Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes
The UFC returns to the homeland of MMA on January 14th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the HSBC Arena. The main event will see Featherweight Champion and one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, Jose ‘Scarface’ Aldo defends his belt against undefeated top contender, Chad ‘Money’ Mendes. The five main card bouts will be broadcasted live on Pay-Per-View while four preliminary bouts will be aired for free on FX and Rogers Sportsnet. The last remaining bout, featuring Canadian Antonio Carvalho, will be live on Facebook.
Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo (20-1) vs. Chad Mendes (11-0)
One of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport, Jose Aldo, has the opportunity to defend his title against undefeated title challenger, Chad Mendes, in his home country of Brazil. This is a great opportunity for both fighters as it is rare to see two fighters that are 25 (Aldo) and 26 (Mendes) years old headlining a main card in the UFC. Aldo has far less to prove than Mendes as he has dominated every fighter he has faced in the Featherweight division. Mendes has not had the same level of opponents as Aldo as Jose has went toe to toe against Kenny Florian, Mike Brown, and Mendes’ teammate and close friend, Urijah Faber, who he completely brutalized with some of the nastiest leg kicks anyone has witnessed in MMA. Jose knows he wants to keep the fight standing but he is surprisingly stronger than most think on the ground. Florian, who has been able to dominate many solid grapplers in the Lightweight division, was overpowered by the smaller Aldo. Mendes will need to shoot often but he has to make sure he avoids any predictability. Mendes has to be prepared to check those leg kicks of Aldo and shoot as soon as he is vulnerable. If he is able to get a strong top position on the Brazilian, there is a good chance he can work his ground and pound for the fight as we have not seen much of Aldo’s jiu-jitsu despite being a black belt. Aldo doesn’t have much left at Featherweight as fighters have been unable to find a way to utilize a good game plan to use against him. Stylistically, Mendes has the best chance against Aldo but he will likely struggle finding ways to grapple with the Champion. Aldo is quick enough to succeed with his game plan and throw his usual leg kicks and work his strong angles as he eventually hurts Mendes and is able to finish a fight for the first time in his UFC career.
Prediction: Aldo via TKO Round 3
Vitor Belfort (20-9) vs. Anthony Johnson (10-3)
In his Middleweight debut, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson has the major task of taking on one of the better fighters in UFC history. Vitor Belfort has seen many ups and downs in his professional career, but after knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama, he seems prepared to keep moving up the ladder to get another crack at Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva. Anthony Johnson has spent his entire career at Welterweight, which many people constantly questioned considering his size and he is finally making his move to 185. Size advantage should not be an issue at all in this fight and it will be a tough one to predict. Many expect a stand up war, but last time we expected that from Rumble, we received 3 rounds of grinding out a decision against Dan Hardy. Vitor has the credentials to avoid that and he has trained with many world class wrestlers in the past and he will need to be prepared to fight on the ground because it is clear that there is a good chance Rumble tries to work his wrestling. On the feet, Rumble is the more versatile striker but Vitor has the better boxing and he will need to get in close to use it. Once Vitor does that, his blinding quickness can knock out anybody on any given night. There is no chance that Rumble will go into Brazil and fight Vitor’s fight as he will try to keep his distance and use a wide array of kicks and jabs to set up his takedowns. If the fight does go to the ground, Vitor has underrated sweeps as he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and he does have the ability to submit anybody; however, in his past fights, Vitor has seemed to struggle off his back though we have rarely seen Rumble use his wrestling. It is tough to see Rumble having an easy time getting Vitor to the ground considering he is strong enough and experienced enough to avoid it. The fight should manage to stay standing with Vitor using his quickness to get in close and using his lightening fast combinations to finish the fight. Rumble could very well have Vitor in trouble with his power but it is tough to see his Middleweight debut going well.
Prediction: Belfort via TKO Round 2
Rousimar Palhares (13-3) vs. Mike Massenzio (13-5)
Submission specialist, Rousimar Palhares, makes his return for his second consecutive fight in Rio. He is taking on Mike Massenzio, who is coming off of a big win against Steve Cantwell. Massenzio has some very solid grappling credentials but they are not comparable to that of Palhares, who has made a name for himself by pulling off multiple heel hooks throughout his career. He is arguably the best limb submission artist in the world. The biggest question mark going into this fight for Palhares is if he has finally realized his potential in this sport and he must not make stupid mistakes that cost him his fight against Nate Marquardt or when he celebrated far too early which allowed Dan Miller to nearly finish the fight. He must get his head straight in this fight and even though Massenzio is not nearly at the same level as Palhares, this is MMA and ANYTHING can happen. Just ask Jon Fitch. If the fight goes to the ground, we will be witnessing two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts that are on completely different levels. What if the fight stays standing? Palhares showed in his last fight against Miller that he has become a completely different overall fighter. He carries a lot of power and he now has the ability to finish a fight standing as he almost proved in his last fight. Massenzio is a major underdog going into this fight so he better prepare himself to take advantage of any mistakes the Brazilian makes; otherwise, he is likely in for a long night.
Prediction: Palhares via Heel Hook Round 1
Erick Silva (13-1) vs. Carlo Prater (29-10-1)
It has taken Carlo Prater nearly 10 years to make his UFC debut, but he finally gets an opportunity to fight in Octagon against one of the best young newcomers in the organization, Erick Silva. These two Brazilians are at different parts of their careers. Prater has more than twice as many professional fights than Silva but he doesn’t have the pressure being put on him. Many are already viewing this fight as an easy fight for Erick Silva, considering he trains with some of the best fighters in the world under the Nogueira brothers; however, Prater does have his advantages besides experience going into this fight. The MMA world had the chance to see the power Silva packs behind his punches after he knocked out Luis Ramos 40 seconds into their fight at UFC 134, but he undoubtedly has a submission game, as his 7 submission wins have proven. Can he match up with Prater on the ground, though? Prater has fought much better competition throughout his career and was able to submit the likes of Pat Healy, Melvin Guillard and title contender, Carlos Condit, all early wins in his career. Prater will likely look to test the ground game of Silva but after training with the Nogueira brothers, Silva will likely be more than willing to prove his ability. Silva should be able to control the fight standing and on the ground as he shows his potential. His stand up should be dominant against Prater who has done little to prove his ability on the feet. Look for Silva to cruise to a decision win.
Prediction: Silva via Unanimous Decision
Edson Barboza (9-0) vs. Terry Etim (15-3)
A strong candidate for fight of the night, versatile striker, Edson Barboza will be going head to head with submission specialist, Terry Etim. Both guys tend to avoid boring fights and go in with the intention to hurt their opponents. Barboza has been on a role in the UFC, winning his first 3 fights and his last coming in a close decision against the very tough Ross Pearson. He has very powerful leg kicks as Mike Lullo learned. His last two fight of the night performances proved his potential as a Lightweight contender but he showed that he may still have a few weaknesses. Pearson demonstrated that if you put pressure on Barboza, you can very well get the best of him. Terry Etim has four submission of the night awards to his name and he is always more than willing to be the guy to move forward. He has a pretty good stand up game and can mix it up and compete with good fighters but he is not on Barboza’s level. If he wants an opportunity to come out victorious, he will need to get the fight to the ground and test the jiu-jitsu of the undefeated Brazilian. It should be an exciting back and forth on the feet and on the ground but it is tough to go against what we have seen from Barboza. He should be able to maintain a consistent pace and batter Etim on the feet enough to get the edge on the judge’s scorecards.
Prediction: Barboza via Unanimous Decision
Thiago Tavares (16-4-1) vs. Sam Stout (17-6-1)
Sam Stout returns after witnessing the tragic death of brother-in-law, Shawn Tompkins. In his last fight, he was able to finish Yves Edwards with one of the most devastating knockouts of 2011. Thiago Tavarves competed at the previous event in Rio, coming out with a much needed win over veteran Spencer Fisher. He is a strong grappler and will undoubtedly have the advantage when the fight gets to that point and he may not have a tough time getting it there as Stout’s grappling has come into question in the past. Despite the grappling disadvantage, Stout holds a major advantage on the feet, where Taveres’ chin has come into question. This fight should be extremely close and it will likely come down to who will be able to utilize their game plan more effectively. If Tavares is unable to get it to the ground, Stout may be able to get his second finish in his UFC career via knockout; however, if he is unable to stuff the constant takedown attempts of Tavares, it is tough to see him being very effective off of his back. It is a hit or miss kind of fight and I see Tavares coming out with a game plan that will allow him to grind out a victory.
Prediction: Tavares via Unanimous Decision
Felipe Arantes (13-4) vs. Antonio Carvalho (13-4)
Canadian MMA fans should be excited to finally see the debut of Antonio Carvalho in the UFC. He gets to take on Brazilian Felipe Arantes, who is looking for his first win in the UFC after losing to Carvalho’s original opponent at UFC 134, Yuri Alcantara. Carvalho is a true mixed martial artist as he carries a wide variety of skills but it is unknown how he will incorporate them against some of the top Featherweights in the world. Arantes is a talented young Brazilian training under Jorge Patino so there is no doubt he has the ability to be a fighter in the UFC but he is going up against one of the better fighters to have never fought inside the Octagon. Carvalho has fought the much better competition, having a huge win over Featherweight contender, Hatsu Hioki. Arantes, on the other hand, has never had a win against a big name opponent in his young career but he has an excellent opportunity to put himself on the map but it is tough to see that happening against a well-rounded fighter such as Carvalho. Arantes should be able to put up a fight but it will likely not be enough as Carvalho should control the Octagon with his versatility as he puts the young Brazilian away.
Prediction: Carvalho via TKO Round 2