Jose Aldo retained against a tough challenger in Frankie Edgar. | Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Jose Aldo withstood the most significant test of his featherweight title reign, and it came as a surprise to no one that it was Frankie Edgar who administered it.
Buoyed by his trademark Louisville Slugger low kicks, a stringing right jab and a flair for the spectacular, Aldo (22-1, 4-0 UFC) retained his 145-pound championship with a unanimous decision over Edgar in the UFC 156 headliner on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
All three judges gave Aldo the nod: 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47. The 26-year-old Brazilian has won 15 fights in a row, cementing his place as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats.
“It was a very difficult fight,” Aldo said. “Frankie is a great fighter. I knew I had to walk step by step, round by round to get the victory.”
Aldo sprang out of the gate like a thoroughbred, punishing “The Answer” with his jab and low kicks. Rounds one and two clearly went the champion’s way, as he utilized his dizzying combination of technique, power and speed to keep the indomitable Edgar (15-4-1, 9-4-1 UFC) at bay.
By the middle of round three, however, Aldo had slowed and the momentum had begun to shift ever so subtly. Edgar kept pushing his frenetic pace and started to find a home for his punches, his attack spearheaded by his right hand. A lightning-quick front kick to the face from Aldo may have been all that kept him from surrendering the round, as Edgar forced him to abandon his focus on the legs for fear of being taken down.
“He knew that I was going to continue my kicking and try to take me down,” Aldo said, “so I stopped my kicking and concentrated on punches.”
Edgar turned up the heat over the final 10 minutes, hoisting and slamming Aldo to the canvas in the fourth round and supplying more multi-punch fire in the fifth. Aldo answered in the waning seconds, as he sprang off the cage -- a la Anthony Pettis -- and cracked his challenger with a beautiful Superman punch.
“It was a close fight. I keep finding myself in these situations,” said Edgar, who has lost his last three fights by decision. “Congrats to Jose. He fought a great fight. I did [think I did enough to win], but it doesn’t matter. Jose is the winner. I’m just going to go home and take some time.”
‘Minotoro’ Nogueira Upsets Evans
In the light heavyweight co-main event, Rashad Evans made the mistake of playing Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s game and wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision as a result. All three judges arrived at the same verdict: 29-28 for Nogueira (21-5, 4-2 UFC).
The 36-year-old Brazilian kept Evans (17-3-1, 12-3-1 UFC) on the end of his stiff right jab and stout left cross for much of the rather uneventful 15-minute confrontation. Evans secured his only takedown late in the first round, allowing Nogueira to settle into a rhythm on the feet. Neither man landed much of consequence on the feet, but Nogueira struck with more volume, accuracy and authority in the second and third rounds, helping him carry the scorecards.
Evans has lost back-to-back fights for the first time as a professional.
‘Bigfoot’ Silva Stuns Overeem
An overconfident Overeem toyed with “Bigfoot” for much of the first 10 minutes, smirking as he battered his body with knees from the clinch in the first round and ripped into him with ground-and-pound in the second. However, his inability to put away the gigantic Brazilian came back to haunt him.
Silva tagged the Dutchman with a right cross to the side of the head during their initial third-round exchange and then poured on the punishment. More than 10 blows, including two sadistic right uppercuts, found their mark before Overeem slumped to the mat, buried by a hailstorm of punches and beaten for the first time in more than five years.
“[You] win the fight in the cage, not outside,” Silva said. “He talked a lot of s--- outside. I believe in myself. I believe in my coaches and the guys who help me. I’m so happy. He didn’t expect too much. I told him at the press conference, ‘Hey, I will make you respect me, brother.’ I worked a lot of right hands and uppercuts. I’m ready for anyone. I respect all heavyweights, but I’m ready.”
Maia Outgrapples Fitch, Stays Unbeaten as Welterweight
Decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Demian Maia overwhelmed perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch with superior grappling, as he took a one-sided unanimous decision from the American Kickboxing Academy standout in a featured welterweight bout. Maia (18-4, 12-4 UFC) swept the scorecards by identical 30-27 marks.
Fitch (24-5-1, 14-3-1 UFC) generated almost no offense. Maia delivered takedowns in all three rounds and kept the 34-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind., native either pinned on the cage or grounded hopelessly on the mat. To his credit, Fitch defended the Brazilian’s persistent submission advances, but he was woefully outgunned in the grappling department against the 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist.
Maia is a perfect 3-0 since moving to 170 pounds.
Benavidez Outpoints ‘Uncle Creepy’
Team Alpha Male’s Joseph Benavidez posted his fifth win in six appearances, as he captured a unanimous decision from Ian McCall in a flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Benavidez (17-3, 4-1 UFC).
Benavidez landed with more volume and authority, wobbling “Uncle Creepy” with a crisp left hook in the first round and a clubbing right in the third. McCall (11-4-1, 0-2-1 UFC) answered in round two, where he capitalized on a failed takedown attempt from his opponent, moved briefly to mount and tagged Benavidez with some effective ground-and-pound. Still, it was not enough of a statement to turn the tide permanently in McCall’s favor.
“My last fight was close, and Ian was just as tough,” said Benavidez, who rebounded from his September decision loss to flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. “It was an awesome fight. I think it went great. I think the judges got it right, which is awesome. I’m never satisfied. If I’m going for another title shot, I’d like to be even better [than I was] in this one.”
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