Jose Aldo is an incredibly difficult man to plan for.
With his explosiveness, elusiveness and unpredictability in the cage, challenger Kenny Florian had his hands full when he stepped into the Octagon last night (October 8, 2011) in an attempt to take Aldo's UFC featherweight title in the co-main event of UFC 136.
So maybe that's why Florian turned it into a grueling, grind-em-out and ugly affair over the course of five rounds.
Regardless, when it was all said and done, the judges unanimously handed Aldo the victory with a score of 49-46 across the board.
So what did Aldo do correct to sway them? And how did Florian's strategy fail to impress?
We'll explain inside:
If Kenny Florian won a round last night, it was the first. He came out, took advantage of Aldo's slow start and really put the champion on the defensive with his repeated takedown attempts along the fence, actually scoring a couple even if they were brief.
From then on, I don't think Florian was credited with a takedown for the rest of the fight, but it didn't stop him from trying. I believe Fightmetric credited "Ken-Flo" with one out of 19 attempts to take the fight down. That's not very good odds.
It seemed that whenever the fight would finally get reset to the standing realm, Aldo would connect with something, whether it was a straight punch, a kick or a swift combination.
Florian was only able to stall him out with those takedown attempts.
The fight is judged based on effective striking, grappling, aggression and Octagon control and in that order.
With how easily Aldo was in control of the striking department, it didn't matter one bit that Florian was pressing him against the fence so much (although it was certainly annoying), what mattered was the damage Aldo was able to inflict when he finally got some room to attack.
The champion also did a nice job of attacking on the ground on the few occasions where he found himself in top position after a failed takedown attempt from Florian. Aldo aggressively looked to pass guard, something he didn't try at UFC 129 against Mark Hominick and that also helped turned the tide in his favor.
In the end, Aldo's only truly dominant round was the third, but Florian's inability to get any offense going whatsoever other than those clinch attempts along the cage was enough to frustrate the judges and allow them to score the fight in favor of the champion.
For Kenny Florian, you can't blame him for slowing down the pace of the fight and not standing toe-to-toe with the champion in the stand-up department. No one has ever been able to do that successfully. I just wish he'd done something more than just hang on in the clinch and look for the takedown when he had the champ pinned against the fence. He only really threw his razor sharp elbows one time when he had Aldo trapped, that's an embarrassingly low amount of times to be using his most effective weapon.
Florian has been labeled a "choker" by some for his performances in title fights, but that wasn't the case last night. He did was he had to do to give himself a chance against a younger, faster and more dangerous fighter in Aldo. He simply didn't do enough. He's now resigned to the fact that he'll probably never get a title shot again and at 35 years old, he probably won't be wanting to fight for much longer if at all. If he decided to stick around, look for Florian to play spoiler in the featherweight division. He could face someone like Manny Gamburyan next, or perhaps the loser of the upcoming George Roop vs. Hatsu Hioki fight.
For Jose Aldo, sure he won, but he didn't gain any fans with his performance last night. What happened to the fighter that exploded out of the gate with a flying double knee and stopped Cub Swanson in eight seconds? It seemed like he gave Florian way too much respect last night and never truly followed up when he landed a significant strike. His killer instinct was nowhere to be found and on a night where he should have been turning himself into a star against an established UFC name, he simply didn't do it.
Aldo will almost certainly face Team Alpha Male fighter Chad Mendes in his next bout, and that likely won't be a barnburner either. If he's able to retain the title, it could be a while until we see him fight to his true potential.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Florian do what was necessary to give himself a chance last night? Or was it another choke job in a career of playing second fiddle in the big fights? Why is Jose Aldo not winning fans over in the UFC right now?
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.