Aldo, first name Jose, marched toward the Octagon to Jay-Z’s “Run This Town (Tonight)” and did exactly that, snatching his 14th straight victory in front of his Rio de Janeiro faithful. The first-round knockout of No. 1 contender Chad Mendes will force even the most stubborn minds to rethink whether Jon Jones or Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre really is the most talented fighter on the planet. Fresh off his fifth world title defense, Aldo is now a certified superstar – and it is legitimate to speculate if there is any current fighter at either 145 pounds OR 155 pounds that will beat this guy on his A game (You have to think that Aldo would be favored against anybody at either weight class). Scary part: he is only 25 years old, nowhere near his physical prime.
Brazilian fighters added more ammunition to claims that they produce the world’s best mixed martial artists by rewarding home fans with a 7-1 record on the night against opponents from other nations. The UFC has held three events in South America’s largest country. In those shows Brazilian fighters have amassed a combined (and staggering) 16-2 record against foreigners.
Can’t conceive how Anthony Johnson failed to make weight BY 11 POUNDS!!! Will forever boggle the mind, no matter how many excuses are conjured up. Let’s put this Cardinal Sin of professional fighting into historical perspective: Up until the 142 weigh-in, the Poster Boy for jaw-dropping overweightedness had been Paulo Filho, another incredible talent who famously tipped the scales at seven pounds over before his middleweight world title defense against Chael Sonnen for WEC 36. Those who cheer for Karma to always prevail in the end can take comfort in this: Being overweight for a main card fight is usually a bad omen for the perpetrator. Filho, like Johnson, was as much of a failure in the fight as he was during the weight cut. Both Filho and Johnson paid for their transgressions not only with reduced paychecks, but also losses inside the cage.
Disqualification of Erick Silva for alleged strikes to the back of the head, wiping away what would have been a jubilant 29-second triumph in front of his countrymen, was heart-wrenching to watch, especially since video replays showed scant evidence of the fouls. Reminds me of Jon Jones losing via disqualification after annihilating Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter finale 10 (illegal elbows being the culprit, the lone “loss” of Jones’ career). Though he remained poised and polished during an interview with Joe Rogan immediately following the defeat, Jones went backstage, away from fans and cameras, and was emotionally devastated. I can’t help but think that Erick Silva (13-2, 1 NC) was the same Saturday night in Rio after being deprived of what have been the finest moment of his career thus far.
Extraordinary is my thought on Joe Rogan’s impromptu interview with referee Mario Yamasaki following the Prater-Silva shocker. How often do you see that? Rogan is just so brutally candid, which I happen to think is generally a good quality in people. He felt Silva’s pain and wanted Yamasaki – one of the sport’s most competent and veteran referees – to explain the call.
Fight of the Night bonuses ($65,000) went to Edson Barboza and Terry Etim.
Gabriel Gonzaga, whom some had written off after he lost three of four UFC fights and embarked on a one-year hiatus, returned to the Octagon with a vengeance. The 250-pound BJJ world champ had lamented relying too much on his striking and returned to his roots with a rear naked choke that dealt Ednaldo Oliveira (13-1-1, 1 NC) his first career loss.
Heel hooks are rarely successful in the UFC, but Rousimar Palhares is an exception to the rule. The 185-pound ball of muscle clamped onto Mike Massenzio’s ankle early in the first round and, before Palhares even commenced any of the limb, Joe Rogan accurately predicted that trying to escape so early in the bout without benefit of sweat was futile: “Fight’s over,” Rogan said.
And it was, just 63 seconds in, giving Palhares his seventh win in nine UFC fights. One remark: I’ll bet you Massenzio spent the majority of his camp focusing on how to defend heel hooks, leg locks and kneebars. But it’s hard to mimic the kind of beastly latch Palhares imposes on a limb. Only Frank Mir can be considered an equal in that department, as both are clearly the last two guys you want cranking on your limb.
I suspect that Anthony Johnson, after missing weight three different times under the UFC banner, could someday return to the UFC. But if I was him, and that forgiveness and opportunity for redemption ever comes, I might opt for the 205-pound weight class instead (just to be on the safe side).
Jose Aldo’s spontaneous sprint into the stands at HSBC Arena – for those who might think it unprecedented was not Jr.’s first foray into the crowd. An overflow of emotion prompted him to do the MMA version of a “Lambeau Leap” after a first-round knockout of Rolando Perez four years ago at WEC 38 (in San Diego, Calif.). Word is that Aldo’s renowned trainer, Andre Pederneiras, was not too fond of the Aldo running into the stands (nor was he fond of Aldo’s daring habit of doing somersault’s off the Octagon following wins). Aldo had been much tamer in his celebrations until Saturday, as the energy in the sold-out arena and the sentimental value of the moment apparently overcame him (and also probably scared the crap out of the security officials responsible for the arduous task of extracting the raging showman from a virtual mosh pit of fans).
Knockout of the Night went to Edson Barboza, whose spinning wheel kick to the face sent Terry Etim to the canvas stiff as a wooden board. By coincidence, the third-round knockout happened just as Joe Rogan was noting that Etim, likely trailing on the judges’ scorecards, might need to attack more. Rogan wondered aloud, “Do you want to take a chance and risk getting knocked out? (at that moment Barboza spun and the heel of his foot thumped Etim’s jaw).
Barboza, a lightweight, improved to 10-0.
Lovely Brazilian women in the crowd didn’t get as much love from the cameras as some of us would have liked.
Miscellaneous fact worth mentioning: There are at least four different fighters named Anderson Silva in MMA, PLUS another named “Wanderson” Silva.
“THE” famous Anderson Silva is 31-4 in his legendary career.
The combined record of the three other Anderson Silvas (and Wanderson Silva) is 10-15.
Not since March 2001, back in his days with Pride, had Vitor Belfort submitted an opponent in live competition (Bobby Southworth being the answer to the trivia question). Though Belfort is renowned for his hand-speed and punching prowess, that decade-long submission drought is remarkable when you consider that Belfort has been a BJJ black belt since the tender age of 19 (receiving the honor under the late, great Carlson Gracie).
Another important point about Belfort: His career resurgence is as admirable as it is rare. Here is a man who, in the mid-2000s, fought seven times AND LOST FIVE OF THEM. Many – including myself -- wrote Belfort off entirely, thinking “The Phenom” had all the physical talent in the world but lacked the mental toughness and drive to rise to elite status again.
And now? The 34-year-old Belfort has won seven of his past eight, which is a credit to his own mental maturity and the fine team he has assembled around him, which includes kickboxing coach Ray Sefo, Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (BJJ black belt world champion) and Ginastica Natural pioneer Alvaro Romano.
Opinion: The Vitor Belfort-Wanderlei Silva rematch, slated for later this year, will not go past one round. But me, like you, will darn sure be watching every second of their fisticuffs. It’s been more than 13 years – 13 YEARS – since these two icons collided. I don’t remember ever waiting 13 years to see a rematch. I’m sure Wanderlei has often fantasized about revenge since absorbing that 44-second annihilation to Belfort back in 1998. But their looming sequel might prove to be another example of “Be Careful What You Wish For.”
Priceless: An arena filled with passionate, flag-waving Brazilians. Nobody does it better.
Q is for Quicksand, the moniker of one Mike Pyle, who earned the distinction of being the only foreigner to defeat a Brazilian on the night. Angered and embarrassed after being steamrolled by Rory MacDonald in his last fight, the Las Vegan standout blitzed Ricardo Funch with a sizzling right hand and knees en route to a first-round stoppage. “I want to thank my wife for putting up with me all during my camp,” Pyle said afterwards. Might not be the last time a pro fighter uses that line.
Really curious whom Aldo’s next challenger will be. Erik Koch (13-1) has to be in the mix. Dustin Poirier (11-1) goes for five straight at UFC 143 next month. Both are tall, lanky, aggressive fighters. But neither can match Aldo’s speed.
Strange coincidence: Both Aldo and Belfort wished their mothers Happy Birthday following their fight Saturday night.
Thiago Tavares is finally living up to his potential. Tavares’ decision win over Sam Stout pushed his record to 4-1-1 in his past six contests.
Unbeaten: Edson Barboza, whose standup, speed and ferocious leg attacks have drawn comparisons to Jose Aldo, improved to 10-0. The two other unbeatens on the card, Chad Mendes and Ednaldo Oliveira, suffered their first losses Saturday night.
Vitor Belfort said he cut over 20 pounds in the days leading up to his fights. As any athlete who has ever cut weight knows, it is often the most miserable of processes, a test of mental fortitude and discipline. So when a fighter misses weight, his opponents usually view it not only as unprofessional, but also a sign of weakness. A sign that a fighter couldn’t hack the misery of the process necessary to make weight. Seeing a fighter not make weight is analogous to seeing a fighter “break” or give up in a fight. Once a fighter senses that quit in an opponent, it is like a shark seeing red.
Welterweights beware: Mike Pyle says he’s bringing the same intensity to you that he brought against Ricardo Funch.
X-cellent: Still wondering when a fighter will be daring enough to use an X-guard BJJ sweep in the Octagon.
Yuri Alcantara won a unanimous decision over fellow featherweight Michihiro Omigawa. Alcantara is now 26-3.
(Pardon the creativity) Mike MassenZio, a former Junior college national wrestling champ and BJJ black belt, jumpstarted his pro career at 9-1 but has now dropped five of his past eight.