The lights grew dim at the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil following the completion of UFC 179.

And when all was said and done, it was José Aldo who defeated Chad Mendes to remain the UFC’s featherweight kingpin. Oh, but it didn’t come easy. No, not at all. Fans in attendance and those watching across the globe witnessed arguably the greatest featherweight brawl since the establishment of the sport. An electrifying display of talent. It was astounding to say the least.

Even the highly sought-after and scandalous, Conor McGregor, tipped his hat to his fellow featherweights who left everything they had inside the Octagon.

But having a piece of history or even gaining McGregor’s approval doesn’t erase the heartbreaking defeat for Mendes. No matter how many thought that Mendes did enough to incur the featherweight strapit simply doesn’t matter. It’s rubbish. What’s finished is finished.

What does matter, however, is the current state of Team Alpha Male.

Team Alpha Male, for the longest time, has been recognized as one of the top gyms in the worldand still are. But progressively over the past three years, the Alpha Males have arrived to “no man’s land”. A land that is uninhabited or undesirable. A place where no fighter or team wants to be.

Urijah Faber was the first arrival to no man’s land.

(Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

(Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

We can all recall “The California Kid” and his scrap with Dominick Cruz at UFC 132. Faber came up short on the judge’s scorecards, eliminating himself from title contention. But the bantam-sphere would change when Cruz would begin a 33-month recovery, which just recently allowed him to return to action. Faber was awarded a shot at the interim title with Renan Barão at UFC 149but Faber found himself on the end of defeat.

So back to the drawing board he went, reeling together four consecutive wins, including stunning submission victories over Ivan Mejivar and Michael McDonald.

And less than two years later, Faber earned another crack at Barão’s title. This time, much less convincing, Faber was on the receiving end of a knockout blow, which once again, eliminated him from title contention. Despite being one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, Faber’s only return to gold will be in a third meeting with Cruzgiven the scenario Cruz would return to the top of the division.

But Faber’s not alone.

Also roaming in no man’s land is fellow Alpha Male, Joseph Benavidez. Currently ranked #2 in the flyweight division, Benavidez’s last three defeats have come in title fights.

(Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

(Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

Benavidez earned his way to the flyweight tournament final against Demetrious Johnson following a brutal knockout finish over Yasuhiro Urushitani. But when the rubber met the road, Johnson’s quickness and brilliant technique was simply too much. Benavidez would drop a close split decision.

Back to the drawing board went Benavidez, but with a mission in mind. The Alpha Male member cashed in three consecutive wins, including a stellar decision win over Ian McCall, and earned his way back to the top.

But much like Faber’s second go-around, things went south like rapid fire. Just a tad over two minutes into a rematch with Johnson, Benavidez was dropped by a right hook which were followed by two ferocious connectors.

And just like that, Faber had company.

Sure T.J. Dillashaw was the team’s saving grace when he stunned Barão and the world alike at UFC 173. But in all reality, he needs more than a title defense over Joe Soto to be declared elite. His bona fide test is on the horizon with Cruz in the near future.



UFC 179 provided another seat in no man’s land as we witnessed Mendes fall by decision, for the second time to Aldo. While Mendes has grown leaps and bounds since his first meeting with Aldo at UFC 142, his current state in the UFC’s hottest division remains unknown.

Mendes holds the most upscale in a potential third shot at gold after a thrilling performance at UFC 179. Even still, it’s unlikely we’ll see Mendes return to title contention, especially with McGregor on the rise, along with other contenders in Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, and Dennis Bermudez.

Faber, Benavidez, and now Mendes, have dropped consecutive title shots. And we know, a third shot at gold is rare.

It’s an ascending battle for Team Alpha Male as they move forward. No man’s land is a dreaded place, but not one without escape.

If we’re fighting just to fight, the Alpha Males are safe. Job security is intact.

But sometimes tells me this team has the bar set higher. It’s not an impossible feat to accomplish, but it’s certainly an uphill climb out of no man’s land for Team Alpha Male.


 Follow @GarrettDerr on Twitter.