The featherweights were on full display last night (Feb. 2, 2013) as undisputed UFC 145-pound champion Jose Aldo took on former UFC Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 156 in Las Vegas.
Edgar has always been known for putting on exciting albeit incredibly close fights, taking punishment early and coming on strong as his cardio and pure heart kick in during the later rounds.
This bout was no different.
Early on, Aldo got the better of every single striking exchange whether it was catching Edgar coming in with stiff jabs, counter uppercuts or his vicious outside leg kicks at the end of combinations. Aldo's straight right in particular was especially effective, catching Edgar right down the middle despite all his sideways movement.
Despite Aldo's accuracy, Edgar never stopped moving forwards, constantly moving and trying to put pressure on the champion.
Aldo's leg kicks began to pay dividends in the second round, staggering the former champion with heavy blows to the outside leg and even knocking him down a time or two. Aldo continued to score with his jab and counter strikes, shutting down Edgar's takedown attempts with ease, although Edgar did step forward with a perfectly timed right hand while scoring his lone takedown of the round with about a minute left in the frame.
At the beginning of round three, Aldo blasted Edgar with a front kick to the face, busting up his nose pretty badly, although Edgar again began to time Aldo's leg kicks with takedowns which forced the champion to give up on them. After Aldo was in control of the first three minutes, Edgar began to turn it on with several leg kicks, forward pressure and some nice left and right hands.
Edgar really pushed the pace in the fourth round, throwing inside and outside leg kicks and pressing forward with his right hands and really mixing up his attack, although Aldo wasn't completely defenseless, landing a solid spinning back kick to the body. Edgar continued pushing forward, forcing Aldo to fight on his heels and he even scored a brief slam takedown and battering the champion with knees to the back of the legs.
"The Answer" went right back to work in the fifth round, but Aldo did a better job of landing counters, similar to the first round, but Edgar also turned it on with more leg kicks and combinations, really turning up the activity, although Aldo did not just sit back and take it, scoring with a heavy right hand counter on the inside to halt Edgar's momentum. Edgar kept pressing forward heading into the final minute and Aldo blasted Edgar with a Superman punch off the cage as time expired.
When it was all said and done, the judges unanimously gave Aldo the decision with scores 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.
For Frankie Edgar, there's not much more he could have done. He did a great job of mixing up his attack and being extremely active with constant movement and threatened takedown attempts to keep the champion on his toes. His biggest problem was he just couldn't avoid getting hit with big shots in the first few rounds and while he did score with leg kicks and punches of his own, they simply didn't have the same power as Aldo's. One very important change for Edgar was his ability to counter Aldo's leg kicks at the end of the second and beginning of the third round with right hands and takedown attempts. This forced the champ to abandon one of his biggest weapons. His torrid pace began to pay off as the fight moved into the fourth and fifth rounds, opening up opportunities for full combinations and actually allowing him to outstrike Aldo on several occasions, but he simply couldn't overcome the damage he received early in the fight. It was a valiant effort though.
Hopefully, Edgar isn't too discouraged because he's at least made a case for another fight with Aldo down the road if he can win a fight or two at featherweight. Potential opponents include Hatsu Hioki, Diego Nunes or former champion Mike Brown.
For Jose Aldo, his accuracy, explosiveness and power were unmatched at the beginning of the fight. It was almost like he was toying with Edgar in the first two rounds despite "The Answer's" best efforts. Every time the former champion came forward during an exchange Aldo would greet him with either a stiff left jab or a straight right for his trouble and his leg kicks were insane, although he was a bit quick to give up on them once Edgar began countering effectively. There was potential for a highlight reel finish if he had faked low and gone high with a head kick. While Aldo slowed in the latter half of the fight, he definitely didn't gas. He just became a bit more conservative in his attack and his reflexes weren't quite as good. Despite that, he still had enough to land some very hard shots in the fifth round to secure the win just in case there was any doubt.
Next up for Aldo is a trio of interesting options. The most obvious is Ricardo Lamas, who just scored a huge win on Fox. The other is Chan Sung Jung, who earned a title shot last May. The most intriguing of all is perhaps top UFC lightweight contender Anthony Pettis, who texted Dana White that he'd be willing to drop down to 145 pounds if he were to get a title shot. Any and all options would be very interesting.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Are any of you willing to make an argument that Edgar won the last three rounds? Who will be next in line for the champion?