No one has been able to stop featherweight prospect Chad Mendes (8-0) up to this point in his mixed martial arts career, but longtime veteran Javier Vazquez (15-4) plans to do just that when the two meet in the co-main event of WEC 52: Faber vs. Mizugaki on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas.
Vazquez, a former collegiate wrestler with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, has excelled for years in MMA, well known to hardcore fans but outside of the mainstream spotlight. With a King of the Cage title and a win over Shooto legend Rumina Sato to his credit, Vazquez got his shot at the big stage in 2009, when he made his WEC debut against L.C. Davis.
Most everyone in attendance felt Vazquez won the fight, but somehow the judges ended up giving Davis the split decision. Two months later Vazquez returned to the WEC to face Deividas Taurosevicius and after a close first two rounds, he dominated round three. But again, despite the effort, Vazquez came up short on the scorecards and lost another split decision.
Vazquez didn’t let the bad luck frustrate him, though, and he pulled off back-to-back submission wins over Jens Pulver and Mackens Semerzier.
Vazquez spoke to ProMMAnow.com on Thursday about his WEC career so far, his upcoming bout with Mendes and the UFC-WEC merger.
“There’s not much you can do,” he said of the Davis and Taurosevicius losses. “I did feel I won. You ask either one of them if they want a rematch with me and I doubt it. But it’s just part of the game I guess.”
He added, “It didn’t bring me down in any way. I thought I fought well, and I didn’t make any mistakes or take any damage. I mean, could I have fought better? Yes. I should’ve been in better shape.”
Now with his WEC record up to 2-2, Vazquez has a shot at Mendes, with an opportunity to climb further up the 145-pound ladder.
Vazquez recently drew the ire of Mendes by referring to him as “spoon fed” by the WEC. When asked about his comments, Vazquez replied, “I don’t necessarily think it’s been super easy for him, but they’ve definitely been catering to him a little bit.
“I didn’t say it to get him worked up. But if you look at the choice of opponents, I mean Erik Koch is tough, but they figured [Mendes would] blow threw him. He ended up having a tough time, and so they gave him Anthony Morrison … They could’ve given him stylistically much tougher matches.”
Thus far, Mendes has used his strong wrestling background to go 3-0 in the WEC, but Vazquez thinks he has just the style to test Mendes in every area and give Mendes the first blemish on his record.
“I think this fight’s going to have a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be able to stop a couple of his takedowns, but won’t be able to stop all of them. That’s not really a big deal to me … I’m very good from there. I’m hard to hit, have a dangerous guard.”
In other interviews, Mendes has stated that he wants to open up more against Vazquez and push the pace. If he does that, Vazquez believes Mendes will be more prone to making a mistake that he can exploit. “He’s going to be frustrated if he takes me down,” he said. “Not all Jiu Jitsu black belts are built the same.”
If the fight stays on the feet, that’s fine with Vazquez too. “I might not be Anderson Silva, but I don’t think that he’s comfortable there yet.”
And even with the high stakes, Vazquez knows that, at least from the public’s perception, the pressure is on his Mendes. “It’s not on me; I’m just a wily veteran, a stepping stone for the next big thing,” he said wryly.
All Eyes on Jose Aldo, UFC
Whether it’s Vazquez or Mendes, the winner on Nov. 11 will certainly put himself much closer to a shot at former WEC kingpin and newly-crowned UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who faces Josh Grispi at UFC 125. Vazquez has the utmost respect for the current champ, though he has some ideas of how to beat him if the opportunity comes his way.
“I definitely feel he’s outstanding. Seeing him two years ago I thought he’d beat Urijah Faber if they fought.” Vazquez added, “I don’t give a whole lot of credit to a whole lot of people, but he’s very talented. But everyone can be beaten, and I have a few ideas of what I could do from watching him.”
And for a fighter that’s worked as long at his craft as Vazquez, finally getting the recognition that comes from fighting under the UFC banner hasn’t gone unnoticed. “It’s really nice to finally get that chance. I did it the hard way, but I didn’t take the long road because I sucked,” he said with a laugh.
“We are fighting the best guys in the world in our respective weight classes and now we’ll have the UFC name to back that fact up. This is a huge deal for us. Bigger stage, bigger pay, and bigger opportunities. I’m very happy. For me it’s been a long road to finally fight In the UFC. Now with that goal accomplished, it’s time to win the UFC Championship!”