Last night was one of the worst UFC cards not just in recent memory, but of all time… until suddenly it wasn’t. UFC 179 will not be remembered for its lackluster preliminary bouts, nor its yawn-inducing undercard. Instead, once Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes entered the cage for their rematch, they put on the type of fight that is rare to see in MMA. Aldo had been maligned for a lack of exciting fights during his UFC tenure, but Mendes brought out the best of him down in Rio and it made for a classic bout. Much was made about the improvement in Mendes’ striking since his first title shot back in 2012, and it all proved to be correct. His fast and powerful hands landed often on Aldo, but all that truly accomplished was bringing out the violent version of Aldo that was so often seen in the WEC’s blue cage. The first round saw Mendes drop Aldo with a left hook, but the champion answered back — as he would so many times over the course of the night — and turned up the pressure towards the end of the round. As the bell was sounding, Aldo began a combination, which saw the final two punches land after the end of the bell. The last of those punches rocked Mendes badly, and had Mike Goldberg and Brian Stann fuming in the commentary booth, asking for a point deduction. The second round was the slowest of the bout, with Aldo holding a slight edge in the striking department. It served as a precursor to one of the best rounds of the entire year. The third stanza saw Mendes land an absolutely earth-shattering uppercut which sent the champion stumbling backwards and allowed the challenger to follow up with some hard strikes. Once his back his the cage however, Aldo returned fire, sending Mendes reeling with an overhand right and a variety of strikes that stole the round back. The fourth was the challenger’s best round of the fight and gave him a fighting chance, but for the second time in his last four bouts he picked up the fifth round in a championship bout, in spite of the apparent “cardio issues” that have plagued him over his career. The judges all saw the bout the same, 49-46 for Aldo, who retained his belt and moved his streaks to 18 straight wins, 15-0 under a Zuffa banner, and nine consecutive title defenses. For a fighter who is still just 28, Aldo has already compiled one of the best resumes in MMA history, and has to be seen amongst the greatest to ever step in the cage. Mendes should still be seen as one of the top fighters in the world today, he just has the unfortunate honor of being stuck in the same divisional as an all-time talent.
Moving forward, Mendes is stuck in the territory so many of his Alpha Male brethren have known. He’s still going to beat everyone in the division not named Jose Aldo, but will struggle to earn a third title shot (although I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing it by any means). Aldo will likely face Conor McGregor next, should the Irishman get past Dennis Siver in January. The always confident McGregor may continue to play his part in public, but after seeing the skill and durability of both Aldo and Mendes in person, he knows what a step up he faces from the Dustin Poiriers and Dennis Sivers of the world. As for Mendes, the natural progression would be to face the loser of Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson, but I’d prefer to see him move a bit further down the ladder, since the road to another title shot will be a long one for him. My suggestion, the Jeremy Stephens/Charles Oliveira loser instead. The reason I spent so much time on Aldo/Mendes is because there was so little of substance on the rest of the card. The co-main event saw Phil Davis outgrapple an underprepared Glover Teixeira for the majority of 15 minutes, as he picked up another big scalp in Brazil. Davis rebounded nicely from his letdown against Anthony Johnson, and while he’s not in title contention just yet, he can still get there. That would have been nearly impossible if he dropped this bout. Perhaps a bout against another successful collegiate wrestler in Ryan Bader would be an appropriate step, even though most would see it as a step down for Davis. The only other option would be a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, but that does not look like an appealing bout if I’m in Davis’ camp. Fabio Maldonado was outgrappled handily in the first round of his bout against Hans Stringer, but apparently made Stringer work hard enough that the Dutch fighter gassed out. Maldonado took over once he got top position in the second round, and just kept throwing punches until the referee stepped in to stop the bout. Perhaps the best moment of the night outside of Aldo/Mendes, was former middleweight champion Anderson Silva joining Maldonado on top of the cage to celebrate the win. There’s not much to the middle tier of the light heavyweight division these days, so another recent winner in Jan Blachowicz could prove to be a more interesting challenge. Darren Elkins was fully in on the undercard trend of simply controlling his opponent for a victory, as he spent much of his 15-minute bout with Lucas Martins pushing the Brazilian up against the cage. I’ll be completely honest, I tuned most of this fight out. It was simply a dull, dull affair. I know Tatsuya Kawajiri is coming off of a loss, but he could provide a stiffer test in the wrestling department than Martins did, and could turn a bout with the grinder into something a bit more interesting. Opening up the main card was an equally uninspiring bout between Beneil Dariush and Carlos Diego Ferreira. Dariush was able to use Ferreira’s willingness to fight from his back against him, as the Iranian’s top game was more than enough to stifle the attacks from the Brazilian’s guard en route to a unanimous decision. In his next outing, I’d like to see Dariush take on someone who won’t be so willing to play from his guard. Michel Prazeres fits that bill, and that could actually be an entertaining bout between two guys not normally known for producing a ton of fun. UFC 179 didn’t look good on paper aside from the main event, and it played out exactly that way. Aldo/Mendes was fantastic and the rest of the event was entirely forgettable. The next stop for the UFC will be in two weeks, when they have what is almost another doubleheader. First, the Octagon travels to Australia for a card headlined by Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. While the event takes place on November 8th in Australia, it will air on the 7th in North America. Then, actually on the 8th, the UFC heads back to Brazil for a light heavyweight showdown between Shogun Rua and Jimi Manuwa. As always, MMAOddsBreaker.com will have coverage of the event from every betting angle possible.