Last night (Feb. 2) the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to deliver their annual Super Bowl weekend card, featuring UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo taking on Frankie Edgar and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
In the spirit of the unspoken brotherhood between professional wrestling and mixed martial arts, here are the results and some reactions from last night's card.
Jose Aldo def. Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira def. Rashad Evans via unanimous decision
Antonio Silva def. Alistair Overeem via third-round TKO
Demian Maia def. Jon Fitch via unanimous decision
Joseph Benavidez def. Ian McCall via unanimous decision
Evan Dunham def. Gleison Tibau via split decision\
Tyron Woodley def. Jay Hieron via first-round TKO
Bobby Green def. Jacob Volkmann via submission (rear-naked choke)
Isaac Vallie-Flagg def. Yves Edwards via split decision
Dustin Kimura def. Chico Camus via submission (rear-naked choke)
Francisco Rivera def. Edwin Figueroa via second-round TKO
Here are my winners and losers from the card:
- Jose Aldo: Jose Aldo has seemingly been more prone to criticism than praise as of late. Most of the focus on the UFC featherweight champion seems to be on his "questionable cardio" myth. Tonight, Aldo put on a superstar performance against the toughest opposition of his career. Frankie Edgar could not find an answer to the combination of leg kicks and stiff straight punches from Aldo until it was too late. This puts Aldo in an Anderson Silva level of acclaim, where it now becomes not who Aldo will face, but how he will dismantle them.
- Frankie Edgar: Although Edgar lost on the official scorecards, he won on the cards of some fight fans. While that is a subject that differs from each individual point of view, Edgar's heart and tenacity is something that cannot be denied. This performance only solidified his legendary status as one of the pure tough guys in mixed martial arts. Edgar will not win every fight, but he is going to make sure that he leaves doubts in plenty of minds if he comes out on the losing end. Whatever is next for Edgar, there will be plenty of people watching and cheering for him every step of the way.
- Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva: If you look up on the prognostications from MMA pundits about the clash between Antonio Silva and Alistair Overeem, you would have figured that Silva should have just tapped out as soon as the bell rang. Outside of a potential submission or mounted onslaught, "Bigfoot" was a horse being lead to slaughter, just another victim on the Overeem path of destruction en route to a title shot. After two lackluster rounds where Alistair Overeem asserted dominance in every aspect of the game, Silva rocked an overconfident Overeem and finished him, thus beating him at his own game. Whether or not Overeem's own cockiness cost him, Silva has won two in a row, with this victory knocking off a man who many thought could be the heavyweight king. Silva may not reach that belt, but this is a career-defining moment that adds shine to the legacy of Silva.
- Strikeforce: Dead as it may be, you could have swore that there was some stirring in the grave of Strikeforce tonight. It began with a game Issac Vallie-Flagg pressuring veteran Yves Edwards with nonstop kicks and punches until the master of "Thugjitsu" gassed. The decision was a bit controversial to some, but Vallie-Flagg set the tone for the rest of the night. Bobby Green took on Jacob Volkmann next, in a bout that was supposed to have Volkmann relentlessly punishing Green's lesser ground game. Despite questionable standups from referee Kim Winslow, Green was able to inflict a bit of punishment on the feet and stifle Volkmann's takedowns, reversing into advantageous positions. After getting the back near the closing of the fight, Green sunk in a rear-naked choke that forced Volkmann to tap in what was a pretty stunning upset. And finally, with one swift right hand right down the pipe, Tyron Woodley put Jay Hieron on the mat and pounded away until Hieron laid stiff and unconscious. Woodley quited the huffs and puffs fans associate with his wrestling-heavy style in 36 seconds. While Strikeforce may be dead, some of the products of the "second-tier" promotion may be here to stay.
- Francisco Rivera: Though many may not have watched, Francisco Rivera laid it all on the line against Edwin Figueroa in the first bout of the night. After a round of knockdowns and wobbling strikes from Figueroa, Rivera connected clean with a stiff right hook to the temple that essentially sealed the deal. Impressive victory that could shoot Rivera into a new level in the 135 lbs. division.
- Alistair Overeem: In what was supposed to be a glorified squash match, Overeem decided to spend two rounds toying with Silva. What Overeem didn't count on was being victimized in his own wheelhouse. Alistair Overeem still has a big name and a big presence in the heavyweight division, but tonight left a dent in the previously pristine armor of a man many thought would rule.
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Rashad Evans: While Antonio Rogerio Nogueira picked up a big feather to put in his cap by gaining a unanimous decision over Rashad Evans, these two could not have made it any less lackluster. In three rounds, the most that will be remembered of this fight is ineffective jabs being pumped like pistons from both sides. Although Nogueira has a name to cross off on his list, the tape will show that this was not a performance to take pride in.
- Jon Fitch: Many were excited at the potential grappling exchanges between Demian Maia and Jon Fitch. The man impervious to submission would be taking on a master applicator of holds. This turned out to be a Fitching of sorts, but the king of Fitching was on the wrong side of the equation. Demian Maia beat Fitch at his own game, taking him down at will and staying glued in great positions any which way Fitch turned. While losing to Maia is nothing to be ashamed of, it will be a thorn in Fitch's side to know that he got outdone at his own game.
- Pay-per-view buyers: In such a stacked card on paper, most of the fights on the main card tonight turned out to be sort of a letdown. Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez turned in a solid, but not particularly memorable bout to get the card started. Maia's grappling dominance on Fitch was not the most exciting thing to watch, although the mastery can certainly be appreciated. Aside from the main event and a shocking upset, this card was not up to snuff with the high expectations set for it. Perhaps the bar was set a bit too high, but most of this show could be watched in fast-forward.
For reactions from some of my colleagues, be sure to visit my newest mixed martial arts writing venture over at Undercard Superstar, where we will cover all combat sports from all angles.