At UFC 164, Clay Guida was matched up against the toughest opponent of his career to that point: Chad Mendes. (I say that with full knowledge that Guida has also fought Anthony Pettis.) Guida has historically been a fighter who relies on takedowns to win fights; if Guida can’t get the takedown, things generally don’t go well for him. In the UFC, Guida is 1-3 in fights where he fails to land a takedown, and the one win was by split decision against pure grappler Marcus Aurelio.
Against Mendes, Guida was facing an opponent with a career takedown defense rate of 100 percent and a very low rate of strikes absorbed. Sure enough, when the fight took place, Guida went 0 for 4 in takedowns, landed just 17 significant strikes and lost by third-round TKO. Guida’s striking just isn’t good enough to carry him when his wrestling fails. He needs takedowns to win, as takedowns and top control are how he wins at a high level, and how he defeated the current lightweight champion Pettis.
I bring up the Mendes fight because Dennis Bermudez is a poor man’s Mendes in some ways. Bermudez doesn’t have a perfect takedown defense rate, but he’s only been taken down twice in seven UFC fights, defending 91 percent of his opponents’ takedowns. He’s a tank of a featherweight, a fighter who can take strikers down and force grapplers to strike against him. He’s the best featherweight wrestler not named Mendes – and he’s better than Guida, who lands just 38 percent of his own takedowns.
In that respect, Bermudez is similar to Mendes. Where Bermudez goes wrong is that he’s not difficult to hit. He took 82 significant strikes in a wild back-and-forth match against Matt Grice (a fantastic fight, and it’s a shame that Grice had to endure a severe auto accident and coma afterwards). Max Holloway landed 75 significant strikes against him. Mendes shuts down his opponent’s offense while Bermudez just shuts down their takedown game.
For that reason, I think Guida can be competitive against Bermudez even if his takedown game fails. Now, Guida is frustrating to watch when he stands and strikes. There’s a lot of movement and a lot of hair flying around all over the place… but not a lot of strikes actually landed. This problem was most apparent in Guida’s loss to Gray Maynard, a fight that was universally panned afterwards. But against Bermudez, I can see Guida actually landing strikes and making things exciting.
But I can’t favor Guida. Not when his significant strike margin is a below-average -0.13 while Bermudez is at +1.31. Not when Bermudez could very easily take control of the fight with some takedowns of his own. Guida is a top ten featherweight and a fighter who can give almost anybody a tough fight, but against an opponent like Bermudez, it’s just the wrong style matchup for him.
Pick: Dennis Bermudez by decision