Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 | 12:02 a.m.
Following a war of words leading up to their featherweight bout Thursday, Chad Mendes wanted nothing more than to shut the mouth of Javier Vazquez at WEC 52.
But in addition to simply defeating Vazquez, Mendes wanted to do it in exciting fashion — something that would get the fans talking.
So, in the middle of the second round, Mendes did something that would get the fans talking. Standing over Vazquez in the center of the cage, Mendes threw a few kicks before launching into a front flip, aimed right at Vazquez’s chest.
“I felt like he was holding me down a lot and I did not want it to be another boring fight with just a bunch of wrestling,” Mendes said. “Honestly, sometime last week I was going over that position and I said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be cool if I did a front flip over him?’ And everybody said, ‘Yeah. You’d be a legend if you did that.’
“So, I saw it and I went for it.”
The plan, a not-so-well-thought-out one as Mendes admits, was to land on Vazquez and scramble into a dominant position.
Although it didn’t work out exactly how Mendes says he had it in his mind, the overall result was a positive one. Vazquez tried to take his back off the move but Mendes rolled into top position to finish the round.
It was a risk Mendes was comfortable taking and one he was willing to deal with consequences of in an effort to make things a little more exciting.
The 25-year-old fighter holds a perfect 8-0 record as a professional but has taken heat from some fans for his wrestler-based style.
The fight with Vazquez turned out to be anything but a boring fight, as Mendes lit up the veteran with his standup and was visibly active throughout the fight from top position.
Even when Vazquez nearly caught him in an armbar in the first round, Mendes says, he stayed confident in his submission defense and consciously active.
“I worked a lot in camp on ground and pound because I wanted to be more active from the top,” Mendes said. “In the first round I took him down and started throwing punches. He went for an armbar and I could tell he was quick with it.
“After that I didn’t want to do anything too crazy, but I knew I was going to be fine on top of him. I was pretty comfortable.”
It was a satisfying win for Mendes, who had to deal with the antics of Vazquez and his camp throughout the days leading up to their fight.
On several occasions, Mendes says, he returned to his hotel room in Las Vegas to find stuffed animals and baby food waiting for him. The “gifts” were in regards to comments Vazquez made to the media describing Mendes as an unseasoned fighter who had been “spoon-fed” up to this point in his career.
It was the first time a fighter had ever gone after Mendes in the media — and an experience that Mendes says he ultimately enjoyed.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Mendes said. “The guy was talking crap. He was being disrespectful sending stuff up to my room. Basically, I didn’t let it get to me. I trained hard and used it as motivation.”
It’s doubtful anyone will refer to Mendes as being “spoon-fed” now, as he’s taken out well-respected fighters like Vazquez, Cub Swanson and Erik Koch.
While it might still be too early to talk about a shot at current champion Jose Aldo, Mendes admits it’s impossible not to think about that opportunity.
“I definitely think about it a lot,” Mendes said. “Obviously, I like to focus on the task at hand but I watch (Aldo’s) fights and I try to find weaknesses.
“The guy is really good, and he doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game. I’ll have to be on my game to beat him. But I think with my style, speed and strength, I have a great chance. I just have to push myself and be as prepared as I can be.”
Mendes is poised for a breakout year in 2011, but until then he’ll sit back and enjoy his latest win.
One that included a moment that has a lot of fans talking.
“The crowd loved (the front flip),” Mendes said. “I’ve already had a million people on Twitter hit me up talking about it.”