It's the Cody Garbrandt show this February 21, 2016 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Match Up
Bantamweight Cody Garbrandt -365 vs. Augusto Mendes +305
3 Things You Should Know
1. Cody is a can't miss UFC prospect. So don't miss him.
Garbrandt has been in the news for TMZ reasons, but nobody has ever been distracted by his in cage aptitude. He's simply one of the more exciting fighters in the division, right alongside Thomas Almeida who are both thankfully in the same division. Garbrandt has racked up all of his wins with fluid combination striking, which is each one of the major food groups he'll need to be beat the grappling specialist.
2. Mendes is a can't miss UFC grappling wizard. So don't miss him.
The grappler they call 'Tanquinho' is famous for stuff like this:
Thankfully for Mendes, he doesn't have to worry about eccentric grappling minutiae such as De La Riva guard, or the Berimbolo technique.
He's kind of a strange call up. Despite his grappling pedigree, he simply doesn't have the experience right now. His competition has been dreadful. And while he's improving, this is simply not the kind of fight that serves much purpose to do anything other than make Garbrandt look good. It's short notice, so of course Mendes says yes when he gets the call, but Mendes is the kind of fighter who might not otherwise need matchmaker desperation mode to score a spot in the octagon.
3. Despite the commentary, there are good reasons to keep Cody's development in perspective, and this fight serves to do that.
Say what you want about Team Alpha Male, whether their dudebro demeanors, or confirmation of Fight Club's misunderstood socio-political message, but they're pretty damn good at coaching and teaching movement.
Garbrandt is a fantastic combination puncher but his efficiency is rooted in his fluid movement. Whether in lateral transition, forward pressure, or quick pivots, Cody can land with volume, or in intervals with an arsenal of face punching dynamism.
While he has access to the usual assortment of technical boxing, it's his ability to find high octane knees that startles me the most. He owns some of the more punishing patella projectiles in the UFC.
But like any Alpha Male fighter, little of this could work without some measure of counter grappling. He'll use some of his own in relief, but his movement usually nullifies the need for a time consuming, energy costing sprawl, or clinch stalling.
Opposite Garbrandt is Mendes. He's kind of what you'd expect as a 32 year old grappler; rough around the vertical edges. His grappling is similar to Demian Maia, relying on the type of polished fundamentals that don't require the type of athleticism necessary to bridge the kickboxing gaps. After all, just one exchange on the ground is enough to choke on jiu jitsu quicksand.
But that's kind of all he has. Unlike Maia, as you'd expect given his level of experience, Mendes is experimental with his striking. Sometimes he'll find himself in a heated exchange because it's a fight and getting punched sucks. Ohter times he'll just wing a few punches in to set up his takedown. Thankfully Mendes benefits from his core strength, which is where Mendes' chances really are; in the ability to close the distance, absorb some punishment, and throttle Cody to the mat.
It's hard to see it happening with Cody's movement. Mendes' defense on the feet is the kind of work in progress he might be able to get away with against a journeyman, but a blue chip prospect without an ounce of vulnerability? Not likely. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 1.