It was the night of shattered dreams at UFC 156. So many title hopes went up in smoke as upsets rocked up and down this card. The biggest talking point coming out of this card very clearly seems to be the fights the UFC lost tonight. There was some talk of a Rashad Evans fight with Anderson Silva if he had won tonight, but clearly that is laid to rest, and of course Alistair Overeem's promised heavyweight title fight went up in smoke. While I'll touch more on that, the UFC lost some big fights they wanted to move forward with but they gained a few fights last night also.
Jose Aldo's win should restart some of the talk of him moving up to Lightweight again as he he just convincingly beat one of the best fighters from that weight class. Joseph Benavidez showed improvements that make him the most interesting Flyweight challenger and Demian Maia is now a contender at 170-pounds.
The other big issue was the scoring of the Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar fight.
On first watch I gave all five rounds to Aldo, but I freely admit I had a distraction in the fourth round. Upon a second viewing I revise my card to 49-46, but in any event it was pretty clear cut win for Aldo. This is not to say it wasn't a close fight, it was very close at times but I thought Aldo finished ahead in four of those rounds. In some ways it was reminiscent of Edgar/Penn I in that Edgar was darting in and out later in the fight, and to his credit he was landing on the chin more than he did against Penn, but many of his shots were landing on Aldo's arms. Like Penn though, Aldo was landing good, hard counters to Edgar's face and those are what won Aldo the fight.
I think part of the controversy comes from the commentary on the fight. To make another historical comparison, it was reminiscent of Shogun/Lyoto I in which Joe Rogan talked a lot about Rua's leg kicks and said nothing about Lyoto's counters to those same kicks. Last night Rogan spoke at length about how Aldo was slowing down but failed to mention how hard he was still hitting Edgar.
All in all it was an excellent, close fight in which Jose Aldo emerged the better fighter. On to the other talking points:
- I'd be remiss if I didn't address my own commentary on Aldo/Edgar fight heading in to the event. I was wrong and Aldo clearly is back at 100%. Now clearly he did slow down towards the end of the fight but that is likely more of a result of his weight cutting, but Aldo's speed was all there.
- Rashad Evans' chance of fighting Anderson Silva might have just gone out the window. I'm not saying it is impossible as we already have three title fights this year (included this main event) in which a Champion is fighting a challenger coming off a loss, but the interest for this fight just dropped out from under it.
- As for Evan's striking, nobody should be surprised by his passive striking. That is how Evans boxes, he hunts for the one big punch. He will give up rounds looking for the KO shot, he did it with Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida, and he did it again last night. What was concerning was his total inability to wrestle, but remember that Phil Davis struggled in taking Antonio Rogerio Nogueira down also. So it is possible we are all underrating Little Nog's wrestling ability.
- Antonio Silva reminded the MMA world of something very important, Alistair Overeem is the same flawed fight he has always been. Overeem is a fantastic and powerful offensive fighter but is defensively lacking. He was using head movement well early in the fight to avoid Silva's right hand, but he kept his hands low and paid for it. Overeem also has a historically shaky chin, and when he is unable to bully a fighter he fades. It was the moment of the night and an upset that will live on in UFC history.
- Not surprisingly there was more than a little glee in the MMA world when Overeem went down. This isn't surprising as both in the lead up and actual fight he showed nothing but contempt for Silva and his striking. Overeem's walk out looked more like a victory celebration than it did a focused fighter coming into the cage. And in the end that over confidence lead to his getting knocked out in dramatic fashion and giving the MMA world a gif that will be used as Justice Porn for years to come.
- Jon Fitch is a good MMA grappler who ran head first into a great grappler in Demian Maia. Fitch had never really tangled with a grappler on that level in MMA before, and Maia beat Fitch from bell to bell. While no judge was willing to give Maia a 10-8 based purely on positional dominance it likely should have happened at least once as Fitch did basically nothing but defend for 15 minutes.
- On a side note there was a great deal of amusement to be gotten from Fitch's corner saying that Maia didn't want to fight and Fitch throwing up his hands at the of the third round when Maia took him down. Fitch done got Fitch'd.
- Joseph Benavidez put together a complete performance against Ian McCall and I think people are sleeping on his chances against the Flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson. Their first fight was fairly one sided for Johnson, but Benavidez looked much improved on the feet and looks like the best challenger for Johnson.
- Losing might be the best thing to happen to Tyron Woodley. He looked loose last night, like the weight of an undefeated run had been taken off his shoulders. A year ago would he have thrown a feint superman jab, overhand right punch to open a fight? Doubtful, but against a clearly superior striking he threw caution to the wind and got a big win in return.
- Bobby Green impressed in a fight seemed designed for him to lose. Jacob Volkmann was unable to take him down, got beat up on the feet and then got tapped out. Lets get Green another tough Lightweight.
- Not much else to say about prelims other than what the hell was Chico Camus thinking in his fight. Camus clearly had the advantage standing with Dustin Kimura, but insisted on shooting for takedowns despite getting out grappled basically every second he was on the mat. When Kimura finished the second round ready to submit Camus it was unthinkable that he would take Kimura down again. But then Camus shot for that same single leg and got reversed right into mount and was soon finished with a choke. A prime example of shockingly low fight IQ and not listening to one's corner, as Duke Rofous was imploring Camus to stop taking Kimura down.
- After a few months away from Vegas, it really seemed like the crowd was determined to remind everyone why Vegas crowds suck. They booed everything, and I'm glad that the UFC won't be returning to "the fight capital of the world" any time soon because crowds like that and the one that booed Junior dos Santos in December don't deserve such stacked cards.