It looks like Chad Mendes has arrived. He has proven himself to be amongst the best at 145lbs in the UFC.
It was always a question of when and how -- but Chad "Money" Mendes' meteoric rise through the UFC ranks has kept people talking. He's 8-2 in the UFC, and has six of his last seven wins coming by way of knockout.
Only Jose Aldo has been able to upend the Alpha Male emissary, and he did so twice. Otherwise, he has assumed a position firmly ahead of the pack at Featherweight, and a win over #4-ranked Ricardo Lamas would secure it once again on Saturday.
For all intents and purposes, the fighter from Chicago, 6-1 in the UFC, posed serious imperil to Mendes' mount on the #1 contender spot. If Lamas would have been able to survive through one of Mendes' usual early surges, his experience could have been enough to earn him the victory.
He would ultimately leave the cage shocked and devastated. The #1 ranked Featherweight, Mendes, overcame any possible jitters or stutters in the main event of this early-afternoon show in Fairfax, Virginia to topple the 32-year-old Lamas, whose only other UFC loss also came against the nonpareil Jose Aldo.
Not only did Lamas lose the fight but Mendes swept through all of his striking attempts and put the fight to an end with a furious barrage of punches in the first round. Referee Dan Miragliotta pulled the curtain at 2:45.
So, what now? Mendes was twice sent away empty-handed against Jose Aldo, but has yet to lock horns with explosive Irishman Conor McGregor. If McGregor finally shunts the Brazilian's title reign at UFC 189, could "Money" Mendes cash-in on his high rankings fixture?
An option less predicated on the deposition of the UFC's longest actively-reigning champion could be Frankie Edgar, the #2-ranked Featherweight. He, too, fell short against Jose Aldo, but is the former UFC Lightweight champion, and will stand toe-to-toe with any opponent. That is the blueprint for a main event worth watching; no matter the start time.
Edgar, 33, first must face Uriah Faber at UFC Fight Night in the Philippines. A win would leave him with a 4-0 mark in the same number of fights, and all but force him to collide with one of the hardest hitters in the division. Anything is worth a shot at vengeance for Mendes, Edgar, and all of the other talent shut out by Jose Aldo's magnificent four-and-a-half year title reign.
No matter how it turns out for him, Mendes has made one thing crystal-clear: he will be overshadowed no longer. All cards are on the table in his seventh year as a professional MMA fighter.