Why is that every fight Frankie Edgar has of late is controversial?
He has a tendency to go to decision and that always leaves room for debate, unless the fight was a one-sided beating, but his last three outings have resulted in close calls which sharply divide opinion. Aldo retained his belt, but the Edgar supporters are not happy.
Rounds one and two were clearly Aldo’s via hitting without being hit. Clever distancing and fast footwork meant he was in and out with solid jabs and leg kicks, leaving Edgar with nothing to hit back at. But Edgar is a notoriously slow starter anyway and so the first round is always often a complete write-off for him. By the end of the second he was getting into it, having scored a takedown. But he had also been taken off his feet in style by an Aldo leg kick.
Round three is the one which is causing controversy because Edgar supporters are claiming this as a win for him. However, this appears to be based somewhat on Joe Rogan’s commentary rather than the actual action because the stats have Aldo as the winner and so did I on first watching. Edgar had some success in this round, including some leg kicks of his own, but also had his takedowns stuffed and ate some punches and kicks himself.
Rounds four and five went Edgar’s way as Aldo slowed, despite Aldo’s corner telling him otherwise. Edgar really got in Aldo’s face and pushed a tremendous pace which was visibly wearing the Brazilian out by the end of the fight. He was still countering though; Edgar had blood from a busted nose all over his face and Aldo scored big points with the fans in the last ten seconds via a superman punch off the cage.
Two judges had it 49-46 while the other had it 48-47, all in favor of the former WEC and still UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. The decision now puts Edgar on a three-fight losing streak.
Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Rashad Evans was supposed to run Rogerio Nogueira over. The former light-heavyweight champion was deemed by all and sundry to be the better fighter in every area of MMA and the win was considered to be a foregone conclusion.
However, the Rashad Evans that people had in their minds while making these predictions was not the one who entered the cage and went through a fifteen-minute distancing maneuver with the Brazilian younger brother of former Pride FC champion Rodrigo Nogueira.
Evans entire offensive output largely consisted of a pawing jab with nothing on it, frequently touching fingertips with Nogueira’s own lead hand because Nogueira was standing southpaw. In fact, neither looked particularly eager to pull the trigger in this fight but Nogueira’s hesitation was the more understandable because he was thinking about Evans’ takedowns.
He needn’t have bothered; Evans apparently wanted the fight to be a stand-up affair and so he resigned himself to multiple hand-touches, the occasional flurry and the odd head-kick in an effort to replicate his KO of Sean Salmon. But so little had been done to fluster Nogueira prior to these that he was neither out of position nor off-balance when they were thrown and he was able to evade them easily.
Evans did hit one takedown in the middle of the fight and while Nogueira was soon back up, the takedown was hit so cleanly that it seems odd Evans didn’t elect to pursue that strategy further. Instead he went back to circle and touch. In the meantime, Nogueira was methodically scoring punches of his own and while they weren’t threatening Evans, they were racking up the points.
The result was a unanimous decision in favor of Nogueira, making for a night of upsets and a terrible evening for the Blackzilian fight team. It was a lackluster affair for the most part and Evans’ hesitancy was most unusual. He has certainly taken his name out of any middleweight or light-heavyweight title talk for now.
Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva
Alistair Overeem used to be a light-heavyweight who lost as often as he won. Then he put a load of muscle on, via a special diet, and then suddenly was elevated to godlike status by fans and pundits blinded by his mirror-muscles.
To anybody who watched him in Pride FC or earlier, on the European circuit, this elevation to ‘best striker on the planet’ was a little bemusing, as were predictions that he would dance around Bigfoot Muhammad Ali-style before taking him out with a super-crisp Dutch-style combo ending in a detonative head-kick.
Actually what happened was, Overeem came in over-confident and Bigfoot came in over-concerned. The first round looked like it might have gone the way the pundits predicted because Bigfoot was literally walking round stiff as a board, doing nothing. This was where Overeem was supposed to pull it out of the bag but he didn’t. He managed a few knees in the clinch but the fearsome onslaught was nowhere to be seen.
Bigfoot had visibly grown in confidence in the second round and there were some good exchanges, although the stiffness was still there in the first half and Overeem was definitely ahead on the scorecards. But it just didn’t look anything like anything that had been predicted - the Demolition Man was not doing a demolition job. It was instead an odd mix of showboating interspersed with occasional strikes and some clinching.
Things were close at the end of the second, and heated. Overeem put a superb throw on Silva to take him down and work some heavy blows from top position. Cleverly, he worked the body as hard as the head while Silva was on his back and the sound was like two coconuts being banged together. But at the end of the second, Silva was back on his feet and caught Overeem with a right hand just before the bell which seemed to stagger him.
At the start of the third, Overeem appeared either hesitant or still suffering some effects from the big right hand and so Bigfoot went for Overeem and threw everything he had at a him. Having rocked him with a right hand near the end of the second, he went that route again, put a combination on the end of it and threw a head kick in for good measure. All of it landed, and Overeem staggered back to the fence.
Bigfoot chased him and unloaded, swinging huge lefts and rights. Overeem’s head rocked back and forth and suddenly the lights went out and he slumped to the floor, knocked out. Referee Herb Dean intervened and had to literally drag Bigfoot away as the Brazilian was screaming at Overeem and looking like he had every intention of carrying on with his work.
Ecstasy for fans of the underdog, harsh reality for fans of The Reem - yes he is a good fighter, yes he is world-ranked at his weight but no, he does not have some mythical level of striking ability and people are not going to fall over as soon as he touches them . The four-ounce gloves perhaps don’t suit his peek-a-boo guard style but the fact he was throwing very little leather in the first round especially is concerning. Not a noted cardio machine, Overeem’s best chance of a finish was a round one blitz.
Kudos to Bigfoot too; he says he was playing possum in the first round but that is debatable. Either way, he lost that stiffness and found his way into the fight to pull off a great finish and a huge upset. Did he win the fight or did Overeem lost it? Either way, the UFC heavyweight title waters just got muddy and Dana White is tearing up yet another draft of his 2013 playbook.
Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
Jon Fitch endured two of the hardest rounds of his career thanks to the grappling skills of Demian Maia, who hit a takedown right on the opening bell and then spent the remaining 4:56 of round one in rear-mount. Fitch had to draw deep into his spirit to defend the constant choke attempts and may have been saved by the bell. The second round was arguably even worse, Maia ending the stand-up phase with a great single-leg and then going right back to the rear-mount, this time with a crushing body-triangle.
Before round three, Fitch’s corner told him to “f--k the technique” and “throw the kitchen sink at him”. for some reason, Fitch interpreted this as an instruction to throw a head kick with no setup. Maia ducked, caught it, and took Fitch down again for another round of the same. Fitch resited doggedly, and showed world-class submission defence, but Maia’s wrestling and grappling looked absolutely unstoppable. He is now 3-0 at welterweight and a title shot has to be on the horizon for him.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall
Technically difficulties meant I didn’t get to see this but by all accounts it was a good scrap. It ended with a 29-28 unanimous decision in favor of Benavidez.