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UFC 194: 'Aldo vs. McGregor,' The Report Card

Well, that sucked. One of the most anticipated fights in UFC history, the main event of UFC 194 last night (Sat., Dec. 12, 2015), was over so quickly Bruce Buffer hadn't even reached his chair yet.

There's probably no way to say this without sounding like I was rooting for Jose Aldo (and I supposed I was, since Conor McGregor is an insufferable egomaniac) but the truth is I don't mind the fact the challenger won.

It was the manner in which he won. We didn't get to see the war we were promised. This was, well, it was one punch.

I'm trying to think of a comparable example to the absolute flop that was this fight following the overwhelming hype. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace comes to mind. Shudder. Another one might be the Segway. And for those older fogies (like me), Y2K was a huge amount of nothing.

There are obviously those who are ecstatic to see a new champion atop the featherweight division and were overjoyed that McGregor won in 13 seconds. And those people are McGregor fans. But they're not mixed martial arts (MMA) fans.

Nobody who loves the sport wants to see a man who has dominated the division for 10 years go out on the very first punch. Even McGregor said as much in his post-fight interview. True fans wanted to see a competitive war, like we received with Chad Mendes in his rematch with Aldo.

But what's done is done. This loud, crass, rude, disrespectful man, who seems to inspire his followers to act in similar fashion, now sits atop the featherweight throne. The question is whether Aldo wants a rematch. He said he does immediately after the fight, and unless UFC matchmakers are completely corrupt they will grant him one.

After all, if a 10 year unbeaten streak doesn't deserve an immediate rematch I don't know what does. And this is coming from somebody who despises rematches.

In my opinion, Ronda Rousey doesn't deserve a rematch. She was outclassed and knocked out. Nor does Chris Weidman. He was dominated and finished. But Aldo was knocked out on the first punch. I won't call it a fluke, but I will say that it didn't prove much beyond the fact McGregor's striking accuracy in that fight was 100 percent.

Anyway, let's get on with it. Who got top marks and who failed to make the grade? Find out below:

Photo: Esther Lin

Featherweight Championship: Conor McGregor def. Jose Aldo via KO (punch) at 13 seconds of Round 1

First of all, credit where it's due. Conor McGregor delivered on all his promises since he's joined the UFC and earned the title of featherweight champion. There's no arguing that point. His style was absolutely perfect for Jose Aldo's "wade and trade" style. It's just that nobody expected it to work on the first punch.

At this point it's probably useless to argue that McGregor's infantile, WWE antics didn't get into Aldo's head. Although he's an aggressive striker who leaps in with looping punches, the Brazilian has never jumped into an exchange that early in a fight with his chin straight up in the air.

Watch Conor McGregor get a 13-second finish against Jose Aldo right here

Most fans who have watched Aldo's career know that he's actually a fairly patient counter striker, who reads his opponents and then picks them apart once he finds their weakness. Aldo's approach to this fight was counter to his usual style of circling to begin the fight, using measuring kicks to read his opponent. That speaks to McGregor's effectiveness in mental warfare.

Although I don't think a single punch definitively settles anything, that doesn't mean I think Aldo wins a rematch. But even the former champion would have to admit that Cub Swanson would probably last longer than seven seconds if they rematched their WEC 41 title fight. Not that Swanson would win, but just as that fight was not a reflection of Swanson's abilities, a one punch knockout is not indicative of Aldo's.

If they don't give the Brazilian the rematch, I'm curious to see what Frankie Edgar can accomplish after his dismantling of Mendes on Friday. Interesting times in the featherweight division!

One last note: People gloated when Rousey was knocked out, but that was mainly due to her poor attitude and disrespectful treatment of opponents. Aldo has always been a quiet, humble and model champion and mocking him speaks more to the lack of class possessed by McGregor fans than it does a lack of Aldo's abilities.

Photo: Esther Lin

Middleweight Championship: Luke Rockhold def. Chris Weidman via TKO (punches) at 3:12 of Round 4

Fluke gonna fluke?

No, but seriously, this was a good scrap. If McGregor had beaten Aldo like this you wouldn't have heard a peep from me about rematches or questioning whether it was a decisive victory.

* * *

I just have to say something really quick before we jump in and analyze this fight. Referee Herb Dean needs to be fired. Look, I've lost my job many times in my life and it sucks. It's something I'd wish on no man, but at a certain point you've got to admit when a person is incompetent at his job.

At one time regarded as the best referee in the business, Dean has in recent years begun to show signs that he can't sense the critical timing of when a fight is over. Ironically, he often calls it too early, but in many cases he calls it too late. This fight was just such an example.

Rockhold landed about 50 or 60 unanswered blows to end the third round in a beatdown that actually had me screaming out of concern for Weidman. And as everybody is fully aware, the guy is somebody I dislike very strongly. Dean botched this call so badly that he may have seriously injured the former champion, who looked like he'd been hit by a train after the fight. Dean doesn't belong in the big leagues.

* * *

Watch Luke Rockhold dominate and stop Chris Weidman right here

People who know me are already aware that I don't believe Weidman legitimately defeated Anderson Silva in either one of their fights. He scored a fluke knockout against Silva in their first fight because the Brazilian was clowning, and the second was a fluke injury.

Weidman rose to the state of champion through a series of fortunate circumstances, including late notice fights against Jesse Bongfeldt and Demian Maia, and a suspect title contender fight against an aging Mark Munoz. His title defense over Lyoto Machida was a five round fight in which he faded late, and his win over a deflated Vitor Belfort looked more like TRT withdrawal than anything else.

But although I have always considered Weidman overrated, I have also come to admit I underrated him as well. His fight with Luke Rockhold both demonstrated he's not the pound for pound great everybody thought he was, but nor is he some undeserving chump who beat up aging Brazilians. He is a top-flight middleweight. It's just that Rockhold is much, much better.

What's even more amazing about Rockhold's victory is that he admitted after the fight that he was exhausted early on from battling a staph infection and was on antibiotics. Anybody who has ever tried to work out on antibiotics will know that this is kind of difficult to fathom.

Rockhold outclassed Weidman everywhere the fight went, whether on the feet, against the cage, or on the mat. It was truly a showcase event of his talents and I expect him to remain champion for a very, very long time to come.

Photo: Esther Lin

Middleweight: Yoel Romero def. Ronaldo Souza via split decision (29-27, 28-29, 29-28)

Fucked. Not screwed. Ronaldo Souza was fucked.

I don't know if any other MMA fighter has been fucked around as hard as the former Strikeforce champion, who has more than proven he deserves the next title shot. But after handily taking care of Yoel Romero in a relatively dull affair, the judges inexplicably gave the fight to the Cuban.

Let's break it down based on what I saw out there. Ronaldo Souza won four minutes of the first round before being knocked down by a spinning backfist and swarmed. In my books, I scored that a 10-9 round for Romero because Souza defended well and won most of the round despite the knockdown.

Decide for yourself! Watch the highlights between Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero right here.

In the second round we can all agree Romero threw so few strikes you could count them on one hand. There's no conceivable way he wins the round based on his complete lack of volume. I had it all tied up headed into the final frame. In that one, there was no doubt. Romero was gassed out, got taken down and pretty much dominated. 29-28 for Souza.

Of the 17 MMA media outlets judging the fight, 12 saw it the same way as I did. Three saw it as a draw, handing Romero a 10-8 first round. Only two people thought Romero won the fight. And those two were likely drunk because it's hard to understand how Romero wins the second round throwing six strikes.

Anyway, one thing seems certain. If Romero brings his one round of cardio up against Luke Rockhold he better hope for two things: First, that Herb Dean isn't reffing, because he will become the first UFC fatality. And second, that Rockhold has another staph infection. Because otherwise he's going to get utterly wrecked.

Photo: Esther Lin

Welterweight: Demian Maia def. Gunnar Nelson via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 30-25)

It wasn't pretty. But then, fights with Demian Maia never are. The question is why Gunnar Nelson wanted this fight so badly. Surely if all he planned on bringing to the contest was the ability to fall on his back then he could have simply asked Maia for some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lessons?

It was a grappling clinic by Maia, who completely outclassed Nelson on the mat and demonstrated why he's always a candidate for a title shot in whichever division he chooses to compete. Maia used his world class Jiu-jitsu to control Nelson for most of the fight, sliding from back mount to full mount and searching for the rear-naked choke and even an armbar.

Nelson did little to distinguish himself out there other than prove he can avoid being submitted. Which is nice, I guess, but he could have saved himself a lot of pain by going for something crazy and getting tapped out instead of simply passively defending Maia's stifling top game. Of course, that's easier said than done.

The knock on Maia is that he's often comfortable simply winning rounds with his top control, not really striving for the finish that made him exciting when he first made the drop to 170 pounds. With six decisions in his nine contests at welterweight he can't be surprised why Joe Rogan scoffs at his title shot request.

Still, you have to imagine that under the right circumstances Maia could easily become the welterweight champion. Should Carlos Condit knock out Robbie Lawler at UFC 195, we've seen Condit fall to strong wrestlers. And although Lawler is a beast at 170 pounds, five of his 10 career losses have come by way of submission. So anything's possible in this fight game.

Photo: Esther Lin

Featherweight: Max Holloway def. Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

This wasn't a competitive fight. Max Holloway beat Jeremy Stephens up from range all fight long, ducking out of the way of counters and stuffing all takedown attempts. His takedown defense was most impressive, considering Stephens once fought to a split decision loss against Anthony Pettis at lightweight by employing the takedown.

Not only did Holloway stuff the takedowns, he landed his own when he wanted to, showing an improvement to the game of the 24-year-old. With a seven fight winning streak and his last defeat coming at the hands of Conor McGregor, Holloway has proven himself a top contender in the featherweight division.

However, calling out McGregor after the fight may have been a bit premature. It's true he's earned a sniff at the title but Frankie Edgar has made a more definitive claim to be the next in line. And then there's the question of whether Jose Aldo will get his wish for a rematch. The one selling point for a potential fight against McGregor is that he's the last man to survive three rounds with the champion, but considering the one-sided manner in which he lost that's not saying a lot.

As for Stephens, I don't want to take away from Holloway's win but this was not a victory over a top featherweight. Stephens lost to Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira prior to taking on Dennis Bermudez at UFC 189, and if not for a jumping knee knockout in the third round of a fight I believe he was losing, he'd now be on a four fight losing streak. Stephens is a tough and durable opponent with power in his right hand but he's never been much more than a gatekeeper in both the lightweight division, and now down at 145 pounds.

Quick Hits From The Undercard

  • Frankie Saenz (A-) put on a hell of a performance against Urijah Faber (A) but ultimately experience trumped heart in this one and the veteran took home the win. It also sets up a potentially interesting grudge match between the winner of Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw. I'm not saying Faber deserves a title shot again, but the UFC don't always care about who deserves something.
  • Tecia Torres (C) scored her umpteenth decision victory against Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (D), whoever the hell she is. Torres showed some sass in the third round but this was a pretty tepid fight and despite her undefeated record I doubt she can sell interest in a fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
  • Warlley Alves (A+) took out a top undefeated prospect in Colby Covington (D), who got a little too comfortable with the guillotine of Alves, probably due to his training at Team Alpha Male. I thought Alves was overrated after getting a gift decision by the judges against Alan Jouban, but the kid is legit.
  • You can argue with me until the cows come home but I'll put it like this: If Luke Rockhold didn't do enough to earn a stoppage in the third round of his fight against Chris Weidman while the champ was laying flat on his back, covered up, and doing nothing to escape, then Kevin Lee's attempt to get up while getting pounded on was an early stoppage. And I don't see how I can grade an early stoppage fight. I will say that Leonardo Santos looked fantastic.
  • Magomed Mustafaev (A+) looks frightening out there, with his second stoppage by violent finish in as many fights against Joe Proctor (F). I don't want to start touting him as the next Khabib Nurmagomedov but I think he'll rise through the ranks of the UFC very quickly.
  • I feel fucking awful for John Makdessi (B+) who was just frankly robbed by the judges in a thorough and one-sided beating of Yancy Medeiros (C-) who looked out of sorts last night. Fightmetric shows that except for a close early first round, this couldn't have been easier to score for the Canadian. I'm not sure that flash knockdown in the second really discounts the 99% of the round in which Makdessi was winning.
  • Court McGee (B) looked good despite a two year absence from MMA, using classic pressure fighting to wear down and defeat Marcio Alexandre Jr. (D). And he did it on his birthday!

That's a wrap!

We've got one more major event before Christmas next weekend when Rafael dos Anjos will attempt to defend his belt against Donald Cerrone. It's a fight I'm really looking forward to.

The winner will face Conor McGregor, who's going to clean out the "stuck in the mud division". Maybe.

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