On the Rise: Phoenix EditionJan 11 2017, Posted in: UFC
The UFC’s 2017 campaign kicks off in the desert this Sunday, as the Octagon returns to Phoenix for an event headlined by surging prospect Yair Rodriguez taking on returning Hall of Famer BJ Penn in an intriguing fight that could set the tempo for what is to come in the next 12 months.
In addition to the featherweight main event, this show also features the always entertaining Joe Lauzon against Marcin Held, and a litmus test for Sergio Pettis, who takes on former flyweight title challenger John Moraga in a bout that should help clarify where the Milwaukee native is at in his development heading into his fourth full year on the UFC roster.
On top of that, this event also features a trio of competitors looking to kick off the year in impressive fashion and propel themselves to greater heights going forward by exiting Talking Stick Resort Arena with a victory in hand.
Here’s a look at that triumvirate.
This is On the Rise: Phoenix Edition.
Given how the bantamweight division looked at the end of 2016, it’s pretty difficult to hold Mendes’ debut loss in the UFC against him. Called upon as a short-notice replacement, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion jumped at the opportunity and stepped into the Octagon against an unbeaten, unranked prospect in Pittsburgh – Cody Garbrandt.
The newly crowned champion dispatched “Tanquinho” inside the opening five minutes, handing him the first loss of his professional career in the process. Now, nearly a year later, the 33-year-old MMA Lab representative makes his sophomore appearance with the benefit of a full camp when he takes on Arizona State alum Frankie Saenz this weekend.
A pro for less than three years, Mendes’ pedigree on the mat made him someone to avoid on the regional circuit, but there are no shortage of opponents for him at this level and now he gets the chance to really show what he can do. Can he develop into a bantamweight Demian Maia or will he be another jiu-jitsu standout who is unable to turn his grappling acumen into consistent results inside the UFC cage?