As most have been, Chad Mendes was defeated by UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo back in 2012 at UFC 142.
The first-round knockout sent Aldo crowd surfing and Mendes back down the divisional ladder.
But as one-sided as their initial meeting was, not much has changed since then. Aldo remains one of the best pound-for-pound kings in the sport, and Mendes continues to thrive in the top-contender role.
To little surprise, the two 145-pound standouts will once again meet in August at UFC 176 in what can easily be considered the biggest rematch in featherweight history.
Outside of his first loss to Aldo, Mendes has been as prolific as the next guy. His professional record remains at a staggering 16-1 (11-1 under the Zuffa banner), including a current five-fight win streak powered by four finishes.
His evolution as a wrestler with dynamic punching power has arguably surpassed the somewhat lackadaisical approach that Aldo has displayed over his past few fights. That's not to say that the champion hasn't looked good, but his inability to go for the kill has manifested reservations about his potential moving forward.
Don't get it wrong. Aldo is by far a top-five fighter in the world, but his tendency to cruise to victory has left many fans needing more.
In enters Mendes, a guy who has done nothing but go for the finish since Aldo dropped him with a last-second knee two years ago.
When you look at each fighter's production since that illustrious night in Brazil, Money is the one who has looked more deadly. He's secured three first-round finishes and became the first fighter ever to defeat Clay Guida by strikes.
Much of his success can be credited to Duane "Bang" Ludwig and his knack for turning athletes into monsters, but Mendes' newfound approach is simply a product of maturity. He no longer banks on his wrestling.
It's there, always waiting to reveal itself, but Mendes has finally found his standup—not only in the sense of knocking fellow featherweights silly, but more so in his technique and ability to counter.
This is something that Mendes lacked when he and Aldo first met. So you have to wonder, will the new Mendes propose new problems for an old champ?
Without a doubt.
Mendes is such a better fighter now that it would be plausible to consider him a different contender all together—one who will not only push the pace and throw lethal hands, but also be ready to shoot for the takedown when the champ launches his patented leg kicks.
To think that Mendes won't fare better this time around would be silly. He's simply a more complete fighter than he was two years ago and a guy who has truly adopted fresh game plans and in-fight strategies to play into his strengths.
Aldo is obviously going to come prepared, but this Mendes is arguably going to be the best fighter he has ever fought—one who doesn't really have too many weaknesses outside of potentially gassing late, which is Aldo's biggest problem.
That means that fans are going to be in for one heck of a show. The favorite is still Aldo, but you'd be crazy to think Mendes isn't going to give him a run for his money.
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