For many fight fans, the most intriguing thing about this weekend’s card in Boise is the return of former title challenger Chad Mendes. Due to a USADA suspension, it has been well over two years since the prominent Team Alpha Male fighter stepped into the cage. Can the 33-year old match – or even exceed – his former heights? We probably won’t find out with one fight against Myles Jury, but we can at least begin to answer that question.
The main card begins on FS1 at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Sage Northcutt (10-2) vs. Zak Ottow (16-5), Welterweight
Super Sage returns to his new permanent home at 170. It’s no surprise the youngster decided he can no longer make 155 as his frame is only going to continue to get larger. The much-maligned prospect hasn’t been receiving the massive push he originally received from management – it’s not like being in the co-main event for a Fight Night means anything — but make no mistake that there is still a lot of resentment among fans and other fighters on the roster over his treatment by the brass.
To be fair to the youngster, Northcutt has been developing at a steady pace, even if it isn’t at the pace fans expect him to. His work with Team Alpha Male has helped him develop an explosive double leg that has turned into his primary weapon. There are plenty of intricacies on the ground he’ll need to eventually pick up, but let’s give the kid some credit for finding tools that properly utilize his natural gifts. Northcutt has also developed a nice jab to exploit his size advantage, though that may disappear now that he’s making welterweight his home.
Ottow is one of the most methodical fighters on the roster. Given his lack of physical tools he must work with, he doesn’t have a choice if he wants to be successful. He does possess a solid base which helps him remain vertical. From there though, Ottow relies on outpointing his opponent with counter punches and low kicks with the occasional takedown.
Though it is fun to note that Northcutt has yet to record a win at 170 – while winning all of his lightweight contests – this is a very winnable contest for him. Northcutt isn’t going to outsmart Ottow, but his physical advantages could result in him blowing out the veteran. Then again, Northcutt has been struggling to put away opponents as of late. Ottow uses his wiles to outpoint the youngster. Ottow via decision
Dennis Bermudez (16-8) vs. Rick Glenn (20-5-1), Featherweight
Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby knew what they were doing when they paired these two together. Bermudez often gets himself into trouble with his aggressive nature, either walking right into a brutal counter or leaving his neck wide open for a choke. To be fair, Bermudez is durable and has a knack for escaping submissions. Regardless, Bermudez’s hyper activity typically makes it difficult to outpoint his constant barrage of punches and three to four takedown attempts a round. The big thing that works against him is his tendency for flash knockdowns, usually suffering at least one per contest.
Glenn’s wrestling pedigree isn’t quite up to snuff with Bermudez, but he’s just as active on the feet and will have a sizeable reach advantage on his stout opponent. Despite his reach, Glenn’s best offense typically comes in the clinch where he slices up his opponents with elbows and wracks their body with knees. Glenn doesn’t rush at his opponent in the same manner Bermudez tends to, but he’s just as hittable nonetheless as he’ll spend plenty of time in the pocket.
Both have a history with wearing down their opponents with their incredible stamina. That strategy won’t work out against one another, creating a unique dynamic for both fighters. Glenn has never been KO’d in his career despite being on the receiving end of some brutal beatdowns. However, Bermudez’s takedowns and Glenn’s lack of offense off his back have me favoring the former TUF runner-up to the former WSOF champion. Regardless, this is a fight you won’t want to miss. Bermudez via decision
Randy Brown (10-2) vs. Niko Price (11-1, 1 NC), Welterweight
Typically, I’m not a fan of prospect vs. prospect contests. Given both Brown and Price have been around the UFC block for a while, I like this pairing. Despite their high amount of fights in the Octagon – Brown has six, Price five – neither are close to being a finished product despite their obvious physical tools.
Brown’s physical skills were more obvious upon his entry with his athleticism, 6’3” frame, and 78” reach. He didn’t know how to use his reach very effectively upon his UFC entry, though that isn’t quite the case now. He may not be a master of controlling the distance yet, but he has become efficient with his jab to compliment his effective clinch game. Brown’s grappling and wrestling have been question marks too, but he has shored up those up as well to the point Micky Gall was largely ineffective even when he was able to get the fight to the ground.
Price fights like a wild man, charging at his opponent recklessly for either a haymaker or a takedown. Sometimes it has worked out well for him, other times it has proven to be disastrous. That doesn’t mean the ATT representative is incapable of sitting back and fighting off his back foot, but Price will capitalize on any opportunity to present itself. He’s a slick choke artist, quick in scrambles, and packs a nice punch. His durability is a plus too, but he can be hurt and finished.
There isn’t any one thing that separates these two from one another. Both are just as capable of hurting and/or finishing one another based on their strengths and weaknesses. Brown has shown more growth, but he has also been around a bit longer. That isn’t the best reason to pick him as Price is just as capable of rapid growth, but it’s about the best I’ve got to go on. Brown via submission of RD3
Myles Jury (17-2) vs. Chad Mendes (17-4), Featherweight
It has been a long time since we last saw Mendes. It’s been an even longer time since we saw him with his hand raised in victory. Coming off consecutive KO losses to Conor McGregor and Frankie Edgar, there were rumors his days as an elite fighter were in the past. Two years on the shelf due to a USADA suspension may have helped his chin recover from the years of abuse, but it very well could have made Mendes rusty. Bottom line: we have no idea what version of Mendes we’ll be getting.
When Mendes was at his peak, he gave Jose Aldo the toughest test of his career up to that point, developing a kickboxing game heavily dependent on lateral movement and unorthodox footwork. Think TJ Dillashaw, just a little less animated. Those of you who followed the sport a few years back are well aware that Dillashaw wasn’t the only one who greatly benefited from Duane Ludwig’s tutelage at Team Alpha Male back in the day as Mendes’ improvements in his striking made for an excellent compliment to his smothering wrestling game. It’s worth noting Mendes has yet to have someone take him down in his career.
While that’s obviously bad news for Jury, it isn’t the end of the world for him either. He’s developed into a solid boxer heavily reliant counter straights and hooks. Jury also picked up a tendency to attack the body with kicks, adding a bit more diversity to his low kicks. There’s very little flash to what he does, but he’s defensively conscious and will look to exploit the 7” reach advantage he’ll own over Mendes. Even if he can’t get Mendes down, he can probably stuff a fair amount of Mendes’ attempts.
The UFC did well matching up Mendes with Jury. Jury doesn’t have the power to put a major scare into Mendes’ potentially eroding chin… unless Mendes’ chin truly is gone. Mendes had been fighting a heavy schedule up to the point he was KO’d by Edgar, so there is also a strong possibility he needed the time off to recharge his batteries. I wouldn’t expect vintage Mendes, but he should be good enough to overthrow Jury. Mendes via decision
Cat Zingano (9-3) vs. Marion Reneau (9-3-1), Women’s Bantamweight
There isn’t a person associated with this sport that doesn’t love Cat Zingano. The woman has been to hell and back only to emerge on the doorstep of a title… largely maintaining a smile in the process. However – and it pains me to state this – she may no longer be a relevant figure in the bantamweight title picture following three losses in a row.
While Zingano has as good of an excuse as anyone for her relative inactivity, it doesn’t mean she unaffected by her inability to fight consistently. Nonetheless, it will be a mere four months since her last contest, which can only help her given it had been about an average of 18 months between her previous two contests. A durable grinder with a brutal top game, Zingano’s recent performances have been that of someone without a plan. She has bullied her way into the clinch, only to not know what it is she wants to do once she gets there. She has never been an effective striker from a distance, but there is concern she may be getting worse.
Reneau, one of the few fighters on the roster in their 40’s, has been aging like a fine wine. There are signs she may have hit her ceiling in her last contest as Sara McMann absolutely dominated her early in the contest, only taking control of the contest after she blasted McMann with a single right hand. Reneau’s striking has been improving, but there is still plenty of reason to be concerned about her ability to stuff takedowns. To be fair, it could be argued that Reneau has the most dangerous guard in the division, having snagged a couple of victories with armbars off her back.
If Zingano fights with a direction, she is a terrible matchup for Reneau. She’s as tough and durable as they come and will battle her way out of any submission provided there is a way out. However, Reneau is the best submission artist Zingano has faced since Ronda Rousey and may not provide the Colorado native any other option than to tap out. I’m torn on this contest and hate picking against either fighter, but I’ll go with Zingano… though without any real confidence. Zingano via decision