UFC 148 is one of the most significant events in the history of MMA. At long last, Chael Sonnen will get his second chance to take Anderson Silva's belt, and Silva will get his chance to shut up Sonnen up once and for all.
But the culmination of Silva and Sonnen's two-year long battle of words and fists is not the only interesting story of the UFC 148 card. The card will also feature Tito Ortiz's last fight, Demian Maia's welterweight debut and, of course, the most hilariously lopsided featherweight matchup that Joe Silva could get away with booking.
I am talking about Cody McKenzie vs. Chad Mendes. On paper, the fight could just as easily be read as "elite guillotine vs. elite fighter".
McKenzie may be the most one-dimensional fighter in the UFC. All but one of his victories have been by guillotine, and both of his losses are by rear-naked choke.
This shows that McKenzie's isn't just one-dimensional from a fighting perspective—he's one-dimensional from a grappling perspective. His guillotine is the only property of his grappling that is on an elite level. The rest of his grappling mechanics lag behind, which is why both of his losses are by submission to superior overall grapplers.
And Chad Mendes is a far more capable overall grappler than McKenzie.
Mendes has beaten fighters with more sophisticated and diversified ground games than McKenzie. If Mendes can bring the fight to the ground without having his neck threatened, McKenzie has no realistic chance of submitting Mendes.
At first and second glance, it appears that Mendes is far too good a fighter for McKenzie to possibly beat.
However, even though Mendes will enjoy overwhelming athletic and technical advantages over McKenzie, McKenzie has a secret, built-in weapon that will give him an avenue to victory in his fight: his height.
McKenzie stands 6'0", making him the second tallest featherweight. Chad Mendes stands 5'6'', and his head is roughly on the level of McKenzie's shoulders.
And with McKenzie's height comes length. McKenzie will enjoy a 10-inch reach advantage.
That means, in order for Mendes to land any significant shots, he has to go well into the range of McKenzie's arms. And his head will, at best, be level with McKenzie's arm.
And that's when McKenzie will utilize his winning technique: the standing guillotine.
The effectiveness of this technique will be augmented by McKenzie's improved striking. McKenzie has been training with the Diaz brothers for quite some time now. While he won't be at Mendes' level, he will be able to use his range to frustrate Mendes. Mendes won't be able to stand inside McKenzie's striking range without getting hurt.
And that means that Mendes will have to cover more range when he wants to deal damage. His focus will switch from avoiding McKenzie's grip at all costs to simply getting into his striking range in the first place. And his neck will be left more vulnerable.
Even if McKenzie does look for the standing guillotine, he probably won't secure Mendes' neck on his first attempt. However, with enough persistence, he might find himself able to pull off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, and prove to everyone that he belongs in the UFC.