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Jose Aldo: Leon Roberts ‘did an excellent job’ reffing my fight vs. Petr Yan

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Late stoppage? Too much punishment? Jose Aldo begs to differ on the consensus opinion that his UFC 251 loss to Petr Yan needed to end sooner.

UFC 251: Yan v Aldo Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Jose Aldo may have lost by fifth-round TKO to Petr Yan for the UFC bantamweight title, but the former featherweight king and MMA legend turned in a very spirited and competitive performance before Yan took over.

Unfortunately, a great bout was marred by what was widely viewed as a late stoppage by referee Leon Roberts when Aldo sustained prolonged punishment in the fifth round and yet it wasn’t called until the 3:24 mark. Roberts did not officiate another bout for the rest of the UFC’s stay on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

While there was outrage from analysts and fans alike, from Aldo’s point of view, he thought that Roberts did his job well.

“The referee was great, man – excellent work by the referee,” Aldo said to MMA Fighting. “It’s hard to think about stopping a title fight. If he stopped it early, everyone would talk about it. I wasn’t out at any moment. I went down and was trying to recover. Everyone who gets in there, or those who have been knocked down before, knows how the body reacts. You get slower, that’s a fact. Fighters who say it should have been stopped earlier are just kidding themselves. You get slower, you try to move, but it’s completely different.

“To me, the referee did an excellent job. Getting punched once or twice more won’t make any difference in your life. You’re willing to do it. What if the referee doesn’t stop it there, I recover and land a good one that knocks him out? Every referee goes to our locker room before the fight to go over the rules, and I always tell them to not stop the fight, only if I have no reaction. As long as I’m fighting, let me in there. It’s part of the sport.”

Aldo absorbed a career-high 194 significant strikes, including a career-high 150 to the head. In round five, the significant strike count was slightly in Yan’s favor to the tune of 62-1 (with a knockdown scored), while the total strike count was 113-1.

As for his own performance, Aldo was pleased with how he fared and how he was able to implement the gameplan.

“Pretty much everything worked out,” Aldo said. “Everything we thought would happen in the fight happened. It was a very tough fight. We were basically tied going into the fifth round, but the main factors in the fight were a kick that landed on him and his punch that got me in the first and affected me. I thought it would be a tough fight, but I would be able to control it.

“We fought smart for two rounds. When I came back to the fourth, I don’t know why I changed my strategy again. I should have kept it, controlling the distance, but it’s his merit for imposing his rhythm, coming forward and controlling until the fifth. We thought about fighting [the way I did in round one], but he connected a good punch, and I went down and stayed there for a while trying to recover and couldn’t fight until the end.

“But, like I said, I’m very happy. I was able to land kicks, I was able to land punches. I think I should have done more combinations with my hands. I think it was a good performance regardless. I think it’s more of his merits for being able to neutralize some areas we had in mind than me not doing something.”

Aldo is on a three-fight losing streak, having dropped a three-round decision to current featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, before a split decision defeat in his bantamweight debut against Marlon Moraes. Even with the losing skid, he still received a title shot and was quite competitive until the late stages of round four and all of round five.