Breaking down and predicting the three biggest fights of UFC 164, ladies and gents.
Chad Mendes doesn’t move around the cage: He glides. Comparisons to Urijah Faber are so obvious because they’re teammates, but really, the fast-twitch reactions Mendes has is Faber-like. Very smooth fighter. In moving to 145 pounds, Clay Guida gets to be the bigger guy but theoretically shouldn’t forfeit his cardio advantage because it’s his best attribute. He needs to get his hands on Mendes and take him down, though. As awkward as Guida is, Mendes is so quick and his punching accuracy is so deadly, he’ll pop Guida all night in a stand-up fight. Tough stat for Guida: Mendes has never been taken down in the UFC, and you can see why. He’s got a low center of gravity, and quick reactions make it incredibly hard to get inside.
Mendes hitting the books as more than a 4-to-1 favorite seems like overkill to me, but that said, this is his fight to win on paper. He’s just very, very good, and Guida’s size advantage or awkwardness isn’t enough to stymie Mendes’ offense.
Mendes by decision
Josh Barnett vs. Frank Mir
No, there’s nothing wrong with your television. This fight is just that slow. Especially with Frank Mir, but also Josh Barnett. Most traces of speed have just evaporated from their games. Mir’s grappling is still tremendous and you don’t want to be hit by his overhand left, but nothing he does occurs with much speed anymore. Look for Barnett to jab him, close, pressure on the fence, single leg him down. Conservative aggression. At this stage of his career, Mir doesn’t deal with constant pressure well. His wrestling has improved to the point you don’t expect Barnett to have it easy, but this feels like a fight in which Mir will be on the defensive far more than he’ll be on the offensive.
A pretty slow fight. A long career, injuries, age — all working against Mir at this point. The same could be said of Barnett, but he just hasn’t shown it yet like Mir has. In their respective primes, it’s a different fight. As it is today …
Barnett by decision
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Benson Henderson
Naturally, Anthony Pettis is difficult to take down. His stance is heavy Taekwondo, which helps his balance and isn’t easy to square and shoot on. Cage awareness and athleticism add to that. Benson Henderson really isn’t known for a classic double leg, though. He takes guys down through bodylocks or inside/outside trips. Basically, Pettis wants space and Henderson can’t give it to him. I think the style for Henderson here is forward. Angry forward. Smothering. Don’t abandon leg kicks — which have turned into a Henderson strength — even though this isn’t a night for him to showcase his ability to fight on the outside. As slick as Pettis’ guard is, Henderson is a monster in top position. That’s where he needs to be.
This is a phenomenal matchup — which we know because we’ve seen it once before. It’s a close fight to predict, but Pettis has reached another level in stand-up. He’s hard to take down and mentally tough enough to hang with Henderson’s pace. It’s his hometown and he’s got that edge of beating him the first time.
Pettis by late knockout