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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
27-year-old Chad Mendes rose quickly up the featherweight ranks, utilizing his wrestling skill set to defeat 11 straight opponents with relative ease, and with increasingly impressive performances. Those wins, which came in just a three-year span, led to a title fight against Jose Aldo this January in Brazil.
In that fight, Mendes struggled a bit as Aldo's takedown defense was on point. Then, as the first round came to a close, Mendes was caught off guard by a surprising knee to the jaw, with Aldo finishing things off before the round ended. Saturday night at UFC 148, Mendes looks to bounce back from that first career loss when he takes on Cody McKenzie.
Now, after tasting defeat for the first time, Mendes is out to make sure it's an experience he avoids moving forward.
"It's a tough situation, I hate losing anything," he said in an interview with MMAWeekly.com. "I'm super competitive. A lot of the guys on our team, T.J. Dillashaw is one of these types too, but it's something that I absolutely hate. It kind of eats me up inside knowing that I made a mistake and just being that close to that belt."
"I've looked back on that fight with Aldo and looked at the mistake I made, and it's on my mind and hopefully it doesn't happen again."
While he's looked back on the loss, Mendes isn't harping on the negatives. Indeed, there were some positive things to take from the experience, and he hopes to keep himself on track in order to earn another shot at the title in the future.
"I try to look at the positives," Mendes said. "I mean I got in there and fought one of the best pound-for-pound fighters and truthfully I feel like I was winning that round, so I felt like my cardio was good, it was the best I'd ever felt for a fight, both mentally and physically, and I'm taking that kind of training the stuff I learned in that camp, the mind preparation, and studying my opponents and transferring that now to all my fights."
"It sucks that I lost, but I performed to where I needed to be and where I wanted to be, but I just got caught."
Penick's Analysis: It's hard to tell how successful or not Mendes would have been had his fight with Aldo continued in January, but the fact is he was stopped by the champion. The man who has clearly been the best fighter in the weight class for several years now. There's no shame in that loss, but how he responds to the loss is as important as anything else. McKenzie's dropping down from lightweight, and will have a height advantage on Mendes, but the wrestling advantage and the striking advantage remain in Mendes' corner. This may not be a major name for him to be taking on, but he still needs to show up with a big performance in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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