The curtain has officially fallen on the latest pay-per-view (PPV) fight card from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which took place last night (Sat., Oct. 8, 2011) at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Where do we begin?
Let's start with the main event of the evening, Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, in what could be best described as shockingly surreal. In their rematch earlier this year at UFC 125: "Resolution," Edgar survived a brutal first round in which he was beaten from pillar to post and within moments from unconsciousness.
"The Answer" apparently learned very little from that experience. Or, just maybe, it's the other way around.
Maynard once again torched Edgar in round one, connecting with a hellish haymaker that nearly turned out the lights of the Toms River, N.J. tough guy early. "The Bully," this time around, was a bit more selective and calculating with his follow up shots, but even his restraint, combined with additional well-placed blows, could not stop Edgar.
In fact, like a bad recurring nightmare, Edgar came out of the gates for round two -- just like the first time around -- and turned in a solid effort. Ditto for round three. But, it was the fourth round where he really left his mark.
In the midst of a scramble, Edgar landed a short uppercut that sent Maynard stumbling back to the fence. Before he could get there, however, Edgar drilled him with a right hook, and then another, that forced Maynard crumbling to his knees.
At this point, Maynard was face down, unable to defend himself, eating several left hooks from the little man made of metal. Shortly after the referee pulled off Edgar, Maynard was visibly stunned and questioned the stoppage.
It was legit, believe it or not. Somehow, someway not only did Edgar once again survive an insane beatdown, but he came back to dish out one of his own and finally provide clarity to the "trilogy" between him and Maynard.
But then again, with the scoreboard now reading 1-1-1, it looks a little more fuzzy than ever before. Kind of like my senses after watching that memorable masterpiece.
Kenny Florian attempted to script a masterpiece of his own, chasing down the world title that has escaped him since he made his Octagon debut way back in 2005. In 17 career fights with the promotion, he's now had three opportunities to capture championship gold.
Florian actually started his night out on the right foot, closing the distance between him and the dangerous Brazilian bomber and attempting to neutralize his strengths by turning it into a grappling competition. For two rounds, his gameplan appeared to be paying dividends, but then "Scarface" came out in round three and turned the tide.
Aldo began to find his rhythm, keep his distance and outwork Florian in all aspects, and positions, in the fight. It wasn't an instant classic, not by any stretch. In fact, as the championship rounds endured, the crowd appeared to turn on the combatants.
That certainly wasn't warranted -- Aldo and Florian put on a good fight. But it appeared that Florian uncharacteristically faded as the fight progressed. And so, too, have his title aspirations one again.
Chael Sonnen finally returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition after more than a year on the sidelines because of "off the field" transgressions to put it mildly.
Did he ever.
However, it didn't feel like a recent Sonnen fight because he refused to talk any type of trash on his opponent, Brian Stann, a United States military veteran who just so happened to be riding a three-fight win streak in the UFC 185-pound division.
Sonnen didn't let his respect get in the way of immediately walking across the Octagon, grabbing a hold of the "All American" and pressing him up against the cage to land takedown after takedown. Along the way, Sonnen punished Stann at every turn, nailing him with body punches, elbows and other incessant strikes.
It was cumulative, annoying punishment that has worked so well in his recent fights against Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt and, of course, Anderson Silva. But this time Sonnen didn't get sloppy like he did against "The Spider," he stayed glued to Stann and didn't leave any real room for him to secure a defensive submission.
On the contrary, Sonnen used it to set up a submission of his own, a slick arm triangle choke in round two, his first since forcing Tim McKenzie to tap way back in 2006. With the win, the foul-mouthed Oregonian likely sets up "the biggest rematch in the history of this business" sometime in early 2012 if Sonnen has his druthers.
I say let him. That's a fight that everyone has been waiting to see since their first fight ended with the best come-from-behind win ever last year. Diggity.
Back on Dec. 4, 2010, the pair engaged in an all out stand up war, winging wild punches and flinging furious fists for three rounds jam-packed action. In the end, Garcia was announced the winner; however, it was clear to just about everyone watching -- with the exception of two of the three judges sitting ringside that night -- that Phan was the clearcut winner.
He wasn't. And Garcia left town with another gift decision that was dubbed "Robbery of the Year."
Nearly a one year later, the dynamic duo once again went toe-to-toe in Texas. And once again, it was an absolute slobber knocker that had fans jumping out of their seats in amazement. Phan came out strong once again, taking the first two rounds. Heading into the third, Garcia knew he had to go big or go home.
And he nearly went home a legitimate winner this time around, hurting Phan and dropping him early in the final stanza. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't get him out early. In fact, Phan fought back even though he was clearly in trouble and landed a few stiff shots that momentarily put "Bad Boy" in check.
When all was said and done, it was a case of too little, too late for Garcia. He was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision. Justice has been served. And hopefully it means we get to see the rubber match.
For five rounds.
Joe Lauzon waltzed into his lightweight fight with surging division contender, Melvin Guillard, winner of eight of his last nine fights, an overwhelming underdog. It was familiar territory for the East Bridgewater, Mass., fighter, who burst onto the scene at UFC 63 back in 2006 to score (at the time) perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the promotion when he finished returning lightweight champion, Jens Pulver, in less than a minute.
He did it again, but it took him a second longer (:48) to dispatch of the overconfident and cocky "The Young Assassin" this evening via submission (rear naked choke).
Guillard came out aggressive, landing several strikes right off the bat, including a big punch the wobbled Lauzon. But rather than carefully wade in and pick his next shots, Guillard taunted his wounded opponent and stormed him with reckless abandon.
Big, big mistake.
Lauzon connected with a big left hand, which Guillard essentially ran into, that sent him backpedaling to the floor immediately. Lauzon wisely followed him to the canvas, but quickly made his way toward his back, working for a rear naked choke that quickly had Guillard begging for mercy.
He got it, as well as a major setback for a fighter who proclaimed that he was the best in the division and would be its champion in 2012. Guillard might still have a shot down the road, he's still just 28 years old, but Lauzon just stole his thunder.
Straight up clubbed and then strangled him ... in less than 60 seconds. Holla!
That's enough from us -- now it's your turn to discuss "Edgar vs. Maynard 3" in the comments section below. It was a great night of fights, which featured two successful title defenses and the return of the man who everyone loves, or loves to hate. There is much to talk about -- highs, lows, finishes and long-lasting legacies.
How will you remember UFC 136?
For complete UFC 136 results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.