MMA Review: #481: UFC 179: Aldo vs. Mendes II

-After UFC 176 had to be scrapped when it lost the Aldo/Mendes main event due to a weak undercard, I fully expected Zuffa to stack this one just in case it went down the tubes again. Somehow though they didn’t really learn their lesson and we ended up with another Fight Night-level PPV card. Thankfully though the main event held together, giving Mendes a chance for revenge and Aldo a chance to make his seventh (!) UFC title defense in a row.

UFC 179: Aldo vs. Mendes II

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Brian Stann, who remains AWESOME on commentary.

Lightweight Fight: Tony Martin vs Fabricio Camoes

Giant Lightweight Martin had lost his previous two UFC bouts, but I guess he was being given another chance as to be fair he did look good in his debut against Rashid Magomedov and looked like he had a ton of potential. This one looked more winnable for him to me as opponent Camoes hadn’t fought since December 2013 and actually hadn’t won since a January 2012 (!) win over Tommy Hayden at the first UFC on FX show.

Fight begins and holy shit is Martin big for 155lbs. They circle around and miss with some strikes from distance before Camoes lands with a heavy leg kick. Couple of wild shots connect for Camoes but Martin shoots and hits a big slam down into half-guard. Camoes grabs a guillotine but it doesn’t look tight at all and Martin calmly moves his head free while punching the body. Crowd are booing here which is hilarious as it’s literally just because the American dude is on top of the Brazilian. Looks like Martin might be setting up for a kimura on the left arm ala Matt Hughes on Joe Riggs. Camoes decides to go for a kimura of his own from the bottom, but Martin calmly avoids and goes back to his own kimura. Looks pretty deep for Martin and he twists the arm behind the back, but Camoes scoots backwards to alleviate the pressure somewhat. Martin then uses BRUTE STRENGTH to roll him over with the kimura still locked up, and from there he hops into side mount and steps over the head! Camoes keeps shifting his hips to take the pressure off a bit but Martin keeps the position firmly locked in, and another BRUTAL CRANK is enough to force the tapout and SILENCE the crowd.

Beautiful submission for Tony Martin. Almost looked like a redux of Frank Mir vs. Rodrigo Nogueira for a moment as Camoes tried literally everything to get out but the sheer strength of Martin allowed him to keep the hold locked in throughout all the scrambling. Great way to open the night, unless you’re Brazilian I guess.

Lightweight Fight: Gilbert Burns vs Christos Giagos

Hot prospect Burns – a world-class grappler coming out of the Blackzilians camp – had won his UFC debut in July and he was faced with another debutant here in former RFA champion Giagos. Despite the RFA promotion sending a ton of great talent to the UFC recently I couldn’t see Giagos getting past a prospect as good as Burns and picked ‘Durinho’ to win by submission.

Round One and both guys are moving around like cats on a hot tin roof. Good counter combo lands for Giagos in a brief exchange. Low kick answers for Burns and hits the groin. Ref calls time and the crowd BOO LOUDLY. The Brazilian fans are merciless. They restart and Burns connects with a high kick that Giagos just about blocks. Big left hook lands for Burns in an exchange but Giagos backs him up a bit with a combo. Takedown from Burns and he plants Giagos on his back. Giagos instantly gets his back to the cage to try to scoot up, but Burns drops and pulls his legs out from under him. Full guard for Giagos now and it looks like he’s trying to stall it out for a stand-up. Burns keeps the pressure on though and uses wrist control and some body punches to power into half-guard and then into full mount. Real classy grappling there. Good hip escape from Giagos gets him back to butterfly guard for a second but Burns powers right through it and mounts again. Giagos tries to roll but Burns slaps the body triangle on him instantly. It’s the lemur position now as Giagos stands with Burns on his back, and he eats some punches before dropping down. He can’t shake Burns off though and it looks like the Brazilian is working for the rear naked choke. Instead he transitions into an arm triangle attempt, and when Giagos looks to reverse by kicking off the fence, he slides RIGHT INTO THE ARMBAR!~! Giagos desperately tries to roll but the arm is extended and this one is DONE.

That was legitimate world class grappling right there. Not only did he dominate someone who didn’t exactly look awful on the ground, but the transitions he was using were absolutely phenomenal, particularly the way he slapped the body triangle on and then the move to the armbar as Giagos looked like he was about to escape a bad position. Just tremendous stuff from one of the best prospects in all of MMA.

Featherweight Fight: Andre Fili vs Felipe Arantes

This one was a battle of two young-but-experienced prospects, with Team Alpha Male’s Fili – coming off his first loss against Max Holloway – against Brazilian native Arantes, who had last beaten Maximo Blanco in a bit of an upset. I was leaning towards Fili here as he seemed like the more explosive fighter to me.

Round One and both men come out SWINGING. Lot of kicks coming from Arantes but Fili tags him with a couple of counters. Nice counter left lands for Arantes too though. Fili is just crazy aggressive and it looks like Arantes is quite willing to oblige. Takedown from Fili slows things down though and Arantes locks him up in full guard. Armbar attempt from Arantes but Fili avoids with a strong base. He stands over Arantes and drops some punches down onto him, avoiding a possible leglock too. Knee to the body from Fili but he takes an upkick as he drops into the guard. Arantes pops back up and gets a takedown of his own, popping free of a guillotine before mounting. Crowd go mental as Arantes postures up to deliver some shots. Fili tries to kick off the fence to reverse but he eats a couple of HUGE ELBOWS before a wild scramble allows him to escape and gain top position. Knee to the body of the seated Arantes follows and Fili stands to land some more punches for good measure. Fili drops down into side mount and Arantes spins, but gives his neck. Fili holds a front headlock and then lands a nasty knee to the body as Arantes sits back. They pop back up and Arantes drops for a takedown, but Fili defends with some knees and then breaks off. Fili is busted WIDE OPEN here, wow. Must’ve been those elbows. Couple of good combos land for Fili as he pushes forward. Head kick is blocked by Arantes but he gets tagged by a big combo. Fili is just wild as fuck with his strikes though. Good counter left hook from Arantes as Fili gets too wild. Fili comes back though with a big flurry of knees from the plum and a body punch. Counter left from Arantes pops the crowd. Beautiful body kick from Arantes but Fili counters with a double leg and lands in the half-guard to end the round. Action-packed stuff. I’ll go 10-9 Fili.

Round Two and Fili opens with a quick flurry, landing a couple of body kicks. Takedown attempt from Arantes and he drags Fili down to a big pop from the crowd, landing in half-guard. SWEET reversal from Fili as Arantes tries to pass though and he gets into top position in half-guard. Crowd are comically hypocritical here as they’re booing loudly for Fili on top despite him doing as much as Arantes was from the position! Leglock attempt from the Brazilian allows him to reverse though and now he takes top position in full guard. Good shots from the top land for Arantes and he opens up with some slashing elbows that look like they have Fili cut again. Triangle attempt from Fili is avoided but he lands with what looked to me like an illegal upkick. Replay appears to show one of Fili’s toes going into Arantes’ eye, and the ref has to call time. Ref warns Fili for the infraction and they restart on the feet. Takedown attempt right away from Arantes but this time Fili sprawls and hits his own trip takedown to side mount. Another reversal follows for Arantes though and he quickly gets back into top position. Two minutes to go and both men look a bit tired. Elbows from Arantes but Fili pushes him away with his legs and then tackles him to the ground as Arantes stands. Now it’s his turn to work some ground-and-pound from the guard. He lands some decent shots but Arantes kicks him off, so he stands and then drops a right hand back into the half-guard. Round ends with Fili working from the top. 10-9 Arantes though as I thought he did more from the top when he got there.

Round Three and Arantes narrowly misses with a head kick. Fili bombs forward with a flurry that set up the clinch and he forces the Brazilian into the fence. They go down for a moment and then Arantes grabs a guillotine in the scramble and jumps to guard, but Fili pops his head free instantly and gets top position again. Nice pass follows and he’s in side mount. Reversal from Arantes but this time Fili spins into a Peruvian necktie attempt. He slips though and that allows Arantes to escape and gain top spot in his guard. Fili reverses from there though and they scramble to their feet in the clinch. Nice knee from Fili separates. Head kick glances for Fili. He definitely looks like the looser striker. Takedown attempt from Fili but Arantes blocks it and they wind up clinched on the fence. Single leg attempt from Arantes but Fili defends and lands some elbows. Arantes keeps working though and drags him down into full guard. Elbows from Arantes and he shrugs off an armbar attempt. Triangle attempt follows and Fili switches it to an armbar and then an oma plata, but Arantes shrimps free onto his knees. Fili’s still got him in trouble though and he hits a reversal and tackles Arantes to the ground, landing in guard. Beautiful diving right hand lands for Fili and he ends the fight by almost jumping headfirst into an upkick. Tight round – I’d call it 10-9 Fili but the fight could easily go either way.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Andre Fili. Fair result to what really was a great fight between two young prospects – the difference was basically Fili’s ability to push the pace just a little harder, as both men landed a lot of good strikes and hit a ton of amazing reversals on the ground too. Not one of the best fights of the year or anything but it was way above average.

Flyweight Fight: Wilson Reis vs Scott Jorgensen

This one had me intrigued as Reis is a guy who I think could develop into a legit contender at 125lbs – dude is built like a tank with a sick ground game and some good striking to go with it. He’d won his Flyweight debut earlier in the year over Joby Sanchez, while Jorgensen had basically saved his UFC career in June with a win over Danny Martinez. Here though he missed weight by a horrible three pounds, making this one another likely must-win for him.

Round One and the first noticeable thing is Jorgensen’s skin condition has spread so much now that you can’t even tell he ever had it, he just looks like an incredibly pale white dude. And if I was more cynical after this week I’d say alarm bells ought to ring over how stacked Reis is for a guy who weighs 125lbs, but I’m not one for baseless accusations. Low kick opens things for Jorgensen. Couple of winging left hooks miss for Reis. Brian Stann mentions that Jorgensen’s flight to Brazil got delayed hence his weight issues, which is fair. Left hand lands for Reis but he takes a right hand counter that catches him off balance and sends him down, and Jorgensen quickly drops down into guard. Reis instantly scrambles though and pops back up to his feet. Jorgensen closes the distance with some punches, but the clinch is quickly shrugged off. Head kick is blocked by Jorgensen and he stuffs a takedown nicely and grabs a front headlock. Reis scrambles though and they spin around before coming back up. Good leg kick from Reis as the striking exchange continues. Lunging left hook glances for Jorgensen. Lot of movement from both men here. Nasty body kick lands for Reis and Jorgensen tries to shrug it off, but he’s clearly in pain and he backs up into the fence. Reis senses it and shoots in, getting an easy takedown and from there he goes WILD with ground-and-pound. Jorgensen tries to defend, but Reis works his way right into a SLICK arm triangle, and from there he tightens it up and forces Jorgensen to tap.

Pretty great showing from Wilson Reis. Tight striking, good defense on the feet and a KILLER ground game. I think he’s a title contender within a couple more fights. As for Jorgensen, it might be time to hang it up at least for a little while. He hasn’t looked himself in some time now – you forget he was a great fighter at one point and was the final WEC Bantamweight Title challenger! – and I’d rather not see him take a real beating which is likely coming at some point. Really fun fight though.

Lightweight Fight: Yan Cabral vs Naoyuki Kotani

One of the favourites to win TUF Brazil 2 before an injury sidelined him, Nova Uniao’s Cabral – best known for a submission of legend Kazushi Sakuraba – had come into the UFC looking great with a win over David Mitchell, but was then upset by Zak Cummings in his second fight – a fight that inspired him to drop to 155lbs after the larger Cummings outmuscled him. This seemed like a tailor-made fight for him as Kotani had looked pretty awful in his previous fight with Norman Parke and to me never really looked like a UFC-calibre fighter.

Round One begins and Cabral stalks forward only to eat a leg kick early on. Head kick glances for the Brazilian. Nice straight right lands for Cabral. Head kick lands pretty flush but Kotani takes it well. Combo from Kotani but Cabral clinches and muscles him into the fence. Takedown from Kotani and he lands in half-guard. Cabral quickly works into full guard and looks for a reversal, kicking the Japanese fighter away, but Kotani drops back into the guard. Couple of left hands land for Kotani from the top. He passes into half-guard and then tries to mount, but Cabral hits a scramble and gets to his feet. Crowd are pretty hot for Cabral. He gets Kotani down off a botched body kick attempt and then drops a hard right hand before slicing through the guard into half-guard. Nice short elbows land for Cabral as he works to pass further. Kotani manages to kick him away, but he drops into a knee-on-belly position before the Japanese fighter regains half-guard. One minute to go and Cabral looks to pass the half-guard, but Kotani does a good job of preventing it. Couple of hard punches land for the Brazilian though to soften Kotani up. Round ends with Cabral in control. 10-9 Cabral.

Round Two and Cabral sets up a takedown with a heavy right hand. Kotani stuffs it but Cabral keeps him forced into the fence and looks to trip him down. Nice takedown lands but Kotani reverses to his feet inside the clinch. Cabral tries to get him down again and this time spins into a rear waistlock. Kotani tries to break the grip, but Cabral forces him to the ground and lands some nasty hammer fists to the side of the head before looking to put the hooks in. He hops onto the back momentarily but Kotani shakes him off and they separate. Both men miss on combinations before Kotani goes for a takedown. Cabral stuffs it and forces him back into the fence before getting the rear waistlock and hitting a trip again. This time he gets both hooks in as Kotani tries to scramble and takes full back control. Kotani’s in deep trouble here with this guy on his back. Sure enough Cabral slaps on a picture-perfect rear naked choke and forces the tapout seconds later.

Excellent performance from Yan Cabral although to be fair you have to question the opposition. I think Cabral could be dangerous to anyone at 155lbs though with his size and slick ground game, and at 31 he’s probably in his prime right now so I’m excited to see how far he can go. I’m biased towards TUF Brazil guys, sue me! Exciting grappling-based fight.

Welterweight Fight: Neil Magny vs William Macario

After he’d narrowly squeaked by one of the Welterweight division’s top prospects in Alex Garcia (in a fight I actually scored against him as it goes) Magny was looking for his fifth win of 2014 and was matched with another hot up-and-comer here in TUF Brazil 2’s Patolino. Despite Patolino having been on the shelf since December 2013 I was taking him to win here – Magny’s run outside of the Garcia fight had mainly come against lower-level opposition and Patolino is a guy who I think could develop into a legitimate contender in a few years time.

Round One and both men land leg kicks early on. Big left hook just misses for Patolino. Right hand glances for Magny. Combo from Patolino backs Magny up towards the fence but the American fires right back with a quick combo of his own. Takedown attempt from Magny but Patolino stuffs it and clinches against the fence. They muscle along the fence and it looks like there’s a couple of clashes of heads in there too. Uppercut breaks for Magny. Good leg kick from Patolino. Crowd are wildly into the Brazilian. Nice right hand-left hook combo lands for Patolino. Magny looks to work his jab but he’s backpedalling a lot here due to Patolino’s pressure. Nice right hand connects for Patolino. Big shots miss for Magny. Patolino’s leaving his chin a bit high as he backs up though. Combo connects for Magny. He’s missing more than he’s landing right now though. Body shot lands for Patolino and backs Magny up. Takedown follows for the Brazilian but Magny scrambles up to his feet. Round ends as they break a clinch. Fun round – 10-9 Patolino by a small margin.

Round Two and Magny pushes forward and lands with a glancing right hook. Nice left hook from Patolino forces Magny onto his back foot and he follows with a jab. Flurry from Magny backs the Brazilian up and he’s still leaning back with his chin out. Leg kick from Patolino sets up a right hand-left hook combo. Big combo from Patolino connects clean on Magny and he might be in trouble. He takes it though and fires right back, catching the TUF finalist with a left hand. Nice jabs from Patolino set up a clean left hook. Another left follows and also lands flush. Patolino continues to back him up and when Magny looks for a takedown he stuffs it and forces him onto his knees, landing an elbow to the side of the head. Big punches glance for Patolino as Magny ends up caught on his knees by the fence, but the American works his way to his feet and manages to hit a takedown right into side mount. Patolino immediately gets half-guard but Magny slips free and takes full mount. Patolino holds on and looks like he’s happy to stall the position out, but with seconds to go he decides to scramble and eats some BOMBS for his efforts. He does get to half-guard though which slows Magny down for a moment before he passes to mount again and continues to land heavy blows. Round ends with Magny in firm control. 10-9 Magny despite a slow start.

Round Three and Magny is clearly the fresher man here. Nice lunging right hand connects for him early following a trio of jabs. Wild swings glance for Patolino. Another lunging right lands for Magny as it looks like Patolino’s speed in dancing out of range is beginning to fade away. Heavy leg kick from Magny. Couple more jabs land for him too. Magny is totally taking over the stand-up in this round. Combo lands for him and he follows with a takedown and instantly takes full mount. Patolino is in trouble as he tries to shrimp to half-guard while eating shots. He manages to do it, but he’s still taking punishment. Crowd are booing in horror at this. More ground-and-pound lands for Magny from a standing position now. Patolino gives up full mount again and continues to eat big shots and finally the ref decides he’s seen enough and steps in for the TKO.

Really impressive showing from Neil Magny as he weathered a bit of a storm from a guy who seemed to be a heavier hitting, crisper striker, but once he’d worn the Brazilian down a little he really came on strong to take over the final round and smash him. This was five in a row for Magny in 2014 and while I don’t see him as a future contender I would argue he’s the most improved fighter on the UFC roster and he definitely deserves a crack at the elite now. As for Patolino I would’ve said he’d bounce back from this as Magny’s not an easy out, but after his loss to Matt Dwyer I’m just hoping he can get another shot in the UFC as he’s still young enough to develop.

Lightweight Fight: Beneil Dariush vs Diego Ferreira

While not a massive fight in terms of name value this one seemed at least to guarantee excitement, as neither man had put on a boring fight in their brief UFC careers leading up to it. I was favouring Ferreira myself as he’d looked very good taking out Ramsey Nijem in August and of course, Dariush’s last loss was actually to Stripper Ramsey. Yeah, I know MMAth doesn’t always work, but it seemed understandable here!

Fight begins and Dariush stalks forward, but takes a leg kick early on. Good left hand from Dariush but he eats a counter combo. Head kick glances but Ferreira takes it well. Body kick from Ferreira. Leg kick from Ferreira is answered by a hard body kick from Dariush. BEAUTIFUL question mark kick from Dariush. Ferreira is a tough guy as he takes it without even flinching. Couple more kicks land for Dariush. Head kick from Ferreira but Dariush counters with a quick combo. Another head kick lands for Dariush. Dariush’s striking looks wildly improved. He’s doing really well getting in and out of range here. Quick flurry allows Ferreira to close the distance and clinch, but Dariush defends a takedown attempt well. Crowd are chanting wildly for Ferreira. Trip is blocked by Dariush but he takes a solid knee to the body before they break. Superkick attempt (!) misses for Ferreira. Flurry from Ferreira and he catches Dariush going backwards with a right hook, but Dariush quickly clinches and lands a knee to separate. Beautiful trip takedown from Dariush but Ferreira hits a slick scramble and goes for a triangle out of a guard pass attempt. Dariush avoids it and stands to attempt a pass, but he eats an upkick. Ferreira rolls for a leglock as Dariush drops back into the guard, but Dariush has good grappling too and he rolls to alleviate it before ending the round with some ground-and-pound. 10-9 Dariush.

Into the 2nd and a wheel kick misses for Ferreira. Good leg kick from Dariush as he pressures Ferreira back. Takedown attempt follows and he manages to force Ferreira down and take the back in the same movement. Beautiful grappling. He doesn’t have hooks in though and Ferreira scrambles up to his feet. Dariush stays on him with a rear waistlock though and lands a nice knee from behind. Another takedown attempt follows but Ferreira manages to block. Dariush drags him down instead, but again Ferreira stands. Good knees to the legs from Dariush but Ferreira breaks. Head kick from close range glances for Dariush but Ferreira answers with a pair of short rights that tag him and force him back. Clinch follows and Ferreira goes down off a knee, but it looked more like a slip and he pops immediately back up. Heavy leg kick from Dariush. Right jab lands for Dariush as does a body punch to answer a glancing head kick. Body kick lands for Dariush too. Ferreira tries to back him into the fence but Dariush smartly circles out. Quick single leg attempt from Dariush and he gets Ferreira down for a second but the Brazilian scrambles. Dariush still manages to get on top though and he avoids a leglock to end up in half-guard. Ferreira keeps active from his back but Dariush does well to keep him grounded. Good punches land for Dariush as it looks like Ferreira might be trying to roll for a kimura. Oma plata attempt follows but Dariush avoids and stands back up. One minute to go and Dariush tries to drop a right through the guard but it misses. He’s still on top though and he works the body. Big elbows connect for Dariush through the guard and he stands to kick the legs as the round ends. 10-9 Dariush.

Third and final round and Ferreira opens with a front kick to the body and a quick combo. Hard leg kick from Dariush but Ferreira comes right back with a flurry that backs the Iranian up. Another nice combo lands for him in an exchange and he follows with uppercuts as Dariush tries to clinch. He manages to force Ferreira into the fence and then goes for a trip, landing it and getting Ferreira down. Reversal from Ferreira and they’re back to their feet in the clinch. Double leg from Dariush follows and he lands in a low mount ala Tatsuya Kawajiri. Ferreira gets back to butterfly guard, but he looks tired to me. Into half-guard for Dariush and he avoids a sweep. Short elbows begin to get through for Dariush as Ferreira’s definitely slowed down with his activity from his back. Dariush works to pass and it looks like he’s about made it into side mount. Ferreira goes for a gogoplata though so Dariush avoids and then drops back into full guard. Just over a minute to go now and Ferreira needs to do something or he’s going to lose a clear decision. Into half-guard for Dariush and then he forces his way into side mount. Ferreira gives his back in order to get to his feet, but Dariush stays heavy on him and forces him back down to his knees. Big knees to the thighs from Dariush and with seconds to go this looks like it’s all over. Dariush drags him back down and stays on him and that’s it. Clear 10-9 for Dariush giving him a 30-27 in my book. Crowd are not impressed.

Judges all score it for Beneil Dariush, 30-27 all round. Fight basically went exactly how I imagined except it was in the other direction, as the grappling (until Ferreira gassed a bit late on) was largely a wash, but Dariush had improved his striking to the level where he was able to work the distance better than the Brazilian and land the better shots for the majority of the fight. Not the show-stealer I was expecting but as a PPV opener this was fine.

Featherweight Fight: Darren Elkins vs Lucas Martins

I was a little confused as to how this one made the main card, especially with guys like Magny, Patolino, Cabral and Reis on the prelims, but I guess the hope was that Martins – who has an exciting style – could KO Elkins in highlight reel fashion. For me though the more likely outcome was that Elkins would grind a dull win out as he’s a pretty durable guy and I just didn’t see Martins as an elite-level fighter, no offense.

Round One and Martins throws out some kicks but clearly works to keep his distance. A one-two allows Elkins inside though and he shoots, dumping Martins to the ground with a single leg after a struggle. Martins works back up but Elkins lands with a right hand and keeps him pushed into the fence. He drops for another takedown but Martins blocks, and so Elkins separates with a hard elbow. Couple of low kicks land for Martins but Elkins again sets up a takedown attempt with a combo. Martins manages to shrug him off well this time though. Good low kick lands for Martins. Elkins shoots again and drives the Brazilian into the fence, but again he can’t get him off his feet so he separates with punches. Couple of good punches land on the feet for Elkins. He’s actually doing better standing than you’d expect. Another takedown attempt is stuffed by Martins but he finds himself forced against the fence eating knees to the body. One-two breaks for Elkins. Counter left hand lands for Martins off a brief exchange. Another clinch is shrugged off by the Brazilian but he’s not doing much offensively here. Good body kick from Elkins. Crowd are dead. Pair of good combos land for Elkins, answered by a knee from Martins. Front kick to the body from Elkins sets up a takedown attempt but when Martins stuffs it he quickly lands with a flurry. They break off and the striking exchange continues before Elkins clinches to end the round. Elkins has a cut on his right cheek from somewhere. 10-9 Elkins.

Round Two and Martins tags Elkins with a left hook in an early exchange. Elkins seems fine though and shoots for a single leg, driving Martins into the fence. Martins stuffs the takedown but takes some knees to the body and a couple of left hands to the ribs too. Good right hand connects inside for Elkins too. Crowd are pissed off with this now as Elkins works some dirty boxing inside, Randy Couture style. They break off and the crowd are chanting for Martins, but he’s just not being active enough at all. Left hook and a body kick connect for Elkins and then he closes the distance for another takedown attempt. Blatant low blow lands for Elkins but the ref ignores it as they continue to work in the clinch. Martins is at least doing a good job of stuffing the takedowns. More work inside from Elkins follows as he’s really imposing his will on the Brazilian. Nice uppercut catches him as he separates though and the American has to back up. Right hand counter follows as Elkins throws a combo. One-two from Martins sets up a head kick and that has Elkins in trouble, covering up as Martins flurries on him. Elkins manages to clinch to slow him down though and for some reason Martins doesn’t separate, choosing to engage inside. Elkins quickly reverses position and goes for a double leg, but Martins again stuffs it. Elkins continues to work him over inside though, doing an excellent job with his dirty boxing. Martins just can’t seem to prevent this at all. Round ends in the clinch and it’s another one in the books for Darren Elkins.

Round Three and Elkins shoots from the off, but dives right into a sharp counter knee. He takes it LIKE A MAN though and seems fine, forcing the clinch right after. Another knee from Martins drops Elkins to a knee but he’s relentless and he goes for another single leg. Martins stuffs it and breaks off, then stuffs another takedown. Elkins keeps coming though and drives him into the fence with the clinch again, going to work with more dirty boxing. Crowd are furious now. Another nice knee inside for Martins but he can’t get rid of Elkins. Sharp elbow connects for Martins too. They separate and for a guy two rounds up Elkins’s face is a MESS. Single leg attempt is stuffed by Martins but again he finds himself smothered on the fence. More of the same follows for Elkins before the ref calls a break. Elkins immediately uses his punches to set up another clinch though and puts us back to square one. Hey, if the tactic was good enough for Randy Couture then why not? Ref calls a second break much quicker this time. Martins just can’t seem to pull the trigger though and it’s Elkins who glances on a combo. One minute to go and Elkins sets up another takedown attempt with a one-two. Martins again stuffs it but he’s struggling to get off the fence. He breaks and pops Elkins with a right hand, but it doesn’t faze the wrestler in the slightest. Round ends there. 10-9 Elkins for a 30-27 for me. You could maybe give Martins the third round but that’d be it.

Judges inexplicably have a split decision – 30-27 Martins (!), 30-27 Elkins and 30-27 for Elkins, thank God. I mean seriously, how could ANYONE in their right mind score that fight for Lucas Martins, let alone giving him all three rounds? He was just totally powerless to stop Elkins’s Couture-esque gameplan and while it wasn’t really an entertaining fight it showed a glaring hole in Martins’ game which will stop him advancing much further for the time being. Bad matchmaking though from an entertainment standpoint – they’d have been better off matching Martins with Andre Fili and then giving Elkins Felipe Arantes, guaranteeing fireworks from the first fight and seeing if Arantes could stop Elkins’ clinch-heavy game, but c’est la vie.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Fabio Maldonado vs Hans Stringer

This was another fight that didn’t really belong on a PPV main card, but at least with this one I could understand why it was there as Maldonado is wildly popular in Brazil and I guess he deserved some sort of reward for stepping up on late notice to fight Stipe Miocic a weight class up earlier in the year. Opponent Stringer had won in his UFC debut in March but hardly looked like a world-beater and so this definitely looked like a winnable fight for Maldonado.

First round and Maldonado comes straight forward but Stringer immediately drops for a takedown and gets a trip, landing right in half-guard. Short elbows land for Stringer and the crowd are booing wildly already as they absolutely adore Maldonado. We’ve got very little going on here as Stringer shows decent control and the odd elbow strike but nothing else. He begins to throw the elbows with more frequency after a while though and that’s enough to avoid a referee stand-up. Maldonado tries to escape but ends up giving up full mount. He tries to roll from there but Stringer stays heavy on him and forces him back down into mount again. Scramble from Maldonado allows him to reverse though and he’s on his feet. An easy takedown for Stringer follows though and we’re right back to square one. Looks like Maldonado has a cut on his forehead. Round ends with Stringer on top connecting with elbows. Well, that couldn’t really have gone much worse for Maldonado. 10-8 Stringer.

Second round and Stringer wings a right hand that sets up a clinch. He forces Maldonado into the fence and begins to knee the legs, looking for the takedown again. He can’t get him down though and a right hand breaks for the Dutchman. Combo lands for Stringer as Maldonado looks to work his jab. Double jab lands for the Brazilian. Stringer’s looking gassed actually. Nice right hook lands for Stringer but Fabio seems fine. Takedown attempt from Stringer though and he gets Maldonado down with ease. Really poor takedown defense from Maldonado unfortunately. He manages to reverse though and rolls out to his knees, where he pops up to his feet. Stringer tries to get him down again but this time Fabio reverses and throws him onto his back. Big crowd pop for that. Maldonado begins to drop punches through the guard of the Dutchman and suddenly the tables seem to have completely turned. Beautiful shots to the body connect for Maldonado from the top and he stands over Stringer to drop some really heavy punches right through the guard. More shots connect and Stringer turtles up and looks barely able to defend. One minute to go and Maldonado really opens up with a flurry, and with Stringer in the foetal position referee Marc Goddard stops the fight to a huge pop, one that only gets bigger as ANDERSON SILVA leaps onto the fence to embrace Fabio in celebration. Really cool moment right there.

Well, what can you say about this one? From a technical standpoint this was not a good fight at all – Maldonado offered nothing from his back in a one-sided first round, but Stringer’s gas tank looked appalling and that’s always going to allow a tough dude like Maldonado back into the fight unless you put him away. On the other hand though it totally re-energised the crowd after the previous Elkins/Martins fight and it certainly wasn’t boring, so I guess that makes it okay? Probably didn’t belong on a UFC PPV main card in 2015 but what can you do? The Brazilian crowd liked it at least.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Phil Davis vs Glover Teixeira

Both of these guys were coming off losses at UFC 172, but were hardly losses to be ashamed of – Davis had taken a beating from Anthony Johnson but just surviving the distance with that guy doesn’t seem too bad now, while Teixeira lost to Jon Jones which again isn’t exactly damning. My pick here was Teixeira as I thought he was too well-rounded for Davis when you take into account his BJJ game and took him to win with a third-round TKO.

Round One and Glover closes in with strikes before stuffing an early takedown attempt. Big swings miss for both men. Big left hook glances for Teixeira. Clinch from Davis and he forces Glover into the fence, but the Brazilian quickly muscles free. Head kick glances for Davis. Left to the body puts Davis on the retreat but he circles out of range nicely. Big right hand lands for Glover but Davis fires back with one of his own and quickly clinches. Teixeira again breaks though. Another takedown is stuffed by Glover but he eats a solid left hand from Davis. Combo from Glover but Davis gets hold of a single leg and drives him into the fence. Teixeira works to defend it and almost winds up on top, but Davis scrambles and continues to go for the takedown, finally getting him down as Glover looks for a guillotine unsuccessfully. Teixeira turns his back in an attempt to stand, but he eats a lot of punches from behind from Davis who drags him right back down with a rear waistlock. Really good punches connect for Davis but Teixeira works up to his feet. Davis stays clinched though and works him over with a couple of knees to the midsection. He manages to drag Glover down again, then hits a suplex as Teixeira tries to escape. Round ends with Davis riding the back and landing more punches. 10-9 round for Phil Davis.

Round Two and Glover stalks forward but it’s Davis who lands a couple of combinations early on, seemingly surprising Glover a bit. Left hook connects for Teixeira but Davis ducks under a right and then takes him down, landing in the same controlling position from behind where he laces the right leg and lands punches. SICK reversal from Teixeira this time though and the crowd go wild as he winds up on top and grabs a front headlock before working to his feet. Head kick glances for Davis and he shoots again, and this time Glover goes for a guillotine. He makes the mistake of dropping to his back though and Davis pops his head free and takes side mount. Glover again rolls onto his knees and finds Davis controlling him with the leg lace. Punches land for Davis before Teixeira muscles his way to his feet, but he can’t shake Phil off him and the American forces him back into the fence. Teixeira seems to have no answer for Davis’s wrestling game. They break free and Davis lands a couple of combos again as Teixeira lumbers forward. Apparent eye poke from Davis follows and Mario Yamasaki has to call time to let Glover recover. They restart with just over a minute to go and again it’s Davis landing glancing combos as Teixeira seems a bit gunshy. Big flurry from Glover means he’s too close to Davis and Mr Wonderful tackles him down and then looks for a choke as Teixeira kneels up. 10-9 Davis and Glover needs a third round finish I’d say.

Round Three and Teixeira again stalks forward and throws a couple of combos that have Davis retreating. He responds though with a big takedown attempt, driving Glover into the cage and breaking his rhythm even though it doesn’t actually get him down. Teixeira manages to muscle free though and stalks forward again. Beautiful level change into a double leg from Davis though and he plants Glover cleanly on his back in half-guard. Full mount follows and Glover gives his back in an attempt to escape, but Davis stays in control and begins to land some heavy knees to the body from a pretty odd position. Teixeira works to his feet but Davis drags him right back down. More knees to the body follow as do some punches from under the arm. Davis is totally owning Glover here. Explosion from Teixeira puts him on his feet, but Davis won’t let up and he drives him right back into the fence. This time Glover manages to hit a switch and take top position, but Davis easily reverses that and they stand with Davis forcing him into the fence. One minute to go and they break off, with both men looking tired. Big overhand right misses for Glover. Single leg attempt from Davis is avoided but Glover isn’t quick enough to get away completely and Davis grabs a rear waistlock standing and drags him back down. More short punches and a suplex follow as Glover tries to stand. Round ends with Davis in firm control. Total shutout. 30-27 for Phil Davis.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Phil Davis. Well, even the worst judges couldn’t screw up that decision really. Totally one-sided fight as Teixeira basically had no answer for Davis’s grappling skills – it wasn’t just his wrestling as much as it was his ability to gain control from whatever position they were on the ground which surprised me given Glover’s ADCC credentials, although to be fair maybe he’s purely a top control guy in grappling which isn’t rare. Best showing of Davis’s career period for me as he made a very dangerous, proven top-five level opponent look like a bum. Not a barnburner of a fight though but it was decent enough actually as I found myself really appreciating Davis’s grappling.

UFC World Featherweight Title: Jose Aldo vs Chad Mendes

Back in 2012 after Aldo had knocked him out in their first encounter, the likelihood of Mendes working his way to another title shot seemed minimal – after all, his style wasn’t exactly exciting and as we’d seen with Jon Fitch, unless you show marked improvement after a loss in a title challenge it’s really hard to gain another one even if you keep winning. Mendes, though, was no Jon Fitch and after that loss to the champ he’d gone on a wild tear, winning five straight including four brutal knockouts, one over the uber-tough and difficult to stop Clay Guida. That striking improvement – probably due to the Duane Ludwig influence – made everyone want to see another Mendes title challenge, especially as Aldo hadn’t exactly looked at his best in a lacklustre fight with Ricardo Lamas in February. Despite an inclining that Aldo had become a bit underrated (dude had eight title defences coming into this one which makes him a GOAT candidate) I was taking the upset here and figured Mendes’s improved wrestle-boxing style would allow him to steal away the title in hostile territory.

Round One and the crowd are all over Mendes telling him he’s about to die. Poor guy! Aldo looks in noticeably better shape than in his last couple of fights. Mendes comes forward right away and pressures the champ back, landing an early leg kick. Glancing combo from Mendes but he eats a really hard combo from Aldo. Big body shot and a left hand land for Aldo to answer a leg kick. Another good leg kick from Mendes. These guys are absolutely going for it right away. Big left hook lands flush for Mendes and Aldo GOES DOWN! He pops up literally right away though and seems fine. Big uppercut narrowly misses for the challenger. He’s pushing an incredible pace here. Good leg kick from Aldo. Jab from Mendes and he continues to pressure the Brazilian, who answers back with a combo. Hard body kick from Aldo answers a Mendes leg kick. Left to the body from Mendes and he keeps Aldo on his back foot. Counter left connects for the challenger. Big combo from Aldo clearly has Mendes hurt but he grins and shakes his head. Thunderous leg kick follows for Aldo. Beautiful combo lands cleanly for Mendes. Leg kick responds for Aldo. Eye poke from Mendes and referee Marc Goddard calls time quickly to let the champ recover. Replay confirms a clear poke much to the crowd’s disgust. Aldo’s face is marked up bad. They restart and now Aldo’s PISSED OFF, really coming forward with combos. Nasty knee lands for Aldo but Mendes catches it and takes him down. Aldo springs right back up INSTANTLY. CRUSHING COUNTER LEFT sends Mendes crashing down and he’s in deep trouble! Aldo pounces and looks to finish from half-guard with a flurry, but Mendes manages to cling on. Full mount for Aldo and he works with some punches and elbows, but Mendes manages to shrimp him off and gets back to his feet. Big left lands for Aldo and he rocks Mendes with another combo. Buzzer CLEARLY sounds but Aldo NAILS CHAD WITH A ONE-TWO that sends him crashing into the cage! Whoa. Mendes practically has to be helped to his corner after that one. Incredible opening round. 10-9 Aldo but you could argue for a DQ right there I think given how late those punches were.

Round Two and Mendes seems recovered, buzzing around and putting pressure on Aldo again. He doesn’t look quite as confident in wading in with strikes now though. Takedown attempt from Mendes but Aldo stuffs it, only to take a low blow on his way out. Ref calls time as the replay shows it was a complete accident as Aldo leapt backwards to avoid a knee and caught the toes in the groin. They restart and Mendes continues to bounce around and cut angles, landing a body kick and a left hand. Combo glances for Mendes and backs Aldo up, but the Brazilian responds with a leg sweep when Mendes tries a head kick. Leg kick from Aldo is checked by Mendes who taunts the champ with a wagging finger. Big right hand misses for Chad. Left to the body from Aldo. Body kick from Mendes. You’d never believe this guy was a one-dimensional wrestler in like 2011. Two minutes to go and both men look to work their jab. Looks like Aldo’s is a bit faster though. Good counter connects for Mendes in an exchange. Vicious left hook to the body answers for Aldo. One minute to go and Mendes is still moving around a ton. Right hand to the body from Aldo and he follows with a head kick that glances. Counter left hand from Aldo. Exchange continues to the buzzer which does actually end the round this time. Close round but I’d call it 10-9 Aldo by a hair.

Round Three and Aldo comes out swinging some heavy combos that Mendes manages to deflect. Nice left hand from Aldo, but Mendes counters with an EYE POKE much to the disgust of the crowd. Man, they have to start taking points for that shit even if it’s accidental. This time though Chad just gets a warning. Both guys come out swinging and Aldo gets through with a hard pair of lefts, but Mendes comes back with a left hook of his own. Good left to the body follows. Combo answers for Mendes. One-two also connects for the challenger. Matt Serra Special glances for Mendes but Aldo seems fine. That’s a wild overhand right to the back of the ear by the way. Nice left hook cracks Mendes and knocks him off balance. Heavy combo follows for Aldo and Mendes has to backpedal big time. Uppercut answers for Mendes and now he puts Aldo on the retreat with a right hand. Surprised Mendes isn’t shooting for more takedowns. Couple of jabs get through for Mendes. Uppercut connects and buckles Aldo’s legs, and a follow-up one clearly has him stunned. He backs up but Mendes comes in too wildly and takes a right hand that sends him reeling! Holy shit. Big knee follows for Aldo but Mendes catches it and goes for the takedown. Aldo stuffs it and opens up with a quick flurry but Mendes manages to circle free. This fight is AWESOME. Big combo from Aldo stuns the challenger and forces him into a desperate takedown attempt, but the champ sprawls to avoid and comes back to his feet. Big shots land again for Aldo but this time Mendes shoots and gets him down. Aldo pops back up but gives his back and Mendes grabs a rear waistlock to slow things down. Seconds to go and the action slows down before Aldo manages to turn into him, and the round ends with Mendes breaking the clinch with a heavy left hook. Tremendous action. 10-9 Aldo again by a hair.

Round Four and if they keep this pace up this might be the Fight of the Year. Mendes comes charging out of the gate with a pair of leg kicks and it looks like he’s trying to test Aldo’s cardio by really pushing the pace. MONSTER chant kicks up for Aldo. Mendes is bouncing around like teammate TJ Dillashaw. Overhand right glances for the challenger. Jabs back the champion up a bit but he glances on an overhand left. Good body shot from Mendes. Uppercut follows and Chad is beating the champ to the punch in this round. Aldo tries to claim another eye poke but Marc Goddard’s having none of it. Nice body kick lands for the challenger too. Stiff jab connects for Mendes. Aldo’s eye is a mess. Left uppercut from Mendes. Aldo starts to wing big punches right back but he’s getting the worse of it in this round for sure. Looks like both men are busted open now; Aldo around both eyes and Mendes on his forehead. Beautiful snapping counter right connects for Aldo to answer a Mendes one-two. Now Mendes claims an eye poke but Goddard tells him to continue too. Another right hand counter lands for Aldo. Beautiful combo from Mendes, left to the body and a right hook to the head. Another right hook follows and snaps the champ’s head back. Less than a minute to go and Mendes appears to hurt his foot on a checked leg kick. He bounces it off though. Heavy one-two looks to stun Mendes but the champ misses with a flying knee to follow up. Big combo from Aldo but Mendes fires right back to end the round. Best round for Mendes so far; 10-9, but I’d say he still needs a finish.

Round Five and it’s Aldo who looks worse for wear surprisingly enough. Mendes comes charging out with a right hook and follows with a pair of left hands that land flush. Well, certainly can’t question Aldo’s chin after this display. Right hand lands for Aldo to slow Mendes down a bit. Nice takedown from Mendes but Aldo bounces right back up. This time Chad manages to keep him down though and looks to suck his legs from under him to stop him standing again. Nothing really happens from there as it looks like both men are taking a bit of a breather. Aldo works back up to his feet and separates with a shove. Beautiful combo lands for Aldo and he follows with a knee that stuns Mendes. He dives for the takedown but Aldo stuffs it and spins to take the back with Mendes on all fours. Good job from Chad though of standing and turning into him to escape. Trade follows and Aldo lands with another heavy combo. Good combo answers for Mendes. Left hand wobbles Mendes but he stays standing and fires right back with a stiff jab. Another one-two lands flush for Aldo but Mendes stays in the pocket and fires back. Both guys look exhausted now and understandably so. Takedown attempt from Mendes but Aldo sprawls to avoid and then claims a low blow which Marc Goddard says wasn’t. One minute to go and a stiff jab connects for Aldo. Right to the body from the champ. Exchange continues and the crowd are DEAFENING. Head kick from Mendes is blocked. Right hand lands for Aldo in a trade and they SWING WILDLY until the buzzer. Awesome. I’ve got that 10-9 Aldo giving him a 49-46. Don’t think Mendes won but you could give him two rounds somewhere and not be off I don’t think.

Judges score it 49-46 all round for Jose Aldo to retain the title. Sounds like a lopsided score when you read it like that but it really wasn’t like that at all – Mendes fucking brought the fight but unfortunately for him Aldo came in and completely matched him, giving the best performance of his UFC career and arguably of his whole MMA career against his toughest opponent yet. Mendes hit him harder and more frequently than anyone had ever done before and Aldo totally rose to the challenge and somehow managed to hit Mendes even harder and even more than that. It’s really unfortunate that the PPV did a crap buyrate really as this was an all-time classic – probably the second best fight of 2014 behind the first Lawler/Hendricks fight – but I think Aldo’s star will probably rise big time this year anyway thanks to his rivalry with Conor McGregor. After a so-so main card this was a total show-saver too. The only criticism would be the amount of fouls early on – in particular the late punches from Aldo that really stunned Mendes, but he seemed to recover pretty well anyway so I guess it’s not a massive deal. Incredible fight.

-Show ends with a highlight reel of the night’s action.

Final Thoughts….

Upon first watch I would’ve said this was one of the worst UFC PPVs in recent memory but on a rewatch it really wasn’t that bad – sure, it had one of the slowest main cards of the year as Dariush/Ferreira wasn’t great, Elkins/Martins was dull, Maldonado’s finish was okay but it was a bad fight and while I appreciated Davis’s grappling that wasn’t exactly a barnburner either. But the main event was a high-end FOTYC and pretty much all of the prelims ranged from good to excellent, so it’s probably worth a thumbs up, just about. Would’ve been much better with smarter card placement but ah well.

Best Fight: Aldo vs. Mendes
Worst Fight: Elkins vs. Martins

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: