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Mendes gives theory why Aldo was off

Jose Aldo looked like a fish out of water while fighting off his back. Ric Fogel for ESPN.com

Like many others, No. 1 featherweight contender Chad Mendes found Jose Aldo to be incredibly human in his recent title defense over Mark Hominick at UFC 129.

Mendes, who was in Toronto and watched the fight from cageside, said the champion looked “exhausted” late in the fight and couldn’t even throw his effective leg kicks after the first two rounds due to fatigue.

After the fight, rumors circulated of a prefight illness Aldo dealt with and a difficult weight cut. Mendes himself heard the Brazilian weighed as much as 174 pounds in the weeks leading up to the fight -- a number which, if true, would confirm Aldo’s weight cut issues.

But more so than any of that, Mendes (10-0) has another theory on why Aldo’s performance fell below some expectations. And if he’s right, it could play a major factor when the two meet for the title in a proposed matchup in August.

“The weight cut might have been part of it but I’m sticking with it’s a completely different kind of conditioning when you’re on the ground,” Mendes told ESPN.com. “His wrestling and grappling conditioning is not the same as his standup conditioning.

“Being explosive on the feet is different than grappling, with the squeezing and pushing and pulling. It’s different on your muscles. We haven’t seen him on the ground a lot and I think that played a part in how tired he looked.”

Using a game plan that surprised many in the arena, Aldo (19-1) relied heavily on his takedowns throughout the Hominick fight. The strategy was effective, as the damage he scored from top position built a lead on the scorecards and led to a unanimous decision.

In the final round, however, Aldo missed on a guillotine attempt and spent a good length of time on his back. Although it didn’t appear Hominick was ever close to ending the fight, he rallied the Canadian fan base, landing a ton of unanswered punches to his winded opponent.

In all, the fight offered the most anyone has ever seen of Aldo’s ground game -- and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Mendes, who’s skills are built primarily around his wrestling.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow. This isn’t what I thought it was going to be,’” Mendes said. “Honestly, it’s what I wanted to see, though. We haven’t seen anybody get on top of him or him do much grappling.

“That’s really the only place I wanted to see this guy and getting to see it was a huge confidence booster for me.”

Although the fight has not been officially announced, Mendes is fully expecting to meet Aldo at UFC 133 in Philadelphia. He plans to start his camp nine weeks out -- a long camp, but one that will be conducted intelligently, as Mendes admits he’s overtrained in the past.

The Sacramento-based fighter has only been training mixed martial arts for 2-and-a-half years and some believe his inexperience could play a factor in the fight. Mendes admits the chance to become a world champion has arrived awfully quick, but there’s no doubt in his mind this is his moment.

“My manager started talking to Dana [White] about this about a month ago,” Mendes said. “I was just telling somebody I can’t believe it’s already here – fighting for a UFC world title. I’ve only been fighting for less than three years. It’s awesome. I’m pumped.”