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Aldo & Belfort set Rio alight in night of stunning finishes

ESPN staff
January 15, 2012 « South Africa stroll to five-wicket win | Chartbeat test »
Jose Aldo threw himself into the crowd after beating Chad Mendes in the UFC 142 main event © Getty Images
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Question posed and question answered. For those who did not already know it, Jose Aldo has magnificent takedown defence, and at UFC 142 he sent out a warning to every challenger in the featherweight division that there are no holes in his game.

Chad Mendes came to take him down, take him out of his comfort zone, but Aldo had a family of around 15,000 fans inside the HSBC Arena, and with one second remaining in the first round he lit the blue-touch paper. A devastating knee finished the challenger, before Aldo ran out of the Octagon and crowd-surfed into his adoring public.

They were scenes barely ever witnessed in the UFC, and Aldo's talent is also extremely rare. Mendes was the out-and-out wrestler that, certainly in the UFC, Aldo had never faced. Kenny Florian had enjoyed a fraction of success with grappling, Mark Hominick exhausted Aldo by putting him on his back, but Mendes was the real acid test of the champion's quality.

Never should Aldo be doubted again.

Mendes came in throwing leg kicks to set up the takedown, but all it took was for one of Aldo's to land for the gulf in class to be established. The challenger went hunting for takedowns, failing on three occasions - one of which saw him eat a thudding uppercut.

Then came his best chance late in the round, locking both hands as he took Aldo's back whilst standing against the cage. On three occasions Aldo displayed incredible balace to deny the takedown - one of which he did illegally by holding the cage, and when they separated he smashed Mendes with a knee to the head, finishing the fight with one follow-up right hand.

"He's a great champion and a tough dude. I was very prepared, but he got me," Mendes said. "He's got great takedown defence."

So that's world class striking, black belt level jiu-jitsu, and "great takedown defence". Aldo is here to stay, for a long long time.

Vitor Belfort had earlier set the arena alight in the night's co-main event against Anthony Johnson, surviving a huge early scare to win via rear naked choke at 4.49 of the first round. Johnson, who failed to make weight by nearly a stone, badly gassed late in the opening stanza, and Belfort's superior jiu-jitsu sliced through him for his first UFC submission since 1997.

Vitor Belfort is one of the best in the business © Getty Images
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Johnson came to the Octagon weighing 211lbs, five more than Belfort after his weight issues - apparently caused by illness. He came out aggressively, throwing huge kicks and landing a series of takedowns, one of which led to Belfort eating a huge bomb that instantly caused heavy swelling above the right eye. The Brazilian's jiu-jitsu always looked superior though, and when he let his hands go Johnson quickly tired in his desperate attempts for a takedown, allowing Belfort to take the back and finish the contest.

The Knockout of the Year award for 2012 may as well be handed to Edson Barboza right now after England's Terry Etim was the victim of a magnificent spinning heel kick during the third round of their lightweight battle. Etim was out before he hit the canvas as Barboza connected flush with the heel to produce arguably the most spectacular knockout in UFC history.

Etim came with the game plan to take Barboza down, which he managed on three occasions, but each time Barboza sprang immediately to his feet. The Brazilian then edged the opening two rounds with his snapping leg kick, which helped create the opening for his devastating finish, Etim's only consolation being a share of the Fight of the Night cheque.

Erick Silva continued to suggest he might be the future of the welterweight division, stopping Carlo Prater after 29 seconds via TKO. However, he was robbed of victory by referee Mario Yamasaki, who disqualified Silva for delivering blows to the back of Prater's head. Having dropped Prater with a knee, only one of Silva's follow-up blows actually hit the back of the head - but a split-second judgement call by Yamasaki ruled against the 27-year-old - who takes a loss despite turning in an electric performance.

In the other fight on the main card, everybody in the arena knew Rousimar Palhares would finish Mike Massenzio via leg lock, but that did not help Massenzio who tapped out at 1.03 of the first round. Palhares shot on two occasions, the second of which saw him pull guard and lock on that trademark heel hook for the Submission of the Night honours.

UFC 142 results:
Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes via KO (knee and punches) - Round 1, 4.59
Vitor Belfort def. Anthony Johnson via rear naked choke - Round 1, 4:49
Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Massenzio via heel hook - Round 1, 1:03
Carlo Prater def. Erick Silva via disqualification (illegal punches) - Round 1, 0:29
Edson Barboza def. Terry Etim via knockout spinning heel kick - Round 3, 2:02
Thiago Tavares def. Sam Stout via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28)
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Ednaldo Oliveira via rear-naked choke - Round 1, 3:22
Yuri Alcantara def. Michihiro Omigawa via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Mike Pyle def. Ricardo Funch via TKO (knees and punches) - Round 1, 1:22
Felipe Arantes def. Antonio Carvalho via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

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