Jose Aldo Jr. retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight belt by winning a unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar in Saturday’s main event at UFC 156 in Las Vegas at The Mandalay Bay Events Center. Aldo hooked up his betting backers as a minus-180 favorite.
Aldo’s odds were at -220 for most of the last week, but the number was reduced in the hours leading up to the fight. Gamblers taking ‘over’ 4.5 rounds were winners.
Two judges scored it 49-46 and one had 48-47. VegasInsider.com had it 48-47 to Aldo, who won the first three rounds on my card.
Aldo took control early in the opening round, landing about eight stiff jabs, several overhand rights and two vicious legkicks. In the second stanza, Aldo blistered Edgar’s left lead leg with several more legkicks. More Aldo jabs caused a mouse to start developing under Edgar’s left eye and a front kick to the face bloodied the nose of the former lightweight champ.
For the first nine minutes, Aldo was in complete control. But in the final minute of the second round, Edgar began to have some success, landing a few legkicks of his own and a big right before executing his first takedown.
There was zero doubt that Aldo won the first two rounds, but the third round was close. Aldo appeared to be on his way to winning the round for the first three minutes, as he continued to deal out more punishment. However, Edgar rallied in the last two minutes by landing several combinations.
Although I still gave Round 3 to Aldo, Edgar clearly made a statement in the stanza. He wasn’t going anywhere, had plenty left in the gas tank and this was still a fight. This was also the seventh straight fight in which Edgar was going to the championship rounds.
The fourth round was clearly ‘The Answer’s best. His Herculean heart and toughness began to shine. Edgar looked fresher even though the swelling under his left eye was getting worse. The New Jersey native landed several takedowns although he was unable to keep Aldo down long.
Edgar’s movement was preventing Aldo from throwing his kicks and Edgar was landing more of his own. BE Sports gave Round 4 to Edgar, but he still trailed 39-37 going to the fifth and final round.
Edgar won the fifth on my card, but it was close. Both men landed big shots but I felt like Edgar got the better of most of the exchanges. Nevertheless, he came up on the wrong end of a third straight decision.
At the post-fight presser, Dana White revealed that Anthony Pettis texted him and requested a shot at Aldo’s 145-pound strap. Pettis is the No. 1 contender in the lightweight loop, but he has to wait to face the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for a shot at the 155-pound belt.
With Henderson and Melendez not scheduled to fight until April 20, Pettis is facing another extended layoff if he waits for the winner. Due to a shoulder injury, ‘Showtime’ was just out for nine months before scoring a first-round KO of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. Since Pettis wants to stay active, it appears there is a good chance we’ll see Aldo in another superfight in the coming months.
The co-main event was a colossal disappointment except for those who wagered on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who won a snoozer over ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans by unanimous decision as a plus-400 underdog (risk $100 to win $400).
It was clearly the worst performance of Evans’s career, who cost his backers as a massive -500 favorite. The former Michigan St. wrestler chose an inopportune time to have an uninspiring showing. If Evans had been impressive and victorious, he was expected to be given a chance to drop down to 185 and face Anderson Silva for the middleweight title.
With that window closed, Dana White indicated that Chris Weidman will most likely get the next chance to face the long-time middleweight kingpin.
Nogueira improved to 21-5 overall and 4-2 in the UFC. He won 29-28 on all three scorecards. VI also had it for Little Nog, 29-28.
Evans didn’t mount much of an offensive attack for the entire 15 minutes. He only tried four takedowns and Little Nog stuffed three of those. Nogueira wasn’t overly impressive either, but his takedown defense and superior boxing earned him the victory.
Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva launched himself into heavyweight title contention with a thrilling third-round knockout of Alistair Overeem as a massive +375 underdog (risk $100 to win $375).
The heavily-favored Overeem won the first two rounds by getting a few takedowns and landing more strikes. But Overeem was standing in front of Silva with his hands down, usually a bad idea unless you’re ‘The Spider’ facing Stephan Bonnar.
Silva was able to avoid taking too much punishment in the first two rounds, but he clearly went into the final stanza needing a finish. He got one quickly.
Bigfoot landed a head kick that began a violent flurry of about a half-dozen power rights and several uppercuts. And just like that, only 25 second into the final round, Overeem crumbled to the ground and Herb Dean stepped in to end the carnage.
Overeem was expected to win and get a title shot vs. Cain Velasquez. Now Velasquez’s next opponent is an unknown. The champ destroyed Silva with a first-round KO when they fought last year, but Bigfoot now has back-to-back wins over previously-undefeated Travis Browne and Overeem.
Daniel Cormier might be next in line but he is already scheduled to fight Frank Mir in his Octagon debut.
For Overeem, a matchup against Junior dos Santos could be on the horizon.
Bettors backing ‘over’ 1.5 rounds cashed easy winners in the Overeem-Silva fight.
Demian Maia improved to 3-0 in the welterweight division since dropping down from 185 by dominating Jon Fitch as a plus-180 underdog. Maia collected the unanimous-decision win by a 30-27 score from all three judges.
Maia was in complete control from the outset. The Brazilian executed takedowns galore and controlled Fitch on the ground for 15 minutes. Fitch was able to avoid a slew of submission attempts but was never able to get anything going offensively.
In the opening fight on the pay-per-view card, flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez won a unanimous decision over Ian McCall as a -220 favorite. Benavidez won 29-28 on all three scorecards.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--As I noted in my preview, nice pick by Jason Floyd of the MMA Report with his Evan Dunham recommendation. Dunham won a split decision over Gleison Tibau on the preliminary card on FX. Dunham was even money on Friday but closed as a minus-140 ‘chalk’ at most books.
--Fight of the Night went to Aldo-Edgar.
--The underdogs went 6-5, including three winners with payouts of +350 or better. Bobby Green won Submission of the Night honors by beating Jacob Volkmann by rear-naked choke late in the third round to hook up his backers as a +350 underdog.
--Sliva won a KO of the Night bonus.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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