FRANKIE EDGAR: ANSWERED
I’ve been on the Edgar bandwagon since he debuted in the UFC in that great fight with Tyson Griffin, and I’m glad to see him evolve into the fighter I knew he’d become. His survival of Maynard’s first-round onslaught is now the stuff of legend, and his performance after was impressive and awe-inspiring for those who watch the sport for technique rather than sitting on their hands waiting for a knockout. And yet on Saturday night, he gave us just that. Hell, I was alone in my house and still jumped out of my seat. With this win and his back to back victories over quite possibly the best 155 pound fighter in history (BJ Penn), Edgar has proven that the bottleneck in the Lightweight rankings is a good mile or two behind him. There are no shortage of challengers, and all will provide entertaining fights, but are any of them in Edgar’s league?
WHAT’S NEXT FOR GRAY MAYNARD?
The easy answer is Nate Diaz. Diaz’s win over Takanori Gomi at UFC 135 had everyone ready to proclaim him the #1 contender, which confounds me considering his inconsistency and the fact that Gomi is nowhere near the fighter he was six years ago (and even then he was overrated). However, it does give matchmaker Joe Silva an excuse to make the fight with Maynard to settle their long-standing grudge. Surely Nate, who has been asking for this fight since January of 2010, would love to see it happen. Thing is, though, Maynard is not anything resembling the fighter he was when they first met in the fifth season of the Ultimate Fighter. While Diaz has been jumping up and down in weight and trying to find his place in the fight world, Maynard has matured into an elite 155er and improved his striking tremendously. Be careful what you wish for, Nate.
JOSE ALDO: THE FEATHERWEIGHT RODNEY DANGERFIELD
Aldo can’t get any respect. He was dismissed after he was unable to dispatch Mark Hominick and gassed in the championship rounds, and his win against Kenny Florian is being seen as another chink in the armor of a guy who was being called the Featherweight Anderson Silva in the WEC. The problem is that many fans and almost as many self-professed pundits are unwilling or unable to put both fights into their proper context. His fight against Hominick was coming off an injury to his cervical vertebrae. It’s the type of neck injury that could sideline an athlete for quite some time, yet Aldo was defending his title just four months after the initial diagnosis and rehab. It’s still not one hundred percent, and yet he was able to stave off his biggest figurative and literal biggest challenge yet in Kenny Florian. Was he cautions? Of course. He had to be against a guy who, despite his (slightly unfair) reputation as a guy who chokes, had a tremendous size and grappling advantage. Yet Florian wasn’t able to get him to the ground, and the best he could muster after the first round was to occasionally muscle Aldo around the cage without inflicting any damage or attaining anything resembling a dominant position. Even if Aldo himself was unhappy with the outcome, it sent a message to 155ers: don’t count on a weight cut to win the Featherweight Championship. With all due respect, if Kenny Florian couldn’t topple him, the other UFC Lightweights eyeing 145 don’t stand a chance.
KENNY FLORIAN: RETIREMENT?
Rumors of a retirement have yet to materialize, but this one had to sting. Florian was convinced that he’d finally found his route to championship gold, only to be out-grappled by a deceptively strong and agile champion. Unfortunately it’s another argument that he’s a choker, which I don’t think is entirely fair given the way the MMA media has undersold his most recent opponent and the fact that his last championship loss was to BJ Penn who was at the height of his dominance at 155. Still, it does make it clear that Florian is simply the best of the rest. There are fighters who are championship material, but in this young sport most are seemingly a full generation ahead of all other fighters in their weight class. Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva are the most obvious examples, but guys like Frankie Edgar are establishing themselves as well. While being second-best in a crowded field at any weight is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s clearly not good enough for Florian. I think it’d be a shame since he obviously still has plenty of gas left in his tank, but I’d also understand if this was the last time we saw him inside of an Octagon. Well, except when he’s doing post-fight interviews in a beige three-piece suit, anyway.
CHAEL SONNEN: PROFESSIONAL CLOWN SHOES
I’m glad that everyone’s amused by Chael Sonnen’s interviews and challenge to Anderson Silva. As a former professional wrestling junkie, I appreciated him laying down the “loser leaves town” stipulation. That’s where my praise begins and ends, though, for the guy who continues to thumb his nose at the integrity of the sport. His continued defiance and insistence that he has a right to use performance enhancing drugs under the guise of a phony disease is no laughing matter, and it’s a shame that so many people whose job it is to cover this sport are instead giggling along with him and slapping him on the back as he boasts about his ability to circumvent Athletic Commissions and tarnish the reputation of MMA. I would say that it won’t be a laughing matter when a healthy Anderson Silva gets into the Octagon with him, but I don’t find much to laugh about now as it is.
MELVIN GUILLARD IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Guillard will be the first to tell you that he was a reckless personality when he first came into the UFC, and he’s matured by leaps and bounds as a fighter but especially as a human being since then. However, he clearly underestimated Joe Lauzon and paid for it. He’s no different than a multitude of other fighters, but a champion knows his victory is only as secure as his focus. Still, credit where it’s due to Lauzon, who kept his cool and fought smart.
RESULTS – MAIN TELEVISED PORTION
Frankie Edgar def. Gray Maynard via TKO (Punches in R4) to retain the UFC Lightweight Championship
Jose Aldo def. Kenny Florian via Unanimous Decision to retain the UFC Featherweight Championship
Chael Sonnen def. Brian Stann via Submission (Arm Triangle in R2)
Nam Phan def. Leonard Garcia via Unanimous Decision
Joe Lauzon def. Melvin Guillard via Submission (Rear Naked Choke in R1)
Demian Maia def. Jorge Santiago via Unanimous Decision
Anthony Pettis def. Jeremy Stephens via Split Decision – Good to see Pettis get back to his winning ways, but a split decision win over Jeremy Stephens isn’t going to send him shooting up the rankings.
Stipe Miocic def. Joey Beltran via Unanimous Decision – Someone in the UFC dropped Miocic’s name as a Heavyweight prospect and everyone thought he was going to come out like a monster and knock Beltran’s head off. What little video I’ve seen of him gave me the same impression this fight did: he’s got potential, but he’s not quite there yet.
Darren Elkins def. Tiequan Zhang via Unanimous Decision
Aaron Simpson def. Eric Schafer via Unanimous Decision
Mike Massenzio def. Steve Cantwell via Unanimous Decision – Sadly, this will probably be the last we’ll see of the former WEC Light Heavyweight contender.