Mechanical properties of articular cartilage are controlled by tissue composition and structure. Cartilage function is sensitively altered during tissue degeneration, in osteoarthritis (OA). However, mechanical properties of the tissue cannot be determined non-invasively. In the present study, we evaluate the feasibility to predict, without mechanical testing, the stress–relaxation response of human articular cartilage under unconfined compression. This is carried out by combining microscopic and biochemical analyses with composition-based mathematical modeling.Cartilage samples from five cadaver patellae were mechanically tested under unconfined compression. Depth-dependent collagen content and fibril orientation, as well as proteoglycan and water content were derived by combining Fourier transform infrared imaging, biochemical analyses and polarized light microscopy. Finite element models were constructed for each sample in unconfined compression geometry. First, composition-based fibril-reinforced poroviscoelastic swelling models, including composition and structure obtained from microscopical and biochemical analyses were fitted to experimental stress–relaxation responses of three samples. Subsequently, optimized values of model constants, as well as compositional and structural parameters were implemented in the models of two additional samples to validate the optimization.Theoretical stress–relaxation curves agreed with the experimental tests (R=0.95–0.99). Using the optimized values of mechanical parameters, as well as composition and structure of additional samples, we were able to predict their mechanical behavior in unconfined compression, without mechanical testing (R=0.98). Our results suggest that specific information on tissue composition and structure might enable assessment of cartilage mechanics without mechanical testing.