregor’s right eye.
McGregor also exercised a constant psychological strategy, trash talking throughout the match, even talking into Mendes’s ear when in close contact.
“I was hitting him with everything I had he was still running his mouth,” said Mendes in an interview with the Irish Independent.
McGregor responded to Mendes’s solid fighting, including a takedown at the beginning of the second round, by delivering several elbows to the top of Mendes’s head, and a solid kick to the body. McGregor also made sure to take advantage of Mendes’s mistakes.
Mendes attempted a guillotine choke in the second round, but lost his positioning, which allowed McGregor to recover and gain solid footing, and an advantage. McGregor capitalized, landing several hits with his left hand, eventually leading to referee Herb Dean to call a TKO in favor of McGregor.
Mendes’s loss to McGregor prompted talk as to whether Mendes had enough time to prepare for the bout, having faced Ricardo Lamas just two weeks prior. Mendes’s conditioning was also questioned.
With the fight against Mendes now in the history books, McGregor is looking forward to competing for the UFC undisputed featherweight championship title, which means another opportunity to face Aldo.
According to Fertitta, Aldo is anxious to reschedule the match with McGregor. It is speculated that the matchup will be either this December, or January of 2016, with the venue still to be decided.
[Image courtesy of Matt Roberts/Getty Images]