A look back at last Saturday's UFC 179 event...
BRAZIL’S LAST CHAMP STANDING
Jose Aldo needed last Saturday night, and not just because his win over Chad Mendes doubled his paycheck and added a Fight of the Night bonus to his bank account. No, the UFC featherweight champion needed that victory because of the way he won. In winning an exciting five-rounder that showed off his heart, power, and precision striking, he reminded the world just why he’s one of the top fighters in the world as well as the best featherweight to strap on the gloves. When you’re on top for as long as he’s been, you can forget how good he is, especially after performances against Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung in which he looked bored. But after some heated back-and-forth banter in the media with Mendes, Brazil’s only current world champion was fired up and he showed it with every strike he threw. Add in the spirited effort from Mendes, and you got the kind of fight that should have every UFC fan wondering who’s next for the sharpshooter from Rio.
How was that for a segue? Well, brash Irishman Conor McGregor is seemingly the people’s choice at this point, though hardcore fight fans believe that the winner of the November 22 bout between Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar is the rightful challenger to the crown. And let’s not forget Dennis Bermudez, who could push his winning streak to eight. All are legit challengers, but let’s first scratch Bermudez from the immediate race, and do the same for Edgar, because this one is likely going to come down to Swanson and McGregor. Of course, a loss also eliminates someone, so Cub and Conor both have to emerge victorious in their upcoming fights. So assuming they do, it’s an interesting dilemma for the UFC brass. McGregor is the bigger fight in terms of media attention and likely Pay-Per-View buys, while Swanson – if he beats Edgar – will be unbeaten in his last seven bouts, the majority of which came against elite competition. Swanson did lose in eight seconds in his first bout against Aldo back in the WEC days in 2009, so that could hurt him, but it could also help, because now you have a built-in redemption storyline. Aldo-McGregor needs no storyline, but despite his impressive run thus far in the UFC, is McGregor ready for a shot at the best featherweight ever? Swanson has proved that he is, while the jury may still be out on the “Notorious” one. Will a win over a hard-nosed contender like Dennis Siver in January answer all questions? Some yes, all no. And while the call has gone out for McGregor to face a wrestler before challenging for the belt, Aldo will not be wrestling him if and when they meet. So my thing is, everyone is calling for the UFC to strike while the iron’s hot with McGregor and throw him in with Aldo immediately. That assumes that McGregor is a flash in the pan who will make everyone some money, get blown out by Aldo, and never be heard from again. I disagree with that logic. McGregor has the potential to do big things in this sport, so what’s the rush? It’s not like there isn’t anyone ahead of him on the featherweight ladder to put against Aldo in early 2015. Swanson is right there, and maybe spectacular performances by Edgar or Bermudez put the public in their corner for the next shot. In the meantime, enjoy McGregor in the Octagon and outside it, and by February, let’s see who has the best case for a crack at the crown.
It’s probably little consolation to Chad Mendes after his UFC 179 loss to Jose Aldo, but I think I’m not alone in saying that I’d pay to watch that kid fight every time he steps into the Octagon. Against Aldo, “Money” gave a gritty, exciting performance, and while some have speculated about him moving to bantamweight since the odds of a third shot at Aldo are slim, I disagree. Mendes has proved that he can hang with – and beat – the best at 145 pounds, and since I’m guessing that Aldo will eventually move to the lightweight division, the door will suddenly reopen for Mendes to return to the title picture.
Phil Davis got back in the win column Saturday night after his April loss to Anthony Johnson, outpointing Glover Teixeira over three rounds. It wasn’t the most thrilling affair, but Davis did what he had to in order to dominate the fight and pick up the victory, putting him back in the thick of the title race. A call-out of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva was an odd occurrence after the fight, but I would like to see how that fight pans out if it ever happens.
DARREN DOIN’ DAMAGE
I can’t lie – I’m a Darren Elkins fan. To me, he’s the typical Midwest grinder who is no frills on fight night and unapologetic about that fact. As far as he’s concerned, winning is all that matters, and how can you not respect that? And if you’re complaining that his win over Lucas Martins wasn’t particularly exciting, my answer to that has always been that his opponents know what he’s going to do in a fight. If you don’t like it, stop it. And only a select few have stopped Darren Elkins from doing what he wants to do.
It may be the quietest five-fight winning streak ever, but man, what an accomplishment Neil Magny pulled off on Saturday by winning his fifth fight in a single year, trying the modern era UFC record initially set by Roger Huerta in 2007. And while the November / December cards are filling up, it would be cool to see the low-key Coloradan get the chance to break the record by winning six straight in 2014.
What better way to end the UFC 179 musings with everyone’s favorite representative of “Hillbilly Steel,” Fabio Maldonado? A Brazilian hero, and for good reason, Maldonado looked like he was on his way to a loss against Hans Stringer on Saturday before he began his usual come from behind assault in the second and finished the Netherlands native. He may not ever win a world title, but Maldonado will always show up to fight and entertain, and in his everyman sort of way, he’s become an MMA star.