-This year’s Super Bowl UFC show was typically stacked from top to bottom – not only with three awesome fights at the top of the card (Aldo vs. Edgar, Evans vs. Nogueira and Overeem vs. Bigfoot) but with the added intrigue of two of the world’s top three Flyweights clashing AND a number of StrikeForce imports making their UFC debuts. I was as hyped for this one as I was for any recent UFC show – mainly for the Return of the Reem though, gotta admit it!

UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar

02/02/13

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Bantamweight Fight: Francisco Rivera vs Edwin Figueroa

Would’ve sworn that these two had already fought, but evidently not. Figueroa had been on the shelf for a year after his controversial win over Bruce Leroy at UFC 143, while Rivera had seen his UFC 149 win over Roland Delorme overturned due to a positive drug test. No real pick from me here if I’m honest as both guys are pretty much on the same level.

Round One and Rivera opens with a leg kick. Figueroa has grown a big beard for this fight and both men look really similar. Couple more kicks connect for Rivera. Wild combo lands for Figueroa and he follows with a body kick. Rivera fires back but he looks a little stunned. Exchange continues with a front kick to the body from Rivera. Big left hook drops Rivera and Figueroa pounces, but Rivera locks him up in full guard quickly. Triangle attempt from Rivera but Figueroa postures free and they stand. Body kick from Rivera but Figueroa connects on a jab. Good combos land for both men. Nice uppercut from Rivera. These guys are swinging. Big left hook lands for Figueroa again. Rivera decides to change things up after that and takes him down into guard. Easy pass into side mount from Rivera and he does a good job of avoiding half-guard. Figueroa rolls and gives his neck, but then manages to stand before Rivera can go for a choke. Couple of kicks land for Rivera but Figueroa’s countering nicely with the jab. Head kick glances for Rivera. Couple of punches land inside and then Rivera trips him down into guard. Seconds to go and Rivera drops some solid punches over the top, then avoids some wild upkicks. Axe kick misses for Rivera and that’s the round. I’d call it 10-9 Figueroa for the knockdown.

Round Two and Rivera lands a pair of hard leg kicks from the off. He’s moving around a little better now throwing out some more feints. Big overhand right misses for Figueroa. Jab connects for Rivera. Low kick is countered by Figueroa and he puts Rivera down, but Rivera immediately looks for a triangle from his back. Figueroa avoids and settles into the guard with some short ground-and-pound. Good shots from the top from Figueroa as Rivera looks to use an underhook and the fence to stand. He gets up and breaks free, then pushes forward with a leg kick. Body kick connects for Rivera. Figueroa looks a little tired now and he’s winging haymakers. Good combo from Rivera. Another combo lands and Rivera easily avoids the wild counters. Couple of leg kicks land for Rivera and he continues to stalk forward. Figueroa looks GASSED. Big right hand connects for Rivera. Figueroa fires back with a wild one-two. Good combo from Rivera backs Figueroa up. Exchange continues and a pair of right hands have Figueroa stunned. He swings right back, but Rivera’s eating him up with combinations now and a hard right buckles his legs badly. Big combo follows and Figueroa is ROCKED LIKE A HURRICANE and I have no clue how he’s still on his feet. Rivera keeps on swinging and a pair of HUGE RIGHT HAYMAKERS send Figueroa crashing down, and referee Kim Winslow calls it there. Awesome finish.

Really fun opener; Figueroa was in control with his power shots in the first round, but he tired out badly and once he was reduced to swinging haymakers, Rivera’s more disciplined striking cut him to shreds, finishing with a real knockout for the highlight reels. Love it!

Bantamweight Fight: Dustin Kimura vs Chico Camus

Team Roufusport’s Camus had debuted successfully at UFC 150 against Dustin Pague and had looked pretty impressive, and he was faced with another debutant here in the young Hawaiian Kimura, who might have the coolest name in MMA. Despite Kimura’s 9-0 record I was picking Camus because I’d never seen the newcomer before and none of his opponents stood out to me.

Fight begins and they circle before Camus lands with a hard right hand. Into the clinch and Camus hits a takedown to guard. Triangle attempt by Kimura as the announcers make the obvious joke about him winning via kimura. Camus manages to posture out nicely. Another attempt follows but Camus continues to defend. He’s doing very little from the top, though. Rubber guard attempt into an oma plata from Kimura and it looks quite deep. Camus rolls out, but winds up on the bottom. He immediately looks to kick Kimura, but gives his back in a scramble and Kimura immediately takes the back with one hook. Good escape from Camus and he’s on top again in full guard. Rubber guard attempt again from Kimura but he can’t get it. Camus remains on top but he still isn’t doing all that much. Kimura attempt (!) from Kimura but Camus avoids. Rubber guard again follows but Camus postures out. Seconds to go and it looks like Camus is content to ride the round out on top. Armbar attempt from Kimura but Camus avoids and lands a pair of hammer fists on the buzzer. Kimura won that round from the bottom I’d say, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Camus opens with a nice leg kick. Couple more shots glance for Camus as Kimura circles on the outside. Couple more kicks land for Camus and Kimura isn’t doing much at all here really outside of circling. Counter right connects for Camus. Pair of rights glance for Kimura. Into the clinch and Camus muscles him into the fence, where he works him over a little with some short punches. Takedown follows and he lands in Kimura’s guard. Sweep attempt from Kimura and then he tries a triangle, but Camus does a good job to avoid. Armbar looks locked though but again Camus shows some good defense to avoid. Looks like Kimura might have a triangle, but the round ends before he can seal the deal. 10-9 Camus.

Third round and Camus opens with a right hand that lands. Low kick connects for Camus. Single leg attempt from Camus but this time Kimura defends it and they end up clinched. Camus looks for a takedown, but Kimura continues to defend and then breaks off. Right hand from Camus. Single leg attempt but Kimura hits a SICK REVERSAL and somehow ends up in full mount! Camus gives his back and from there Kimura controls him with both hooks and locks up a rear naked choke for the tapout.

For a guy I’d never heard of Kimura looked really, REALLY slick on the ground and totally outworked Camus every time they went down. Not sure why Camus kept looking for the takedown when he was getting owned on the ground, but more fool him I guess. Big win for Dustin Kimura in his UFC debut and I look forward to seeing him fight again.

Lightweight Fight: Isaac Vallie-Flagg vs Yves Edwards

This was actually a bit of a history-making fight, as Vallie-Flagg was the first StrikeForce fighter making the move into the UFC following that promotion being folded. He was given a tough test in veteran Edwards – who had looked excellent in KOing Jeremy Stephens in December – and despite winning his two StrikeForce bouts I figured this might be a step too far for him. By the way, there’s NO WAY I’m constantly typing Vallie-Flagg, so he’s going to be known as IVF in my play-by-play. Nothing to do with fertilisation or eggs or anything, bro.

Round One and IVF pushes forward swinging right away. Kick to the body connects but Edwards answers with an uppercut. IVF continues to push the pace, landing a couple of front kicks to the body and backing Yves up. Combination glances for Edwards and he follows with a body shot, but Isaac continues to push forward with a hard right hand. Good knee into the clinch from IVF but Yves breaks and lands a head kick on the way out. Nice low kick from Yves drops Isaac to a knee for a second. Isaac comes back by landing some shots from close range before Yves backs out. Nice right hand lands for IVF. Superman punch misses but sets up a clinch for IVF, and they exchange from inside with short shots landing for both. Back out and IVF lands with an uppercut. Good leg kick into a body kick from Yves and he defends a single leg with a jumping knee. IVF manages to muscle him into the fence, but little happens from there and they break off. Leg kick from Edwards but IVF chases forward with punches before clinching to close the round out. Close round but I’d lean slightly to IVF as he was the aggressor.

Round Two and IVF pushes forward with the right hand again and looks to close distance. Body kick from Edwards is caught and IVF forces him into the fence. They exchange along the fence before breaking off. Left hand glances for Yves. Spinning backfist misses for IVF. Nice knee to the body from the clinch from Yves but Isaac works him with a combination before breaking off. Nice jab connects for Yves but IVF keeps coming forward. Good punches from both men. IVF muscles him back into the fence, but Yves quickly reverses position and drops for a takedown. IVF defends it, but Edwards gets a single leg trip and gets him down into half-guard. Edwards works to pass and gets into side mount. Full mount now for Yves with a minute and half remaining. IVF gives his back and Edwards gets both hooks in to control him. IVF defends the choke, but its Edwards that remains in dominant position to end the round. 10-9 Edwards to even things up.

Round Three and IVF pushes forward with a push kick to the body. Leg kick answers for Yves. Good right hand from IVF as he comes forward and he’s backing Yves up with punches. Edwards fires back with some sharp counters though and narrowly misses with a head kick. IVF continues to really push the pace, but he eats a vicious knee from Yves from close range. Into the clinch and Isaac forces Yves into the fence, where they exchange from close range. They break off and continue to exchange, and this is a really, really even fight. Good front kick into a right hand from IVF but Edwards fires some counters right back. Knee and another right connect for Isaac. Takedown attempt from Edwards but Vallie-Flagg defends it well. Into the clinch and IVF lands with some solid elbow strikes. They break and IVF continues to land, hitting Yves cleanly with a combo as the veteran seems to be slowing down badly now. Back into the clinch and Yves is blatantly gassed. They break off and IVF continues to land clean combinations, really beginning to pull away now. Back into the clinch and he forces Edwards into the fence, before they break and exchange to the buzzer. IVF won that round in the last two and a half minutes and I think it’s his fight.

Judges have it 29-28 IVF, 29-28 Edwards and 29-28 for Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Word. Close fight and really it probably came down to that razor-close first round, but the right guy won as IVF was clearly pushing the pace in the third round and totally broke Yves down with his pace. Very surprising result in my eyes as I guess I totally underestimated Isaac’s talents. Fun stuff too as Isaac never stopped coming forward and was super-aggressive from start to finish.

Lightweight Fight: Bobby Green vs Jacob Volkmann

Another StrikeForce import, Green had reeled off four wins on the bounce in the promotion before making the move to the UFC. The ever-controversial, Obama-hating Volkmann meanwhile had bounced back from a loss to Paul Sass by actually finishing an opponent (Shane Roller) in a bit of a shocker. I was pulling for Green here although it seemed like a tough match for him, because let’s be frank, who wants to see Volkmann win?

First round and Green pushes forward as Volkmann throws out some kicks. Few feeler strikes from Green and it looks like he’s ready to stuff the takedown. Good kick to the body from Green. Takedown attempt from Volkmann and he gets on a single leg. Green does a good job of defending but Volkmann switches to a rear waistlock and trips him down. Green manages to get to half-guard quickly though. Green tries to reverse out but Volkmann remains in control in top position, blanketing the StrikeForce import. Explosion from Green allows him to get to full guard, but Volkmann remains on top and he stands and looks like he’s going for a Boston crab (!) before stacking him against the fence. Green manages to kick him away for a moment but Volkmann gets right back on him and takes the back in the scramble. Body triangle from Volkmann and he’s in firm control here. Seconds remaining and it looks like Volkmann’s going to end the round with back control. 10-9 Volkmann.

Second round begins with a nice leg kick from Green. Volkmann hits a takedown, but Green manages to pop back up. Another sprawl follows but Volkmann grabs a guillotine and forces him into the clinch. Green gets his head free and they muscle on the fence before breaking. Takedown attempt again from Volkmann but Green shakes him off nicely. Volkmann goes onto his back and Green drops a solid right hand into the guard. Solid elbows from Green and he’s doing a good job from top position. Into half-guard now and Green continues to grind on him with elbows. Really nice shots connect for Green and he continues to work, doing far more damage than Volkmann did in the opening round. Absolutely BAFFLING stand-up from referee Kim Winslow has the crowd booing like crazy and disgusts Joe Rogan too. Green taunts Volkmann and then lands some nice punches including a right to the body. Takedown from Volkmann though and he gets the back again as Green pops back up. Volkmann pulls him down and gets the body triangle again, working for the choke. Seconds remaining and it looks like Green will survive, but Volkmann ends the round in dominant position. Still, 10-9 Green for his work on top.

Third round and Green pops Volkmann with a pair of right hands early on and backs him up. Takedown attempt from Volkmann is stuffed and Green lands with a good knee. Left hand lands for Green but Volkmann counters with a low blow and Kim Winslow has to call time. Green takes about a minute to recover and they restart. Good inside leg kick from Green and he avoids having his leg caught. Into the clinch and Green lands a hard knee and then trips Volkmann down nicely. Into north/south for Green and he grabs a headlock as Volkmann tries to reverse. Volkmann manages to get to half-guard but Green stays on top and begins to grind with elbows. Good reversal from Volkmann, but Green avoids a takedown and gets to his feet to a big pop. Good body shot from Green. Takedown attempt from Volkmann is stuffed by Green and Volkmann is looking tired now. Takedown from Volkmann but Green hits an instant reversal and gets to his feet. Volkmann manages to scramble and take the back standing though and he pulls Green down and gets one hook in. Green gets rid of the hook and tries to wriggle free, and somehow manages to turn into full mount! Crowd EXPLODE as Green really opens up with some HUGE SHOTS and then he slams Volkmann down as he clings on, GSP-style! Volkmann looks exhausted and beaten down, and he gives his back and that allows Green to SINK THE CHOKE AND TAP HIM OUT!~!

Best Jacob Volkmann fight in FOREVER mainly because Green was able to overcome the adversity, prevent Volkmann’s gameplan and punish him en route to choking him out, even after a bizarre stand-up from the referee in the 2nd. So not really down to Volkmann but hey! Pretty much a star-making performance from Green and I can’t wait to see him fight again. Post-fight we also see a replay of him hitting a fucking SWANTON BOMB into the Octagon prior to the fight, which is INSANE.

Welterweight Fight: Tyron Woodley vs Jay Hieron

Woodley was the StrikeForce fighter I was most excited to see debut in the UFC on this card, as despite a bit of a dull reputation I’ve been a fan of his for some time and I was expecting him to make some serious noise at 170lbs in the Octagon. Opponent Hieron had made an unsuccessful return to the UFC in a boring loss to Jake Ellenberger and I couldn’t see this one going much better, as Woodley is a better striker and wrestler in my opinion.

Fight begins and both men press with low stances, before Woodley suddenly EXPLODES FORWARD WITH A HUGE RIGHT HAND! Hieron FOLDS and Tyron pounces with some more shots, then KNOCKS HIM DEAD as he rolls to his back. Holy shit.

Post-fight Woodley leaps around flexing his lats like he’s doing the world’s best impression of Houston Alexander. Scary, scary knockout and it was awesome to see Woodley live up to his potential here. He’s lost since in a dull showing to Jake Shields but I still think he’s got the skills to end up as a title contender at 170lbs, and this definitely showed why. Phenomenal UFC debut.

Lightweight Fight: Evan Dunham vs Gleison Tibau

This was a really intriguing fight actually and one that was being largely overlooked for some reason. Dunham – despite a loss to TJ Grant in his last fight – is a guy who still has the potential to break into the top ten in my opinion, while Tibau is basically the best gatekeeper in the world at 155lbs as he beats everyone but the real tip-top fighters. This was a super-tough fight to pick and I couldn’t really decide a winner.

Round One begins with Dunham circling on the outside as Tibau stalks forward. Both men throw out some feeler shots before Dunham lands with a sharp combo after about 30 seconds. Left hand glances over the top for Tibau. Good left from Dunham. Tibau fires back and they trade wildly with both men landing. Big left hook from Tibau backs Dunham up and he follows with a takedown. Dunham scrambles but Tibau locks up a guillotine and drops to guard to tighten it before flipping into top position, but Dunham gets to half-guard and slips his head free. Sweep attempt from Dunham but Tibau avoids and it looks like he might be going for a D’Arce. Instead he takes a front facelock with Dunham on his knees. Evan looks to work to his feet, and does so, forcing the Brazilian into the fence in the clinch. They muscle for position and exchange some knees inside, before Dunham breaks with a right. Body kick is blocked by Tibau. Pair of right jabs connect for the Brazilian. Good knee from close range lands for him too, but Dunham comes back with a one-two. Left hand lands for Tibau. Takedown attempt from Dunham but Tibau stuffs it and they wind up in the clinch again. Dunham keeps trying for the takedown but he can’t get the larger man down, and the round ends with the fighters exchanging knees. Close round; 10-10 in fact as neither man really had a major advantage.

Round Two and both men press and exchange some punches early on. Big swings miss for Tibau and Dunham catches him with a right hook. Takedown attempt by Tibau is avoided. Leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Dunham catches him again on the counter nicely with a one-two. Another one follows and Dunham then avoids a combo from Tibau. Good left connects for Tibau in an exchange. Takedown attempt from Dunham and he gets Tibau down for a second before the Brazilian pops back up into the clinch. They muscle for position in the clinch before Dunham breaks. Good right jab from Dunham. Takedown attempt is blocked by Dunham. Stiff jab lands for Dunham. Takedown attempt follows but Tibau muscles him right off. One minute to go in the round and a straight left glances for Dunham. Exchange sees Dunham land the better punches. Right hook follows. Tibau has definitely slowed down a lot now in terms of his output. Another left hand connects for Dunham. Tibau’s swinging haymakers but Dunham is avoiding them nicely. Beautiful combination lands for Dunham ending in an uppercut. Tibau swings back and the round ends there. 10-9 Dunham.

Round Three and Dunham comes right out and catches him with some strikes. Tibau swings wildly but can’t land. Takedown from Tibau and he looks for a guillotine off the scramble, but he can’t get it and Dunham forces him back into the fence with a right to the body. They break off and Tibau is clearly winded as he’s eating long punches from Dunham and just swinging wild haymakers back. Takedown attempt from Dunham is stuffed and Tibau comes back with a solid left hand. Dunham continues to work him with the jab though and Tibau is absolutely gassed. He does manage to stuff a takedown, though. Takedown attempt from Tibau after Dunham lands a jab, but he can’t get Evan down. They break off with half of the round remaining. Heavy combination lands for Evan. Another Tibau takedown is stuffed too. Tibau is just swinging wildly. Takedown attempt from Dunham is stuffed though. Big knee from the clinch connects for Dunham and he follows up with a couple more stiff jabs. Hard one-two from Dunham. Tibau is looking marked up now but he’s doing well to take these shots. Another takedown is stuffed by Tibau but Dunham connects on him from the clinch and then breaks. Dunham is really picking the Brazilian apart here. Couple of step-in elbows connect for Dunham. Big knee from Dunham rocks Tibau and he looks to follow up, but can’t finish him before the end of the fight. 10-9 Dunham and I have this 30-28 for him.

Judges call it a split decision; 29-28 Dunham, 29-28 Tibau and 29-28 for Dunham. No idea how you’d score that for Tibau as Dunham clearly took the last two rounds. Right man won in the end though. Difference here was basically the fact that Tibau couldn’t handle the pace that Dunham put on him in the last two rounds – the word was that he’d had a bad weight cut that had drained him – and Evan just pulled away in the final round by striking with the cleaner shots from the outside and stuffing the takedowns, even if he was unable to land a takedown of his own. Decent if forgettable fight but nice to see Dunham back on track as I’m always a fan of his.

Flyweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Ian McCall

Awesome opener here with the consensus #2 Flyweight in the world taking on the #3, which is always pretty rare. The styles seemed to favour Benavidez who is a little bit faster and probably a slightly better wrestler, but I was hoping that Uncle Creepy could pull it out as I still think he got dicked by the judges in his first fight with Mighty Mouse, plus he has the world’s coolest moustache, duh.

First round and they exchange low kicks before Uncle Creepy goes for a takedown. Benavidez shows some excellent defense and scrambles free before landing with a right on the break. These guys are moving seriously fast. Good left hook from McCall to counter a body kick. Hard body kick follows for Uncle Creepy. Kick lands low for Benavidez but McCall decides to carry on. Knee to the body from Uncle Creepy. Good right from Benavidez in a trade and he follows with a low kick. Nice combination from Benavidez wobbles McCall’s legs and he looks to follow it up, but Uncle Creepy gets out of the way. Another knee lands low for Benavidez and this time referee Steve Mazzagatti calls time. They restart and McCall lands with a leg kick. Benavidez pushes forward again and lands with another combo. His striking is looking great so far. Counter right lands for McCall in an exchange but he takes a body kick and a hard right hand. Leg kick follows and lands hard for Benavidez. Hard body kick from Uncle Creepy catches Benavidez coming in. He lands with an elbow too but takes a right hand counter from Benavidez. Combination lands for McCall. This has been a great round. Seconds to go and they trade off with McCall landing the best shot; a hard right hook. Looks like Benavidez might have a small cut on his head. Another exchange ends the round. 10-9 Benavidez in a close one.

Second round and Benavidez opens with a leg kick. McCall looks to move out of the way but takes a body kick. Head kick glances for McCall. Right hook follows. Nice counter right lands for McCall as Benavidez charges in. Overhand right answers for Benavidez. Low kick from McCall. Wild swings miss for Benavidez and then they exchange with both landing glancing shots. Big combo misses for Uncle Creepy. Uppercut from Benavidez sets up a clinch and they head into the fence and muscle for position. Knees inside land for Benavidez before he breaks off. Couple of solid kicks land for McCall. Big swings miss for both men. They clinch up briefly but McCall quickly breaks. Good counter right from McCall. Takedown attempt is botched by Benavidez and McCall takes top position and drops some nasty hammer fists as he looks to secure a sweep. McCall steps over though and takes back mount with both hooks! Benavidez shakes him off, but McCall lands some more shots from a rear waistlock before Benavidez stands. Good knees inside from Uncle Creepy and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 McCall.

Third round and Benavidez closes in and NAILS McCall with a huge right hand! McCall takes it and they trade off before Uncle Creepy goes for a takedown. Benavidez blocks with a sharp elbow and then exits with a knee. Benavidez is really pushing the action now. Low kicks from both men but McCall goes down, and when he pops up Benavidez forces him into the clinch and then exits with a pair of shots. Superman punch misses for Benavidez. Exchange continues and Benavidez seems to have slightly better timing as he’s landing more shots. Body kick and a straight left from the Alpha Male fighter. Takedown from Uncle Creepy to a big pop and he passes into side mount, but Benavidez scrambles and escapes to his feet right away. Nice inside leg kick from Benavidez. Right hand connects on the way out for Benavidez. Both men land with low kicks. Takedown attempt is avoided by Benavidez who continues to do a good job of catching McCall and then exiting. Combination from Benavidez with a minute to go. McCall comes back with a right to the body. Hard body kick from Benavidez. Takedown by McCall is avoided. Another right hand lands for Benavidez. Fight ends shortly after. 10-9 Benavidez for a 29-28 in my opinion.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Joseph Benavidez in what turned out to be a simple fight to score, actually. Good fight overall if not outstanding or anything, as both men put on a good show, but Benavidez was juuuust slightly better standing and McCall couldn’t keep him grounded for long enough to pick up the win. With the improvements he’s made to his stand-up under Duane Bang Ludwig I actually think he could win a rematch with Mighty Mouse for the title and I think that’s a fight we’ll probably see soon enough.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Jon Fitch

After both of these men had looked phenomenal at UFC 153 – Fitch putting on his best post-GSP showing to defeat hot prospect Erick Silva; Maia neck cranking Rick Story inside a round – they were immediately rumoured to be fighting each other next and sure enough, it came to pass here. Despite fears of Maia being unable to take Fitch down, I ended up laying some cash on the Brazilian as a pretty decent underdog bet.

Fight begins and Maia shoots instantly and drives Fitch into the fence. Fitch looks to defend, but Maia trips him down and looks to pass right away, taking the back! He gets both hooks in and hops onto the back as Fitch stands up, then goes into a body triangle and lands some punches. Maia works for the choke and it looks for a second like he’s got it, but Fitch manages to avoid it. He continues to attempt it, but Fitch continues to defend too, and he’s still standing with the Brazilian clamped to his back. Crowd begin to boo but really Maia is in a dominant position. Maia lets go and then tries to trip Fitch to the ground, and manages it, slapping the hooks back in. Fitch stands back up so this time Maia lets go of the hooks and goes for a suplex. Fitch uses the fence to block, but Maia pulls him down anyway and lands some knees from behind. Both hooks in again for Maia and he looks to sink the choke. Body triangle again and Maia lands some elbows to the side of the head, but Fitch keeps a solid base and doesn’t allow the Brazilian to flatten him out. Maia remains in firm control though and lands some more solid punches to the side of the head and the body, and the round ends there. I’d call that 10-8 for Maia actually as Fitch did nothing but defend for the whole round.

Into the 2nd and Fitch comes out striking, throwing some kicks and landing a good leg kick, then a right hand and a glancing head kick. Maia shoots on a single leg though and gets him down again. He looks to pass as Fitch desperately tries to keep some sort of guard and then manages to escape to his feet in a scramble. Maia closes the distance again though and forces him into the fence where he drags him down and takes the back once more. One hook in for Maia and he’s working for the choke again with an over/under. Second hook is in and Maia is in total control. Looks like he might be switching out for an armbar, but he never goes for it and instead lands some punches while working for the choke. Neck crank attempt from Maia and it looks dangerous, but Fitch does a tremendous job of peeling the arms off. Maia has a full body triangle in now and he continues to work for the choke and he’s got Fitch flat on the ground too. Maia attempts to flip him around so he’s on top, but Fitch manages to avoid that and continues to avoid the choke too. Less than a minute to go and Maia isn’t really close to a finish but he’s still dominating Fitch. Round ends with Maia still clamped to Fitch’s back. 10-9 Maia.

Third and final round and Fitch needs a finish, which basically means he’s in trouble! He comes out with a big head kick, but Maia ducks it and grabs hold of him instantly, forcing him into the cage and getting a rear waistlock. He gets one hook in and looks to trip Fitc down again, but Fitch defends. Maia switches to a single leg and then continues to work to get him down, but this time Fitch manages to defend. He can’t get Maia off him though and the Brazilian drags him down and takes the back AGAIN with both hooks. Fitch tries to scramble and shake him off, doing a tremendous job of escaping to his feet. Maia shoots again though right away and drives him back before going for a single leg. Fitch defends it, and then goes for a high-elbow guillotine, which forces Maia to his own back, but the Brazilian slips his head free and gets half-guard. He looks for a reversal and hits it immediately, getting to his feet and forcing Fitch into the fence. Rear waistlock again for Maia and he continues to try for the takedown. Fitch manages to defend and break free, but Maia hits a single leg instantly off the break. This time he gets it and takes the back. Both hooks in for Maia again and Fitch looks frustrated now and waves his arms at referee Kim Winslow. LOL at JON FITCH complaining about stalling. Maia locks up the body triangle and lands punches and then finishes in full mount. 10-9 Maia and 30-26 overall in a pretty big upset.

And naturally it’s a unanimous decision for Demian Maia, 30-27 all round. Absolute domination from start to finish for Maia as he was able to take Fitch down far more easily than anyone could’ve expected, and on the ground he did everything but finish really, as Fitch was way out of his depth with a legit world-class BJJ grappler who could take a dominant position. Huge win for Maia to move into title contention and in a surprising move it signalled the end for Fitch’s UFC career, as he was released after the loss in a move that drew the fury of tons of online fans (Zuffa have since been proven somewhat right – Fitch lost his next fight in one-sided fashion to Josh Burkman...). Personally I won’t miss him that much as he never showed any progression after losing to GSP and was doing little more than logjamming the division until he started losing recently. Fight wouldn’t normally have been entertaining but to see Fitch basically get Fitch’d himself was admittedly fun. And it won me money, so who am I to complain?

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Antonio Silva

This was obviously the fight I was most excited for on the card, given I’m a total fanboy for Ubereem and had been counting down the days till his return ever since his suspension in April 2012. I fully expected him to be put into a title match right away but I guess the UFC were a bit wary after what happened before and decided against it. Opponent Bigfoot was coming off his first UFC win – a big knockout of Travis Browne – but I couldn’t see him being able to handle the speed, power and more technical striking of the Reem – even if Alistair looked *slightly* smaller here than he had for the Brock Lesnar fight in December 2011.

Round One and Overeem looks pretty chilled, dropping his hands a bit before landing with a lunging left. Left hook to the body from the Reem and he clinches and forces Bigfoot into the fence. Knee to the body from Reem but they break quickly. Jab into an uppercut from Overeem and he follows by clinching and forcing Silva back into the cage. They break and Overeem cracks him with an overhand right and a knee to the body before clinching again. Couple of knees land inside for Overeem and they break off. Reem is really hanging his hands here though. Takedown attempt from Bigfoot but Overeem stuffs it and turns him around with a knee to the body. They exchange shots to the body from inside; Overeem using knees and Bigfoot chopping with punches. A break follows and Silva lands a kick to the body, but Reem fires back with a combo ending with a trademark knee to the body. Left hook glances for the Dutchman and he follows with a leg kick. He’s just dodging the punches of Bigfoot by leaning back, too. Leg kick does connect for the Brazilian. Back to the clinch and Reem knees the legs a few times before exiting. Big right is slipped by Overeem who counters with an uppercut and clinches to land a knee to the body as the round ends. 10-9 Overeem but nothing hugely outstanding in the round.

Round Two and Bigfoot opens with a nice leg kick. Reem comes back with a jab. Another leg kick is checked by the Dutchman and he lands with a heavy right before clinching and throwing the Brazilian to the ground, down into side mount. Good elbows from the bottom for Bigfoot and he manages to get guard, but Overeem connects with some shots to the body. Reem continues to work him over from the top and then stands over him for a few moments before dropping back into the guard to avoid some upkicks. Big hammer fist lands for Overeem. Bigfoot to his credit still looks calm though and throws some more elbows from his back. Bigfoot seems to be shifting his hips for a possible submission but Overeem easily avoids that and remains in control. Solid shots land for Overeem and he keeps Bigfoot firmly planted on his back. Into half-guard for a second but Bigfoot quickly regains full guard. Overeem decides to stand, so referee Herb Dean calls Bigfoot up to join him and the Brazilian immediately shows some urgency, pushing forward but eating a jab. He does land though with an uppercut and a heavy knee. Crowd are going crazy as Bigfoot keeps pushing forward and looks for the plum clinch, but Overeem shoves him away to end the round. 10-9 Overeem.

Round Three and Overeem clinches immediately and lands a knee to the body, but Bigfoot muscles him off and lands a quick combo and a glancing head kick. Big right hand from Bigfoot and Reem tries to clinch for a knee, but Bigfoot shrugs him off and catches him FLUSH with a pair of rights to the temple! Overeem is STAGGERED and Bigfoot OPENS UP WITH A COMBO! HUGE UPPERCUTS AND A MACHINE GUN COMBINATION DROPS THE REEM AND IT’S OVER! Holy shit. Post-fight Bigfoot tries to go after him again and has to literally be dragged away by Herb Dean. Jesus Christ. Crowd go MENTAL.

Insane upset right there. Overeem seemed in firm control for the first two rounds but even then he looked too comfortable in there and kept dropping his hands and eventually it caught up with him. The combination Bigfoot threw to finish things was incredible for a guy of his size, with hand speed reminiscent of stuff like Belfort on Telligman, Baroni on Menne or Liddell on Ortiz in their first fight. Post-fight Joe Rogan keeps saying that “you have to respect EVERYONE” and he’s right. Overeem unfortunately, as much as I hate to admit it, paid the price for his own hubris in this fight. One of the most memorable knockouts in recent memory even if I didn’t enjoy it as a Ubereem fan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rashad Evans vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Despite some rumors that he was going to drop to 185lbs to look for a fight with Anderson Silva, Rashad was instead matched with Lil’ Nog in an interesting fight here as he looked to bounce back from his loss to former friend Jon Jones. Nogueira had been on the shelf since his December 2011 win over Tito Ortiz, and the styles seemed to favour Rashad – the slightly faster man with better wrestling, and of course Nog had struggled with the wrestling of Ryan Bader and Phil Davis – but I actually ended up putting money on the Brazilian as I didn’t think he should’ve been such a huge underdog!

First round begins and both men look tentative to begin, gauging the distance by reaching and doing little else really for the first minute. Body kick glances for Evans. Left hook misses for Nogueira. Almost two minutes gone now and basically nothing has happened but feinting. Big kick is blocked by Nogueira. Jab connects for Nog. Another straight right follows and then a straight left. Rashad looks fine but all he’s doing is feinting. No clue what this gameplan is all about. Left hand lands for Nogueira again. Rashad continues to bounce in and out and Nogueira lands the right jab and the straight left a couple more times but little else. Pair of heavy right hooks finally connect for Rashad but Nogueira seems fine. Body kick glances for Rashad. Takedown follows but Nogueira immediately pops back up, taking a couple of punches on the way. They wind up clinched but break swiftly. Right hand glances for Evans and the round ends with a blocked head kick from the former champ. That was a downright terrible round. 10-9 Nogueira by a hair.

Second round begins with some jabs from Nogueira. Straight left glances as Rashad just moves out of the way. Inside leg kick from Rashad. Flurry is blocked by Nogueira. Combination from Nog. All Rashad seems to be doing for the most part is just trying to deflect the jab with his left hand. Straight left connects for the Brazilian. Single leg attempt from Rashad is easily blocked. Nogueira continues to look for the jab and Evans continues to deflect the jab and feint. Crowd begin to boo with about two minutes left in the round, unsurprisingly. Heavy right hook from Rashad but it doesn’t have much effect. Jab from Nogueira. Takedown from Rashad and this time it’s successful, but only for a split second as Nogueira pops up and delivers a combo. Right hand lands on the counter for Rashad and stuns Nogueira for a second but he recovers fast and quickly gets back to throwing the straight left. Seconds to go and we get more of the same. Head kick glances for Rashad to end the round. Good lord this is an awful fight. 10-9 Nogueira.

Third and final round and evidently Rashad hasn’t changed his gameplan as he’s still catching and parrying the jab and doing little else. Jab does get through for Nogueira. Body kick glances for Nogueira. This is a ridiculous showing from Rashad. Never seen him this passive even in his early days post-TUF. Good jab lands flush for Nogueira. He’s not doing all that much either though to be honest. Eye poke connects for Rashad and referee Yves Lavigne has to call time. They restart once Nogueira is recovered and it’s more of the same before Nog lands a straight left. Even Joe Rogan is calling this ridiculous now. Rushing right hands are avoided by the Brazilian. Couple of kicks glance for Nogueira and he lands with a left hand inside too. Rashad unsurprisingly has little to answer with. Takedown is avoided by Nogueira. And we just get more of the same for the final minute as the fight peters out. Really patient crowd here as they would’ve been justified in booing this crap out of the building. 10-9 Nogueira for a 30-27 in my eyes.

Judges’ scorecards read 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Let’s not beat around the bush though – this fight SUCKED. Nogueira might’ve come away with a win, but really he won because Rashad Evans practically did nothing but parry jabs for fifteen minutes while he landed a couple more jabs and straight left hands. No clue if Rashad was sick or injured or something coming in but I mean, this was his worst performance in the UFC period discounting his loss to Machida. Horrible fight all-round and one of the worst semi-mains in recent memory.

UFC World Featherweight Title: Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar

Zuffa were marketing this as a ‘SuperFight’ as it was the Featherweight Champion against the former Lightweight Champion, but in all honesty it didn’t feel that way because well, it’s Frankie Edgar and for whatever reason it’s hard to get fired up for his fights. Still, it was certainly an interesting fight, as Edgar had always looked small for 155lbs and it seemed like it’d be an easy cut for him to make 145lbs, and Aldo really hadn’t fought anyone as accomplished as him before. With that said though, I still thought Aldo would come away with a victory – Edgar’s main weapon at 155lbs had been his speed and movement and I figured that advantage would vanish as he moved down in weight and faced faster guys.

Round One and a crowd chant for Frankie erupts as he circles on the outside with Aldo taking the center of the cage. Low kick connects early for Aldo. Crowd now begin to chant for Aldo as Edgar continues to move around to look to strike and then get out. Couple of nice jabs from the Brazilian keep Edgar at bay. Straight right lands cleanly for Aldo and has Frankie a little hurt. Looks like he might have a bloody nose too. They continue to circle and Aldo lands again with the jab. Edgar is getting timed perfectly here. He tries to close Aldo down, but the Brazilian’s movement looks excellent. Nice counter right connects for the champion and a pair of jabs follow. Another jab lands beautifully and he follows with a right hand before getting out of range. Hard leg kick from Aldo. Combination glances but another leg kick lands hard. Round ends with a left high kick that Edgar just about blocks. 10-9 Aldo.

Round Two and Aldo continues to jab and move out of the way of Edgar’s shots. Right hand connects nicely for Aldo. Edgar just can’t seem to catch him at the minute. More jabs follow. Edgar comes back with a leg kick of his own and a semi-takedown attempt that Aldo shrugs off easily. Beautifully timed right hand from Aldo. Single leg attempt from Edgar is stuffed. VICIOUS leg kick buckles Frankie’s left leg in badly. Combination misses for the challenger and his leg is marked up horribly. Another one follows and Edgar goes down for a split second. He gets back up but he’s struggling to catch Aldo. Another leg kick lands with a little less force this time. Big overhand right misses for Edgar and Aldo lands with a jumping knee. Edgar manages to get a clinch, but Aldo shrugs him off. One minute to go and Aldo lands another leg kick, but this time Edgar catches it and tackles him to the ground after landing a right! Big crowd pop but Aldo springs right back up. More stiff jabs from Aldo snap the challenger’s head back. Round ends on the feet with another jab. 10-9 Aldo.

Round Three and Edgar catches a kick and hits a takedown, but Aldo springs right back up like a cat. Straight right lands for Aldo as Edgar goes forwards. Edgar is being more aggressive in this round though even if he isn’t landing significantly. Both men miss in an exchange. Glancing right hand from Edgar. Aldo comes back with a NASTY front kick that snaps Frankie’s head right back! Edgar’s chin is ridiculous as he just takes it. Looks like his nose is busted up though. He presses forward with punches to his credit, but walks into a left hook from Aldo. Solid right hand from Frankie. Combo into a head kick follow but Aldo seems unaffected. Couple more jabs from Aldo and he circles on the outside. Good leg kick from Frankie as he backs Aldo up a little. He’s definitely the aggressor in this round. Another leg kick connects for Edgar. Left hook answers for Aldo. Nice right hand from Edgar and he catches a kick and glances on a head kick of his own. Hard right hook from Edgar to end a combo. Leg kick glances for Aldo and Frankie goes for the takedown, but Aldo easily shrugs him off. Good right hand from Edgar in an exchange. Inside leg kick lands for Frankie. Crowd are chanting for Frankie but he eats a jab. Solid low kick ends the round for Edgar. Edgar was pushing the action more in that round but I’d still score it for Aldo as his shots did more damage, so I’ve got it 30-27 for Aldo going into the fourth.

Round Four and Frankie’s face is looking busted up now. He opens with a glancing one-two that backs Aldo up a little and he follows with a leg kick. Spinning back kick to the body from Aldo. Edgar is doing a good job with his movement so far in this round though. Good right hand connects for the challenger. He pushes forward but a high kick only glances. Couple of jabs from Aldo. Edgar backs him up with some flurries and then misses a spin kick of his own. Takedown is avoided by Aldo but he eats a flurry coming off the fence. Bit chant for Frankie now as he continues to back the champ up with punches. Left hook from Edgar. Takedown attempt from Frankie and this time he grabs a rear waistlock and dumps Aldo to the ground! The champ pops back up, but Edgar stays on him and lands some knees to the legs from the rear waistlock position. Crowd are LOUD now, totally into this fight. Aldo is really trying hard to stay on his feet. Edgar decides to separate with about a minute to go and lands a leg kick. Takedown attempt is avoided by Aldo who then glances on a jumping knee as Edgar comes forward. Round ends shortly after. Close round but I’d call it 10-9 Edgar as he pushed the action, got a big takedown and didn’t take as much damage.

Round Five and I still think Frankie’s got to finish to pull this one out. Duelling crowd chants early as both men glance on some early strikes. Leg kick from Edgar. Right hand to the body follows. Stiff jab from Aldo. Another one follows to counter a low kick. Edgar pushes forward through a jab and goes for a takedown but Aldo avoids it. Right hand over the top for Frankie and he backs Aldo up a little. Spin kick glances for Edgar. Left hand counter lands for Aldo as Edgar pushes forward. Takedown attempt by Edgar but Aldo shrugs him off. Edgar is really pushing the pace in this round. Two leg kicks land for Frankie. Jabs land for Aldo. Edgar’s left eye is fucked up pretty badly. He manages to clinch and force Aldo into the fence but the Brazilian quickly breaks. Knee lands for Frankie on the way out though and he follows with a combo. Leg kick from Edgar but he takes a counter right. Big combo from Aldo slows Edgar down a little. One minute to go now. Nice one-two from Edgar. Hard right hand from Aldo to counter a low kick. Counter left hook lands for Aldo to answer a combo. Stiff jab follows. Couple of counters from Aldo as he stays just out of range. Seconds to go and Aldo sticks him with a right. CAGE-SPRINGING SUPERMAN PUNCH!~! connects flush for Aldo and that’s the fight. Close round but I’d give it to Aldo giving him a 49-46 victory. That final punch was incredible.

Judges have it 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 all for Jose Aldo to retain the title. Crowd seem to be mainly booing that verdict but I think the right man won for sure, regardless of Joe Rogan’s somewhat biased commentary, no offense to Joe! Post-fight Aldo puts Edgar over as a tough opponent and does confirm that he stopped using his leg kicks for fear of being taken down, which is super-interesting. Joe Rogan then pesters him about a possible move to 155lbs, to which Aldo says even though the weight cut sucks he still prefers to fight at 145lbs. So there you go! Edgar then says it was a close fight, but he keeps putting himself in these situations so it is what it is. Truer words have never been spoken!

Couple of things here, then. First off this was a really good fight – not a classic or anything and not one you’d want to rewatch time and time again like say, Aldo’s fight with Mark Hominick or one of Frankie’s fights with Gray Maynard, but it was certainly good. The difference was, as I suspected, the speed, as Edgar’s usual advantage in that department didn’t seem to be there in this fight and Aldo was able to dictate the striking in the first three rounds and did a ton of damage and by the time Edgar basically willed himself back into the fight in the fourth, it was too little, too late. Secondly, I think at this point people are actually overlooking Aldo in the pound-for-pound stakes – UFC.com suddenly has Jon Jones as #1 over GSP after Anderson Silva’s loss and while you could make a fair argument for Jones or GSP I think Aldo has to be up there too – it’s easy to forget he’s defended his belt six times now, which is more than anyone else not named GSP or Anderson Silva, and he’s also knocked off a former 155lbs champion and a former top contender at 155lbs in Kenny Florian. Sure, he hasn’t looked as dominant since coming into the UFC but he’s still been winning, which is what matters! Personally I see him as up there with the very top fighters in the sport for sure.

-Highlight reel rolls to end the night.

Final Thoughts….

Tough show to judge, this one. On one hand, there was only one fight that I’d say was truly bad – Evans vs. Nogueira, unfortunately – but really the rest - while perfectly acceptable - wasn’t all that memorable outside of Bigfoot’s wild KO of Overeem and Woodley’s brutal knockout of Hieron. I mean sure, fights like Benavidez/McCall, Aldo/Edgar and Tibau/Dunham were good, but they’re not the sort of fights you’d go back and rewatch and I think that’s the telling thing here. It’s worth a recommendation, but it’s not a truly blowaway show and I’d be surprised if it cracks the top five best UFC PPVs of the year.

Best Fight: Aldo vs. Edgar

Worst Fight: Nogueira vs. Evans

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman

NewmanMMA@gmail.com