Dan Hardy column: Chad Mendes knows triumph over Ricardo Lamas will cement title shot against winner of Aldo vs McGregor

This week, British UFC welterweight and UFC commentator, Dan Hardy, looks ahead to the weekend’s main event between Ricardo Lamas and Chad Mendes, as the featherweight division continues to take centre stage

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The Independent Online

With the UFC 189 World Tour coming to a close this week and McGregor vs. Aldo being the hot topic, a lot of attention is on the featherweight division right now. This weekend’s card in Fairfax, Virginia, features a main event that will probably determine the next challenger to that belt, as number four ranked Ricardo ‘The Bully’ Lamas, takes on the current number one contender, Chad ‘Money’ Mendes. Having been the last man to challenge Aldo, and to take him the distance in what was awarded Fight of the Year for 2014, Mendes knows a good win here will cement his place for the next shot at that title, whoever holds it after UFC 189 in July.

Lamas, upon joining the UFC, went on a four-fight win streak, including over top contender, Cub Swanson. After losing a unanimous decision to the champ, Jose Aldo, he went on to beat two more notable opponents in Hacran Dias and Dennis Bermudez. A win of any kind over Mendes would be enough, but a stoppage would pull some attention away from McGregor and Aldo, and would help push his name into the spotlight. A fight between him and McGregor would sure be a big money fight, as Lamas is already posting videos on social networks mocking the Irish UFC star.

The build-up would surely be fireworks and I think Lamas has the skills and personality to hold his own at a press conference with McGregor. Whether he can get past ‘Money’ Mendes or not though, we shall see. Mendes has a high pressure style with diverse striking under famed coach ‘Bang’ Ludwig, and a high level wrestling pedigree. He will test every facet of Lamas’ game. A strong wrestler can be the kryptonite of many fighter, and although Ricardo has a wrestling background himself, I think it would be best used to keep this fight standing. He will enjoy a five inch reach advantage over Mendes and will threaten with a guillotine choke when defending take downs.

Ricardo Lamas kicks Dennis Bermudez

In the co-main event, after a recent opponent change due to injury, two of the most exciting lightweights in the division will face off. Respected striker, Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal, will step into the Octagon with a three-fight win streak and a wealth of experience behind him. His opponent, fast-rising New Yorker, ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta has stepped in as a replacement for Benson Henderson. He is also enjoying a three-fight winning streak, all of which were astonishing stoppages over big names in the division, including the UK lightweight star, Ross Pearson.

Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo

This is sure to be a ‘Fight of the Night’ candidate, as both men have a stacked arsenal and like a high-paced scrap. The winner should expect a top ten opponent in his next bout, as Masvidal and Iaquinta are ranked #14 and #15 respectively. We also have two fan favourites on the card, as Clay ‘The Carpenter’ Guida faces Robbie ‘Problems’ Peralta, and Ultimate Fighter 5 contestent, Gray ‘the Bully’ Maynard battles tough Russian, Alexander Yakovlev. It’s a stacked card and I’ll be staying up to watch live. Find me on twitter at @danhardymma and let me know your predictions for who you think will be holding the featherweight belt at the end of 2015.