With the UFC’s quick return to Rio de Janeiro, the promotion had high expectations to live up to. Their last visit saw a nearly perfect performance from one of the sport’s most dominant champions, a local favorite earning a quick finish, and (most) Brazilian fighters outmatching their foreign opponents on their ways to victory. It was going to be difficult to entertain the local fans the same way that UFC 134 did, yet the UFC’s return to Brazil netted nearly identical results.
Heading into his title defense against Chad Mendes last night, critics were starting to say that Jose Aldo was beginning to coast his way through fights. That the fight finisher fans grew to love in the WEC had been replaced by a fighter content to go through the motions en route to a decision victory. In front of his home country, Aldo made an impressive statement by finishing “Money” Mendes in the first round.
Mendes displayed improved striking, but that means little when facing the lethal limbs of Jose Aldo. To win this fight–or even stay competitive–Mendes needed to put the champion on his back, yet time and time again his best efforts were thwarted. Though Aldo blatantly grabbed the fence to prevent one takedown, a follow-up attempt from the same position seconds later barely took his feet off the ground. Had he been deducted one point- or ten- it’s hard to imagine the fight going any other way. The brilliant takedown defense and impeccable timing he showed throughout the bout were on full display in the closing seconds of round one. Aldo’s transition to the fight ending knee was nothing short of perfection, something only a dominant striker of his caliber could dream of pulling off.
There is very little that can possibly be said about the co-main event at this point. To call it “Win big or go home” for Anthony Johnson would not only be a lazy, clichéd thing to do, but it would also be misleading. “Win big” would imply some type of reward for an impressive victory for Rumble, be it a title shot, an end of the night bonus or even a title eliminator fight against another top tier middleweight. When Anthony Johnson botched his weight cut as recklessly as he did, all of those options were taken off of the table. Replacing them was the best case scenario of adding a “W” to his record that would have an asterisk next to it in the minds of both fans and his employer.
As expected, Johnson was able to use his size advantage to handle Belfort early on. Also as expected, his medical issues that
caused him to miss weight were brought on by a last minute weight cut led him to quickly gas out. Once Johnson began lunging at Belfort with desperate takedown attempts, Vitor Belfort was able to quickly take Rumble’s back and sink in the choke. The Phenom won’t be getting a title shot after a victory like that, but he’s earned coveted job security with the UFC. Likewise, an Anthony Johnson themed “And Now he’s Fired” will be published soon, as Dana White all but fired him Vince McMahon style during the post-event press conference.
While there were plenty of questionable decisions made by the referees last night, none were more cringe-worthy than the way Mario Yamasaki handled Prater vs. Silva. There’s really nothing to say about the fight other than “do over”. Silva looked to be en route to an early victory, landed some shots to the back of Prater’s head, kept fighting, as Yamasaki didn’t stop the fight to deduct points, and found himself disqualified when Prater was unable to continue. Unfortunately, a rematch is the only thing that makes sense for either fighter, although the UFC is still giving Silva his win bonus for his performance.
Last time Edson Barboza fought (coincidentally, in Rio), he predictably defeated a handpicked Ross Pearson in a surprisingly close fight. This time around, Barboza thoroughly outgunned Terry Etim on the feet and kept the fight off of the mat on his way to a flawless wheel kick knockout in the third round. The impressive showing from Barboza not only earned him a step up in competition, but also earned him $130,000- $65k for Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night with Terry Etim. The Submission of the Night honors went to Rousimar Palhares, who predictably added Mike Massenzio’s leg to his collection with a first round heel hook. Paul Harris has now won three straight fights, and should find himself back in the mix at middleweight.
And if there’s one in every crowd, the “one” from last night is Ricardo Funch. Much like Luiz Cane before him, Funch was the only Brazilian to lose to a foreign opponent in Rio de Janeiro, getting knocked out in the first round by Mike Pyle. Pyle improves to 5-3 in the UFC.
Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes via first-round KO
Vitor Belfort def. Anthony Johnson via submission (rear-naked choke)
Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Massenzio via submission (heel hook)
Carlo Prater wins via disqualification vs. Erick Silva (illegal head blows)
Edson Barboza def. Terry Etim via third-round KO
Thiago Tavares def. Sam Stout via unanimous decision
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Ednaldo Oliveira via submission (rear-naked choke)
Yuri Alcantara def. Michihiro Omigawa via unanimous decision
Mike Pyle def. Ricardo Funch via first-round TKO
Felipe Arantes def. Antonio Carvalho via unanimous decision