LAS VEGAS – Once again, Frankie Edgar was in an amazingly close title fight. And once again, even though there were many who thought he might have pulled it out, he came up barely short again.
Jose Aldo retained the featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Edgar on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, narrowly averting the upset. Judges had it 49-46 twice and 48-47 for Aldo. Yahoo! Sports had it 48-47 for Aldo.
Aldo was brutalizing Edgar early in the fight with leg kicks and a precise jab, his speed and punching accuracy a major difference. But Edgar is one of the UFC's toughest fighters and he fought his way back into it.
He landed a few takedowns in the second half of the fight, though he couldn't keep Aldo down, and he started landing his right consistently. He also started to score with leg kicks of his own.
Aldo, though, had built up enough of an early lead to weather the onslaught from Edgar down the stretch.
Edgar, who was competing in his seventh consecutive UFC title fight, lost back-to-back close decisions to Benson Henderson last year in lightweight title fights.
His toughness and courage will keep him in most of his fights. Aldo, though, was able to do enough damage – he pretty much closed Edgar's left eye and bloodied his nose and mouth – that judges saw it his way.
There was probably no one rooting harder for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira against Rashad Evans on Saturday than UFC middleweight Chris Weidman, because the next shot at the 185-pound title was coming down to either Evans or Weidman.
But when Evans performed surprisingly poor in losing a unanimous decision to Nogueira in a light heavyweight bout, the middleweight title shot seemed all but certain to go to Weidman.
Evans lost 29-28 on all three cards in an uninspiring performance in which he didn't let his hands go and didn't use his offense. Nogueira didn't do a lot more, but he did enough over the last two rounds to pull it out.
Antonio "Big Foot" Silva had offered virtually zero offense through 10 minutes of his heavyweight fight with Alistair Overeem. But when he did, the fight ended quickly.
Overeem controlled the first two rounds, though it wasn't the standup battle many expected. Whatever few significant strikes were landed in the first two rounds were thrown by Overeem, who needed to win to earn a title shot against heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
But Silva started the third like a different person. He landed a kick to the head, and hit Overeem with about five rights and a couple of uppercuts. As Overeem, who had cockily predicted a early stoppage, covered up, referee Herb Dean jumped in to stop it at 25 seconds of the third.
That blew up plans for a Velasquez-Overeem title fight and threw the division into a flux. There is no clear-cut challenger now for Velasquez, who destroyed Silva in a one-sided fight last year.
Silva took a lot of verbal abuse from Overeem, but made up for it with 25 seconds of fury in the third round.
"After I knocked him out I was yelling at him, 'Let's go! I want more. Come fight!' Silva said. "It really bothered me that he hasn't respected me in interviews leading up to the fight. He talked a lot of trash and I told him that I'd make him respect me tonight."
Jon Fitch has made a career out of out-grappling men in the UFC. On Saturday, he got a taste of his own medicine, as he was out-grappled badly by Demian Maia.
Maia controlled the fight virtually start-to-finish, and though he never came close to finishing the fight, he blunted Fitch's offense entirely.
He took Fitch's back in the early seconds of Round 1 and Fitch carried his weight for several minutes. That took a toll on him, but Fitch never did anything in the final two rounds, either.
"The game plan was to control him," Maia said. "I thought that when I got his back I was going to be able to submit him, but he has very good defense. I think when I went for the takedown he was surprised. I kept him off his game and that’s what won me that fight."
In the main card opener, Joseph Benavidez put himself right back in the flyweight title picture with a solid performance in a fast-paced win over Ian McCall.
Benavidez, who lost a title fight to Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152 in September, won Rounds 1 and 3 on all three cards to pull out the unanimous decision victory.
Benavidez mixed his game smartly, using kicks, punches and takedowns to throttle McCall. McCall had the edge in the middle round when Benavidez failed on a takedown and McCall got a dominant position on the ground.
But Benavidez landed a big right hand early in the third to reestablish himself and kept up a fast pace down the stretch to earn an important win.
"I knew he was a tough guy," Benavidez said. "He's got a big head that was meant to take a shot. Finishing a guy in the first doesn't necessarily teach you a lot. You learn way more going the distance with a guy like Ian McCall. My corners didn't sugarcoat it. They told me very clearly that I had to get the third round.
"It was one to one going into the final five minutes and I had to go out there and take it. You always want a title shot because that's what we're all working for. I had an impressive win over a top guy, but I want to continue to grow and be ready when the time comes to take that shot again."
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