I’ve mentioned multiple times already that I’m disappointed that Chad Mendes doesn’t get to fight Jose Aldo for the title. I think Mendes is the right man for the job of taking Aldo out. Instead, Mendes won’t even be on the main card at all: he’s slated for the first of two Spike TV fights on Saturday, against Rani Yahya.
The thing about this fight is: Mendes absolutely should win. Mendes represents everything you want in a fighter: a dominating wrestler with good power striking and a very strong ground game as well. His record of 10-0 includes quite a few victories against strong opponents. Despite being in only his third year of fighting, Mendes has already scored victories over Erik Koch, Cub Swanson, Javier Vazquez, and Michihiro Omigawa, among others. There are plenty of well-regarded featherweights who have been fighting for a lot longer than Mendes who haven’t built up that kind of resume. Additionally (at least from what I’ve seen), Mendes has never been in very much trouble at any point, despite going to decision six times in his 10 fights.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Rani Yahya is a dangerous opponent for him. The reason is that Yahya represents exactly the kind of fighter who could counter the wrestling game of Mendes. Yahya’s extremely slick grappling gave Mike Brown all sorts of fits at UFC Fight for the Troops 2. There are some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters whose game doesn’t translate to MMA particularly well; that certainly can’t be said of Yahya, who has finished by submission in 14 of his 16 victories.
The betting public doesn’t seem to be concerned. In fact, Mendes is a stronger favorite than Ryan Bader was against Tito Ortiz. Right now, the odds on Mendes range from an 11-2 favorite to an 8-1 favorite. The only stronger favorite I’ve seen listed this year is Gegard Mousasi, for when he fought Hiroshi Izumi at DREAM last month.
SILVA PREDICTION: CHAD MENDES (51.02) OVER RANI YAHYA (29.57)
The massive difference in SILVA scores corresponds with what the oddsmakers think about this fight. And it’s not because Rani Yahya is necessarily a bad fighter; to the contrary, wins against Mike Brown, Eddie Wineland, Yoshiro Maeda, and Mark Hominick show that Yahya is quite capable of beating quality opposition. The problem for Yahya is that Chad Mendes is seriously a top-shelf, world-class fighter. Yahya has one dimension in this fight whereas Mendes has many dimensions. As much as I might think that people are overlooking Yahya just a bit too much, Mendes could very easily use his wrestling to keep the fight standing, and then use his power striking to knock him out. I like Yahya, he’s entertaining to watch, but Mendes absolutely has to be the pick here.