Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes locked horns for the second time Saturday at UFC 179, but the result was ultimately the same as Aldo retained the UFC featherweight title in front of his home fans in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The judges all scored the fight 49-46, per Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole:
The 28-year-old Brazilian star improved his career record to 25-1, while Mendes fell to 16-2 in suffering his first loss since getting knocked out by Aldo nearly three years ago. Aldo's unbeaten streak also grows to nearly nine years, per Fox Sports' Jay Glazer:
Mendes started off the fight well, hitting Aldo with a nice left hook in the first. However, Aldo regained his composure and control of the bout. That round set the tone for what was a thrilling back-and-forth affair.
The fight nearly ended in the third, with Mendes connecting on a massive uppercut on Aldo that had the champion reeling. Aldo responded in kind with an uppercut of his own and attempted to end things right then and there, but Mendes avoided the danger.
The fourth round was Mendes' best of the fight. He peppered Aldo with strikes but couldn't find the combination that would put the champion out. The fifth was another close round, with each fighter getting some offense in. But Aldo didn't make any major mistakes and sealed the victory.
Although there was quite a bit of time between their first and second fights, the bad blood between Aldo and Mendes didn't wane at all. Shots were fired in both directions during the lead-up to the bout, although "Money" Mendes was largely the aggressor in that regard.
According to UFC on Fox, Mendes wasn't shy about announcing his intentions prior to Saturday's clash:
He even went so far as to suggest that Aldo would struggle to beat him due to recent changes in his personal life, per Damon Martin of FoxSports.com.
I think lately he's just got a lot on his plate. He just got married and had a baby recently. Those two things are very, very time consuming. Those extra days you'd be spending those extra hours in the gym, now he's rushing home to be with his wife and baby. So those extra hours that he's missing out on, those are the hours I'm putting in, in the gym. ... I think I've caught up and passed him up. I truly believe this is my time. We've seen his reign for a while, but I've studied him, I've fought him. I truly believe it's my turn.
In addition to criticizing Aldo as a fighter, Mendes also bashed him in the media for a perceived lack of effort regarding the promotion of their encounter at UFC 179, according to Mike Bohn of USA Today:
Rather than sitting idly by, Aldo decided to fight fire with fire. The Brazilian champion had bragging rights after beating his American opponent decisively in 2012, and he made it clear that he didn't believe Mendes has improved significantly since then, per Combate.com (h/t Fernando Arbex of BloodyElbow.com).
I see no difference in his game. He's still the same person with the same game. He's maybe more confident but there is nothing that I can see to tell: 'Oh, the guy has a better striking now.' No. He has never had a bout with a good striker and fought three rounds against him. In the cage we'll see who evolved more.
With so much vitriol being spewed between two of the best fighters in the world, Marc Raimondi of FoxSports.com was one of many who eagerly anticipated their rematch:
Aldo and Mendes didn't disappoint, but now that their bout has come and gone, the focus shifts toward where they each go from here.
The champion has already defeated many of the top contenders within the featherweight division, including Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung. That leaves controversial Irishman Conor McGregor as the next logical opponent.
It has long been assumed that McGregor would fight the winner of this contest, and Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter views it as a virtual lock:
If that is the case, then Mendes will likely have to work his way back through the ranks against the likes of Edgar, Lamas and other skilled featherweights.
Perhaps Mendes will get another shot at Aldo or even a match against McGregor down the line, but Aldo definitely proved Saturday that he is still the king of the featherweight division.
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