Two highly-touted, undefeated bantamweight prospects squared off on the first UFC card of the new year as the Brazilian Mateus Mendonça made his debut at UFC Vegas 67 against Javid Basharat.
Mendonca earned his UFC contract with a sub-one minute finish on the Contender Series, which is also where Basharat got his contract three fights ago. Basharat and his brother Farid had been making waves in the sport, carrying the flag for their native country of Afghanistan, but Mendonça represented perhaps his toughest challenge to date.
Mendonça started the fight pressuring forward while Basharat circled the outside of the octagon. Basharat landed a knee on the wildly advancing Mendonça but the Brazilian caught it and tried to turn it into a takedown. Basharat defended well and escaped back to striking range. Soon after, Mendonça returned a leg kick with one of his own and it took Javid off his feet momentarily. Mendonça was fighting wildly, with reckless abandon as he threw several overhands and even a cartwheel kick.
The explosions were tough to deal with for Basharat but would Mendonça be able to keep it up if the fight went long? Halfway through the first round, Javid landed a big left hand that was the best strike of the fight so far, but Mendonça ate it well and shot a takedown. With chain wrestling he got Basharat to his knees but Javid got back up each time he got dragged to the mat. Basharat eventually escaped fully and landed a spinning back kick to the body. Mendonça’s aggression had slowed down by that point.
Javid shot a takedown of his own with a minute left in round one but the Brazilian defended well and landed a big right hand that may have hurt Basharat, though Javid recovered quickly. Basharat shot and landed a takedown when Mendonça tried unsuccessfully to defend with a guillotine. Javid landed a big elbow and a head kick right at the end of the round, to which Mateus responded with a takedown as time expired on the action-packed first stanza.
The second round started calmer than the first ended, but Mendonça pressured forward once again, more patiently than before. Mendonça landed a low double leg against the fence but Basharat got right back to his feet, eating a left hand on the way up. Basharat focused on drawing out Mendonça’s attacks, pulling away, and countering with his own punches. The Afghani sprawled and defended another takedown attempt. Mendonça seemed to have something wrong with his eye but the action did not stop and Javid landed a takedown into top half guard. Basharat rained down elbows from a dominant top position. Mendonça tried to invert for a leg lock but failed and Basharat continued the barrage. Javid then tried to take the back but ended up in full mount when Mendonça rolled. Mateus did well to regain half-guard from a bad position and then roll for a kneebar, but Basharat was able to mostly extricate his leg and the round ended with only his foot trapped.
A thrilling fight moved into the final round, which started with Mendonça pressing forward again. Javid stayed on the edge of the range and was able to work his jab and kicking game, because the Brazilian was not running forward as he had in round one. Basharat landed a shifting left hand which rocked Mendonça early on. They traded combinations in an even manner several times after that in the pocket, where Javid seemed to be less comfortable than where he likes to fight, i.e. from a distance where he can pick his shots carefully.
Mendonça tried to drag Basharat down from the clinch and had momentary success but Basharat scrambled to top position as always. Mateus almost got a triangle choke right after that but Javid was able to get free and establish top control. Basharat had more trouble this time around with getting strikes off. With a minute and a half left he almost took Mendonça’s back, but got shrugged off and had to shoot another takedown from his knees. The Brazilian tried to go for a guillotine, realizing he needed a finish in order to win, but Basharat escaped and establish top half control again. The final ten seconds saw Basharat go for ground and pound aggressively until Mendonça went for another leg lock. He barely had time to work on it before the bout ended.
Although challenged significantly at several points, Javid Basharat seemed to have won all three rounds in a highly entertaining fight. There were no surprises when the judges read the scorecards other than one judge scoring one round for Mendonça. ‘The Snow Leopard’ stayed undefeated, now moving to 14-0 overall and 3-0 in the UFC. In his interview after the fight, Basharat called out top-15 contender Chris Gutierrez, which seems to be a realistic matchup for him and a great bout for the fans.
Official Result: Javid Basharat def. Mateus Mendonça by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)