The disappointment that was the match between Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is exactly what was needed prior to the fierce showdown that was Aldo vs. Edgar.
Don’t confuse this. Ideally all of the fights at UFC 156 would have been outstanding. However, having a letdown (a unanimous decision won by “Little Nog”) just before the UFC Featherweight Title bout made the ensuing 25 minutes of headlining action that much more sweet.
Frankie Edgar is the modern day “Rocky”. The New Jersey native easily had all of the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Vegas in his corner, but Jose Aldo was just too strong, retaining his belt by unanimous decision.
For the opening three rounds, all went according to Aldo’s plan. The Brazilian unleashed devastating leg kicks, bruising Edgar’s thigh early and often. Edgar’s speed, which was a bigger advantage to him in the 155-pound division, was matched by Aldo, who picked apart the defense of “The Answer” landing jabs at will. Edgar’s toughness shined bright as he battled through the first 15 minutes despite being stuffed on the majority of his takedown attempts.
Then the tide shifted.
Edgar, whose gas tank knows no bounds, kept dancing around the ring despite the early damage. Aldo began to slow. Edgar gritted his teeth and began to land the combinations and takedowns that eluded him, finally pressuring the champion. Breathing heavily through his mouthpiece, the champ’s demeanor changed. The smile that was on Aldo’s face during the first three rounds morphed into something much more serious. In the final 10 minutes, Aldo threw flashy kicks and flying knees in an attempt to steal the later rounds, but frequently missed his mark.
In the end, Edgar’s late onslaught was not enough and the judges ruled against him, 49-46, 49-46, 48-47. Yet no one will begrudge him the merits of a hard-fought battle. Especially when that battle was awarded the bonus for Fight of the Night.
In other action, the return of Alistair Overeem was met with mixed reviews. Some were excited to see such a presence return to the heavyweight division of the UFC. Others were thrilled to see Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva knock Overeem out. In a finish that no one saw coming, Silva was easily behind two rounds to none heading into the third. Seconds into round three, Silva caught Overeem off guard and absolutely unloaded. Overeem, the former Strikeforce champion, fell to the canvas like a mighty oak as the victim of the Knockout of the Night. Silva took a moment to hulk over him and demanded respect before being pulled away by referee Herb Dean. In less than 30 seconds, Antonio Silva turned the UFC heavyweight division into what might officially be the hardest algebra equation in MMA.
In what could be called the “Dave Herman” special, submission specialist Demian Maia (6 of 11 UFC wins via submission) faced the best jiu jitsu defense the UFC has to offer in Jon Fitch. Maia initiated the submission attack early, mounting a still-standing Fitch within the opening seconds. Maia continued to apply the submission pressure throughout the first round. And in fitting fashion for a fight on Groundhog Day, Maia did the same in rounds two and three. The fact that Fitch was not forced to tap is amazing, but not even close to being worthy of an Octagon win.
Note: Jiu Jitsu works. Still.
And in the pay-per-view opener, Joseph Benavidez helped prove why the flyweights are a division to watch in the UFC. Some may criticize the division for a lack of power and ferocity, but anyone who watched this fight would have to disagree. Benavidez brutalized McCall’s thigh, face and anything else he could swing a fist or kick at, while McCall leveled dozens of hammer fists on Benavidez when the fight hit the ground. The activity level in the fight was high and after Benavidez’s unanimous-decision victory, the Team Alpha Male phenom should be on everyone’s radar for a title shot.