UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas – Preview, Fight Picks and Kountermove Breakdown

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After a rare weekend without UFC action 7 days ago, it’s straight back to business this week with what looks like a pretty good fight night line up. Due to the NCAA basketball finals in the US, this card, from Fairfax, Virginia, is an unusually timed afternoon event which should have the heart pumping before light falls.

In the main event, two of the world’s top male featherweights collide as Chad Mendes meets Ricardo Lamas in a fight which has been somewhat overshadowed in the build up by this week’s UFC world tour featuring 145 lbs champion Jose Aldo and Irish superstar Conor McGregor. With that now over, there is a huge opportunity for the winner of this fight to set a marker with the division still fresh in people’s minds. Having lost his first title shot to Jose Aldo in 2012, Mendes is also the last man to challenge the Brazilian for the featherweight gold having lost a relatively close decision before the turn of the year in what was a “fight of 2014” candidate and will be looking to bounce back into the title frame immediately with what would be his first ever win against a top-5 ranked opponent. Lamas has also had lost to Jose Aldo, although in much more convincing fashion in what was tantamount to a mauling over four rounds until Aldo tired late on. Since then, the American has bounced back well with two wins; the last of which was a first round submission of the streaking Dennis Bermudez.

Although they fight very differently, these two men have very similar bases. Both started out as one dimensional wrestlers but have added a nice well rounded accompaniment of techniques to their arsenal. Lamas is the wilder striker on the feet. He throws shots from all angles with his hands and feet while his striking defence and clinch are the weak links in a game which is strongest when defending and attacking with wrestling. Mendes is just as strong a wrestler (if not stronger) and is a better technical striker but is largely a boxing oriented attacker and doesn’t bring the variety of Lamas on the feet. In the clinch, Mendes should have a big advantage while his submission game is also a strong point.

This fight is likely to be a helter skelter affair that transitions between all areas of the game throughout. Expect Mendes to close the distance and in-fight while pushing Lamas back onto the cage. Lamas, in turn, will want to stay on the outside and throw his big lunging techniques while looking to change levels for the takedown. In previous fights, Lamas has found it hard to stick to a non-wrestling oriented gameplan. On the feet he tends to lose his head a touch and get into brawl mode if he can’t get it to the mat. Against Chad Mendes, that won’t end well. I expect Mendes to weather the early storm and implement his in-fighting, clinch, takedown attacking string fairly quickly as Lamas becomes demoralized. Once he finds himself on his back, that demoralization will turn into desperation. I see Mendes rinsing and repeating this all night and, in five rounds, he might even get the finish.

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Then, in the co-main event, potential future lightweight contenders Al Iaquinta and Jorge Masvidal throw down in what looks set to be a smashing scrap. Both men have been in phenomenal form of late with identical 6-1 records in their last seven outings – putting three win streaks either side of tough losses. Iaquinta, after losing to Mitch Clarke, has three KOs in his last three, the most impressive of which was his demolition of Joe Lauzon last time out. For Masvidal, decisions over James Krause, Pat Healy and Daron Cruickshank softened the damage of his loss to Rustam Khabilov and he’ll be looking to bounce back even further on Saturday.

There isn’t really any secrets in either man’s game going in. Masvidal is an old-school striker, with an always improving ground game, who throws bombs at every opportunity that presents itself. Iaquinta, training under championship caliber coaches Ray Longo and Matt Serra, is similarly attacking in nature but had the more well-rounded game. The New Yorker is a wonderful, up and coming technical striker with a ground game to back it up. His one flaw may be protecting himself while on the attack – a trait Masvidal will want to prey on. I only see this fight going one way, though, and that’s for Iaquinta. Masvidal is always dangerous on the feet but, if Iaquinta can avoid the power shots, he shouldn’t have too much trouble winning the exchanges while also having a big grappling advantage. Masvidal is as tough as hell and could stay in there longer than a lot of people expect but I do think Iaquinta will eventually get the finish.

Outside of the top two, unusually for a fight night card, there is plenty to look forward to for the educated fight fan. Opening the main card, Irish fans will be interested to see the return McGregor victim Dustin Poirier who faces Cesar Mutante in his first fight at lightweight, while the man who beat the top two ranked lightweights, Clay Guida, takes on Robbie Peralta in a must win fight. Also returning to the fold after over a year out injured is Julianna Pena who takes on Milana Dudieva while the first woman to ever step into the Octagon, Liz Carmouche, takes on Lauren Murphy. Most notably, though, is the fight between Alexander Yakovlev and former two time title challenger Gray Maynard who, after losing three on the spin, might just be fighting for his job.

FIGHT PICKS

Ricardo Lamas (4400 on Kountermove) vs. Chad Mendes (5700 on Kountermove) – Mendes dominates, gets late sub
Al Iaquinta (4900) vs. Jorge Masvidal (4700) – Iaquinta is quicker to the punch, finishes it late on
Michael Chiesa (5200) vs. Mitch Clarke (4400) – A back and forth fight goes the way of Chiesa
Milana Dudieva (4300) vs. Julianna Pena (5300) – The comeback goes the way of Pena
Clay Guida (5100) vs. Robbie Peralta (4500) – I’m taking Peralta in the upset
Diego Ferreira (4300) vs. Dustin Poirier (5300) – Lightweight debut decision for Poirier
Liz Carmouche (4900) vs. Lauren Murphy (4700) – I’m picking Murphy here via ground and pound
Gray Maynard (4800) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (4800) – Can’t trust the chin of Maynard, Yakovlev via KO
Shamil Abdurahimov (5400) vs. Timothy Johnson (4200) – Abdurahimov via submission
Justin Jones (4800) vs. Ron Stallings (4800) – Fancy a close kickboxing decision to go for Jones

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KOUNTERMOVE PREVIEW

For the smart fantasy MMA player there is a big opportunity to make money on Saturday night. As always, a five round main event between lighter weight fighters is always a wise pick. For me, Chad Mendes, at a not too hefty 5700, is winning this fight and should earn plenty of points doing that. In the co-main, I think Iaquinta is a little underpriced and with his newly polished striking output, 4900 could be a steel. In underdog picks, Robbie Peralta (4500) and Alexander Yakolev (4800) could be wise picks while the often wrestling orientated Clay Guida should be avoided at all costs.

So, to get started playing Kountermove fantasy MMA, simply follow these steps.

1. Click the link – http://www.kountermove.com/r/MMA/654925/

2. Sign up

3. Select a game

4. Select your 5 fighter team while staying under the 25,000 salary cap and submit.

5. Watch the money roll in!

BET OF THE WEEK

This week I’m going with Chad Mendes to win via submission at 17/2

START TIMES

Prelims – Fight Pass @ 4pm GMT

Main Card – Live at 6pm GMT (Replayed 10pm on BT Sport 1)

fantasymma KOUN

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma