It was the third time of asking as Gray Maynard challenged Frankie Edgar for the lightweight title in the main event of UFC 136, shown live in the early hours of this this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began in the lightweight division as Melvin Guillard took on Joe Lauzon.
Time to break out that old line again. The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the show saw both guys begin quickly, but when Lauzon staggered Guillard with a left it was all over. As soon as Guillard went to the ground Lauzon went for a guillotine before taking his man’s back and synching in a rear naked choke for the extremely impressive submission win.
Then it was down to the featherweight division as Leonard Garcia faced Nam Phan.
These two took up where they’d left off last December. It was an awesome back and forth striking battle pitting Garcia’s brawling style with Phan’s more tactical approach.
It was a joy to watch as Garcia took control in the first round, with Phan upping his game in the second with some excellent tactical punching. We saw some brief forays to the ground in the third in between some more excellent back and forth action.
In the end though neither man could put the other away, despite the knockdowns and the hard body punches, so in the end it went to the judges again, with Phan taking the close unanimous decision, and this time around you can’t argue with that decision.
Middleweight action followed as Chael Sonnen went up against Brian Stann.
It was as if he’d never been away. Sonnen dominated from the opening bell, first in a clinch against the cage and then when he took Stann to the ground. Once there he unleashed with the ground and pound and was able to transition at will.
It was the same in the second round. Stann just didn’t have any answers as Sonnen imposed his will on the fight, getting the submission win with an arm triangle as the round entered it’s final minute. It was awesome, and that’s not an understatement.
The first title fight of the evening saw Kenny Florian challenging Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title.
Although this wasn’t an overly spectacular fight this was a very intriguing back and forth affair. Both men put in good performances with some nice striking, particularly Aldo’s stinging kicks.
The clinches against the cage looked pretty even, and when the fight went to the ground in the third Aldo worked well on top while Florian put in some great defensive work.
It looked to be an extremely close battle, so close that neither man could get the finish, bringing the judges into the equation again as Aldo took the unanimous decision.
One couldn’t help but feel sorry for Florian though as one of the most likeable guys in the UFC lost his third title fight, and I bet I was the only one who wanted him to win.
The main event saw Gray Maynard challenging Frankie Edgar for the Lightweight title.
This was one of those fights you couldn’t take your eyes off. Maynard dominated the first round, going for the kill after he rocked Edgar with a big right uppercut. Maynard went in for the kill, opening up a cut above Edgar’s left eye and bloodying his nose. But no matter what he threw Maynard just couldn’t put his man away, the champion doing just enough to survive the first round.
Edgar began to make his way back into the fight from the second round onwards. Slowly but surely he began to out punch Maynard. His striking looked top notch, and his in and out tactics often left Maynard punching air with his attempted counters.
As the fourth round neared it’s final minute Edgar connected with a big uppercut of his own. Maynard was rocked, and the champion went in for the kill, following the challenger to the ground as the referee stepped in to give Edgar the highly impressive TKO win.
The show rounded out with some filler material, beginning with Joey Beltran against Stipe Miocic in the heavyweight division.
Part technical, part slobber knocker, this was a great back and forth battle. The debuting Miocic looked great in the first round and the early stages of the second, but it wasn’t long before Beltran turned it into his sort of battle in the ensuing brawl.
Both men looked exhausted as the third round began, and this time it was Miocic’s turn to stage a comeback, taking the fight to the ground and taking Beltran’s back late on, but like so many before him he was unable to finish him off.
So with neither man unable to get the finish it was down to the judges to decide as Miocic took the unanimous decision.
Then it was down to the middleweight division as Steve Cantwell faced Mike Massenzio.
This was a great way to end the broadcast. The first round clearly belonged to Cantwell and his excellent display of technical striking, but from the second round onwards Massenzio really upped his game and turned this onto a brawl on more than once occasion, bloodying Cantwell’s nose in the process.
We also saw some brief trips to the ground, but they didn’t really amount to anything as both fighters preferred the striking game.
With the fight going the distance it was over the judges again as Massenzio took the unanimous decision.
In conclusion - I think you can tell how I’m going to end this review, can’t you?
This was another quality outing from the UFC and one of their best shows this year. We were treated to some classy undercard fights, the return of the best talker in the business and two great title fights, as well as some entertaining filler material at the end.
In fact the only thing wrong with this show is ESPN’s continued refusal to put their hands in their pockets for the Spike preliminary fights.
But apart from that grip UFC 136 gets the big thumbs up.