A more appropriate match could not be made for the premier of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights 2014 season. Tonight, Rances Barthelemy will take on Argenis Mendez, who is recovering from a majority draw to Arash Usmanee in last year’s season finale August. This controversial decision is eerily similar and inextricably connected to the previous year’s premier episode in which Barthelemy took on Usmanee and won a highly contested decision. Dan Rafael comments that Barthelemy’s endurance is far from inexhaustible, as he demonstrated in his fight against Usmanee. His tall, lean physique contributes to an advantage in reach and sometimes leverage, but also tends to leave Barthelemy’s defense open after his attack. More compact, quicker fighters like Mendez and Usmanee will always have opportunities to capitalize on these openings and dismantle Barthelemy with counter punches. Mendez, in particular, will be able to put pressure on Barthelemy and exploit his weak conditioning using his jab. According to Rafael, however, Mendez also relies on a philly shell defense which could leave him open to attack from the fighter with the reach advantage.
The deciding factors may revolve around body attacks for both fighters. While Mendez reportedly absorbs blows to the body well, Barthelemy’s lean figure and lack of endurance will make it more difficult for him to win a decision if he faces a sustained body attack. Of course, that scenario requires that Mendez consistently focuses on that particular approach. This will require patience and commitment to a solid defense while Mendez works in past Barthelemy’s reach so he won’t be put down before his opponent’s gas tank is emptied as it was in the 2013 premier against their shared adversary.