It was a night with a controversial decision and a fighter failing to make weight as Dana White and his crew returned to Rio, where Chad Mendes challenged Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title at UFC 142, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The show began with action from the lightweight division as Edson Barboza faced my fellow Brit Terry Etim.
Now this was a good fight. Barboza put in an almost flawless performance here.
It began with Etim scoring with an early take down, only for Barboza to escape as if it never happened. From there he began to centre his attack on Etim’s lead leg with as series of stiff kicks, allied to some nice combinations to the body and head.
Etim tried another take down later on, but the result was the same, with the Brazilian easily escaping and going back to his striking plan.
The end came when Barboza connected with a wheel kick to Etim’s head. The Brit crashed down to the mat like the proverbial sack of spuds and was out before he hit the ground, giving Barboza the knockout win, and the first knockout via wheel kick in UFC history.
Then it was on to the all-Brazilian welterweight fight between Erick Silva and Carlo Prater.
This was the controversial one. After a brief feeling out period Silva connected with a knee that sent Prater down. Silva followed him down for the ground and pound, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
But it wasn’t to give Silva the victory. After much discussion it was announced that Silva had been disqualified for repeated illegal blows to the back of Prater’s head, even though the replay showed that only one blow landed on the back of the head. In short, Silva was robbed.
Normal service resumed with middleweight action as Rousimar Palhares took on Mike Massenzio.
This one saw an early inadvertent low blow from Palhares, and after a brief pause the Brazilian took control. A minute later he pulled guard and took Massenzio down, quickly moving to the leg and applying a heel hook for the impressive submission win.
The co-main event saw Vitor Belfort facing Anthony Johnson in a catchweight encounter.
Originally this was meant to be a middleweight bout, but with Johnson missing the weight limit by a massive 12 pounds. Belfort agreed to the fight, but only if Johnson weight under the light heavyweight limit on the morning of the fight, which Johnson did, but only just.
Despite all of that this proved to be a very good fight. Johnson went for a take down early on, but Belfort put in some good defensive work, stopping Johnson from working. It happened again a few moments later, and Belfort also did a good job of stopping a couple of other take downs.
As the first round neared it’s final minute Belfort took Johnson’s back, and after landing a few well targeted blows Belfort synched in a rear naked choke for the submission win.
This defeat wasn’t the end of Johnson’s problems. Dana White cut him from the roster just a few hours later.
The main event saw Chad Mendes challenging Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title.
This was one of those fights that showed how things can turn in an instant.
Both fighters began by testing the waters with kicks, but whenever Mendes went for a take down Aldo easily defended.
The next few minutes saw them exchanging kicks, with Aldo continuing to defend against Mendes’ take down attempts. Mendes did manage to take Aldo’s back while they were still standing.
However, just when it looked like the fight was going into the second round Aldo broke free and connected with a left knee that sent Mendes crashing, with the referee quickly stepping in to give Aldo the knockout win with just one second left in the round.
Afterwards Aldo ran out of the cage and into the crowd as the faithful swarmed over him, lifting him triumphantly onto their shoulders before security took the reluctant fighter back to the cage.
With the main card fights all finishing early it was on to the filler material, beginning with Ricardo Funch against Mike Pyle in the welterweight division.
A quick fight saw both fighters getting off some good shots early on, but after a minute or so Pyle connected with a right that staggered Funch. The Brazilian went down against the cage after a right knee to the head, with Pyle delivering a few more blows before the referee stepped in to give Pyle the TKO win.
The big boys of the heavyweight division were on show next as Gabriel Gonzaga faced Ednaldo Oliveira.
This one began with a lengthy feeling out period, and it didn’t really come to life until Gonzaga scored with a take down about two minutes there.
Gonzaga then did a good job of controlling his compatriot on the ground. Oliveira got to his feet for a brief moment before Gonzaga took him down again, taking his back moments later and synching in a rear naked choke for the submission win.
It was down to lightweight for the next fight as Thiago Tavares took on Sam Stout.
The only fight of the broadcast that went the distance proved to be an entertaining battle. Tavares managed to score with some take downs in the first, but after that it was mainly a striking battle.
For a while it looked like Tavares would have to withdraw after an inadvertent Stout low kick left him laying on the mat. He managed to recover though although as the fight neared it’s conclusion Stout connected with a right uppercut that staggered the Brazilian, but unfortunately time was against him.
So with the fight going the distance the judges came into play as they gave Tavares the unanimous decision.
In conclusion - even though it had it’s controversial moments the UFC’s return to Brazil proved to be another great show.
The strong opener between Barboza and Etim set the scene perfectly as we saw a succession of high class knockouts and submissions, as well as a strange refereeing decision that will probably lead to an immediate re-match between Erick Silva and Carlo Prater.
So in all, as you can probably guess, UFC 142 gets the thumbs up for another cracking night of MMA action.