The UFC 179 fight card was saved by its main event, where Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes put on a Fight of the Year contender and all-time great UFC title fight. The fight was amazing but it was stacked on top of garbage as the evening dragged on with sub-par fight after sub-par fight. The gravity of the main event washed away the doldrums of the rest of the card.
Make no mistake, Aldo's win over Mendes was epic, but it shouldn't give the UFC a pass on the horrid undercard they constructed for it. It was a long night of bad fights saved by an outstanding main event as the UFC continues its trend away from events with depth.
On to thoughts on the fights:
- I'm guessing after that rather negative introduction that more than a few of you are upset, so let me say that the Jose Aldo vs Chad Mendes II fight was everything that is good and fun about MMA packed into a single fight. Let's talk Mendes first, he was a challenger who came into the cage to win a belt and not just enjoy the experience, and it has been a good while since we've gotten that. Mendes' striking was on point and he was going right at Aldo, mixing in more kicks that the champion, who is famed for his kicking game. Mendes' two biggest weapons were his left hook, which landed with a shocking consistency, and his right upper cut, which he timed very well with Aldo's head movement. The result was Aldo, one of the best defensive strikers in MMA, getting marked up more than we've ever seen before. It was an all time great performance in a losing effort from Mendes.
- Aldo matched Mendes with a true legacy-defining performance to get the win. Aldo's boxing was sharp, his counter-wrestling was utter brilliance, and he displayed true championship level mental fortitude. When Aldo was hurt and in danger of giving away key rounds, Aldo came roaring back to hurt Mendes in a way that put his stamp on the round. It was a performance that will go down in history for Aldo and really cements him as a great champion.
- Referee Marc Goddard had a tough night as he allowed Aldo to get away with significant strikes after the bell at the end of Round 1, and after issuing stern warnings to Mendes for eye pokes and groin strikes refused to call any fouls later in the fight.
- Phil Davis used his wrestling to get the biggest win of his MMA career as he got a decision over Glover Teixeira. While Teixeira did not look good last night, it was still a Top 10 fighter at the time of the fight. Davis showed chain wrestling, something his recent fights had severally lacked, and used the riding position to wear Teixeira down. It wasn't thrilling, but it was a performance Davis needed.
- Fabio Maldonado managed to finished Hans Stringer after losing the first round in what was just an awful fight. Maldonado was taken down pretty much anytime Stringer touched him and when he finally got on top of Stringer the bottom game of Stringer was totally inert and he did nothing as Maldonado rained down strikes from half guard.
- Darren Elkins was able to push Lucas Martins into the cage for three rounds and claim a decision in a dreadful fight. Martins showed absolutely no ability to deal with an amazingly predictable game plan, and was just not interested in getting his back off the cage. The fact that one judge gave Martins all three rounds is a joke and was the cherry on top of this awful waste of time.
- Neil Magny came back against William Macario to get a stoppage win and claim a 5-0 record in 2014. He has come a very long way as a fighter in his time in the UFC and has turned into a fighter that deserves consideration for the Top 15 in the Welterweight division and has firmly carved out a place between the mid-level fighters and the upper level of the 170-pound division.
- Wilson Reis made short work of UFC and WEC veteran Scott Jorgensen, hurting him to the body with a kick, following him to the ground and then finishing an arm triangle. While Reis isn't likely to be a contender at Flyweight, he does seem to be carving out a place for himself as the gatekeeper in the division. Meanwhile Jorgensen seems to be in free-fall as he has gone 2-6 since the start of 2012 and likely should be cut from the promotion at this point.
- Andre Fili claimed a very close decision over Felipe Arantes, who could very easily been considered the winner. Fili is a fantastic athlete, but his actual fight technique is still pretty raw. Right now his game is based around his speed and explosion, which are impressive, but he is going to need more as he progresses up the Featherweight ladder.
- Gilbert Burns continues to look like an excellent Lightweight prospect as he notches his second UFC victory. Burns is a fantastic grappler and athlete, and under Blackzillian coach Henri Hooft he is turning in a very good MMA fighter. Burns could very quickly turn into a Top 15 Lightweight and possibly even a contender down the road.
- Tony Martin showed some good instincts on the ground, sticking with and eventually finishing a kimura on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Fabricio Camoes. While Martin's grappling looked on point, his weight cutting is a big problem. Martin started his career at Middleweight and his current attempted career at Lightweight seems to be a serious problem. A move to Welterweight seems like it is in Martin's future and would likely be for the best.