"You have to know the past to understand the present." ~ Carl Sagan
Leading up to Saturday's main event in Brazil, I have been thinking a lot about the possible long-term futures of the 145, 135 and 125 divisions. They're all still very new to the UFC, and new to many casual fans. After focusing so much on potential outcomes and hypotheticals, I realized I didn't know enough as I'd like about the pasts of either headliner. Below is not a true statistical breakdown or metrics report, but rather a look back at each fighter's MMA careers and how their history can help us predict the future of 145. I'll draw minimal conclusions, and leave it up to you to read into the numbers.
Stats and records all in accordance with Fightmetric and Sherdog's Fight Finder.
Records and notable wins:
Aldo - 20-1 (12 KO, 2 Sub, 6 Dec) - 5 title fights (Wins over 2 WEC former champions, 1 TUF winner)
Mendes - 11-0 (2 KO, 2 Sub, 7 Dec) - gave Erik Koch his only loss
Please note that Fightmetric only has data from Zuffa Organized fights. This Includes Aldo's last 10, and Mendes' last 6.
Significant Strikes Landed per Minute:
Aldo - 3.61
Mendes - 2.12
Aldo - 49%
Mendes - 47%
Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute:
Aldo - 1.77
Mendes - 1.1
Aldo - 72%
Mendes - 74%
Takedowns Landed per 15 Min:
Aldo - 0.80
Mendes - 5.25
Aldo - 60%
Mendes - 68%
Aldo - 94% (damn!)
Mendes - 100% (DAMN!)
I divided strength of opponent percentage into two separate categories (opponent record before Aldo/Mendes matchup, and after)
Strength of opposition (before their meeting)
Aldo - 195-61-5 (75%)
Mendes - 115-49-1 (70%)
Strength of opposition (after they fought)
Aldo - 61-68-2 (47%)
Mendes - 18-21 (46%)
There's been a lot of talk recently about how GSP's defeated opponents go on slides after facing him, or even how their bad losses 'expose' the champion (see Dan Hardy, Jake Shields). There's a pretty significant drop in win % for the opponents of Aldo and Mendes too. Does Mark Hominick's starching at the hands of the Korean Zombie 'expose' Aldo? or is it simply the high-level talent at the top of each division?
Let's do some brief MMAth. I don't personally put a ton of stock into comparing common opponents, but let's look into it since it's brief.
Common opponent: Cub Swanson (Aldo 8 second KO, Mendes Majority Decision)
Details on Mendes v Swanson -
rd1: Mendes tagged Swanson with heavy shots, grabbed some takedowns, got stood up, hit some takedowns. Swanson lands some strikes from guard
rd2: Mostly even standup, mendes takedowns, swanson choke attempt
rd3: mendes smothering takedowns, swanson omoplata attempt, desperation strikes from swanson, Mendes ends the fight on top. Bout was scored 30-27, 29-28, 29-29
You could say these two fights against Swanson were fought from two totally different styles, with each being clearly dominant (except to the 1 judge who scored a Mendes/Swanson draw). I wouldn't mind seeing a Swanson-Aldo rematch for entertainment's sake, but it might never happen.
Who are the best fighters they've fought?
Mendes - Erik Koch (lots of takedowns, good control, Mendes was badly cut by a headkick)
This number is interesting because it shows how Aldo was able to tag previously untouchable opponents. However, Mario Bigola fought Aldo once, in both of their debuts and then never fought anyone again. He lost by head kick at :18 seconds. Aldo has fought two men who never returned to the ring (the other is Luiz de Paula - who was defeated by Arm-Triangle Choke at 1:54). Impressive finishing techniques? Sure. Impressive opponents? No way.
Hometown fights are not a guaranteed win. You could even argue it adds unnecessary pressure. We're more accustomed to seeing Aldo as the "visiting team" (see Faber and Hominick fights)
Just for shits, lets talk music:
Mendes - the O'Jays - "For the Love of Money"
Aldo - Jay-Z Featuring Rihanna+ Kanye West - "Run this Town"
Gotta give this one to Mendes; it's simply a better song. Moving on...
Mendes has fought in California, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania (2 Time Zones, both within U.S.)
Aldo has fought in Brazil, England, Japan, California, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Toronto (7 Time Zones, 5 Countries)
It will be interesting to see if Mendes reacts negatively to the travel and experience of fighting in front of a partisan Brazilian crowd. I don't think Mendes has one glaring weakness to speak of, which is why he's still undefeated. He's an incredible wrestler, with great conditioning and good all around defense, meaning he's hard to submit, and hard to hit. Aldo almost never gets taken down, and has standup that's technically unmatched at 145. A recent poll on Sherdog.com asked, "which UFC champion is least likely to lose possession of his title in 2012?" …Aldo tied for last. This gets me thinking about the future again.
Is Aldo the weakest champion in the UFC? Will he continue his reign at 145 and eventually move to 155? Does Mendes win and become a marketable (and english-speaking) face for the UFC? Superfights at 145 would probably be out the window in that case, as Mendes takes on fresh challengers like the Korean Zombie, Hatsu Hioki, Dustin Poirier and Diego Nunes.
Looking at the history, these two are closer matched than I had previously thought. Aldo has power, defense, speed and experience though this is far from a guaranteed win. He's fought the elite, and headlined events in the past, but Mendes has the tools to compete. Aldo's been all over the globe and sent champions packing, but Mendes has nothing to lose, and has nearly never been in danger of losing a round. Given their ages, both of these guys will probably be around for awhile, and no matter the outcome Saturday I'm pumped for the future of 145.