UFC on Fox 9: What We Learned from Chad Mendes vs. Nik Lentz

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

December 13, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; UFC featherweight fighters Chad Mendes (left) and Nik Lentz (right) face-off in the official weigh-in for UFC on FOX 9 at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Chad “Money” Mendes went into the Octagon at UFC on Fox 9, and he took care of business to potentially earn another shot at the UFC Featherweight Championship.

Mendes hurt Lentz in the first round but was unable to finish on Saturday. From that point on, he picked his shots, took what was open and coasted to a unanimous-decision victory.

It wasn't the most exciting fight on the card from Sacramento, Calif., but Mendes had a lot on the line and no reason to take unnecessary risks.

What did we learn from this featherweight tilt?


What We'll Remember About This Fight

Mendes slowing down.

Sure, we can focus on the first round. Or we could talk about how he controlled and dominated Lentz. However, we saw a bigger Mendes in this fight who slowed down as the fight went on. In a 25-minute bout against Jose Aldo or Ricardo Lamas, how would that play out?

Mendes has shown better cardio in the past, but he never looked this big before. That may be a concern moving forward toward a title shot. Aldo has also slowed in five-round fights, and he is a big featherweight too. Lamas, on the other hand, seems to have a deep gas tank that could create problems for Mendes.


What We Learned About Chad Mendes

We learned that his striking is still evolving.

The KO and TKO performances following the loss to Aldo were a combination of his growth as a striker, big power and lesser competition. Against a gritty fighter like Lentz, he was unable to replicate that success.

He also started to telegraph some of his shots and abandoned combinations.

His lead coach Duane Ludwig will take a look at the film and make adjustments before a title fight, but it is worth noting that Mendes still isn't a striking phenom.


What We Learned About Nik Lentz

We knew Lentz was a tough, gritty fighter, but we learned he has the tools to compete against the elite of the division. That was a big question entering the night.

He still has a lot of work to do to defeat these fighters, but he can hang with them. That is important. Mendes didn't blow him out of the water.

Lentz isn't the most athletically gifted fighter, but if he can turn fights ugly, he can pick up key victories in this division.


What's Next for Mendes?

The winner of Aldo vs. Lamas.

Mendes entered as the top-ranked contender, and nothing has changed. The UFC only skipped over him for a title shot because of how he lost to Aldo the first time. After five straight wins, Mendes will get another title fight for certain.

He'll have to wait to see who is the champion for his next crack at gold.


What's Next for Lentz?

A borderline Top 10 featherweight.

I would love to give a specific name, but many featherweights are already booked. A potential candidate would be Clay Guida. He has not fought since losing to Mendes at UFC 164.

There will be a fighter hovering around the Top 10 who makes sense for Lentz. The best matchup would be someone who primarily strikes. It would force both men to tighten up their weaknesses and show their strengths in the cage.