The UFC has come and gone and the once deafening roar of the Brazilian crowd is now silenced following an electric night of first-round stoppages at UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes. Headlining the all too brief card was UFC Featherweight Champion “Junior” Jose Aldo (20-1) who successfully defended his title in front of a fanatical hometown crowd by blasting the title dreams, consciousness, and undefeated record of “Money” Chad Mendes (11-1) into non-existence with a brutal knee strike. Former UFC Heavyweight Tournament and Light Heavyweight Champion “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (21-9) came to the cage looking dangerously eager to face ill-fated former welterweight “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (10-4) and made quick work of his foe, submitting “Rumble” with a Rear Naked Choke. “Toquinho” Rousimar Palhares (16-5) sent a clear message to the rest of the division against Mike Massenzio (13-6) as he added yet another vicious Heel Hook submission win to his record. Controversy filled the air when Erick Silva (8-3) completely destroyed Carlo Prater (28-11-1) in just 29 seconds only to have his victory taken from him as referee Mario Yamasaki ruled the bout a disqualification due to illegal strikes. The opening fight of the night saw British brawler Terry Etim (15-4) suffer one of the most spectacular KO losses in MMA history as Edson Barboza (10-0) nailed him square on the jaw with a spinning hook kick. In a night where all but one bout fails to go past the first round, it is very clear who the winners and losers are, but divining the level to which those victories and defeats impact a fighter’s career takes The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Jose Aldo: What can be said about Jose Aldo that hasn’t already been said about a Category 5 Hurricane? The man is a force of nature that destroys everything in his path and it is best just to stay out of his path. In addition to inciting a crowd reaction that guarantees he will defend his belt on every upcoming UFC event in Brazil, Aldo took every piece of criticism the pundits had and made them eat it. A Div. I All-American wrestler was unable to achieve anything remotely resembling a takedown against the champ, silencing talk of his suspect wrestling. He then blasted said NCAA Div. I All-American with a knee that ended everything with just one second left in the round, banishing the specter of recent lackluster performances. Aldo cashed his check and now has job security as long as there is a Brazil for him to fight in.
Vitor Belfort: One of the single most cliché expressions found in MMA is the cry of “He looked like the OLD (Fighter Name) tonight! (Fighter Nickname) is back!” when a veteran or former champion wins. This time it was very appropriate, not because Vitor showed the razor’s edge that made even the smallest mistake a critical failure, not because he dominated his opponent, and not because he stayed completely in control even when his opponent managed to gain top position, but because when Vitor walked to the cage he was intense, focused, and for the first time in a very long time, completely free of the fragile mental state that has marked him since his sister disappeared in 2004. That Vitor, the old Vitor, is possibly the most dangerous fighter on the planet.
Rousimar Palhares: When the previously mentioned most dangerous fighter on the planet is mentioned, Palhares definitely deserves at least an honorable mention. His leg locks are a thing of nightmares even for elite level ADCC grapplers. He may not ever make the top pound-for-pound fighter rankings, or even the top five in his weight class, but the fact remains that he can end a fight, and a career, at the drop of a hat. The Brazilian submission fighter locked Mike Massenzio in an inverted Heel Hook submission and immediately attempted to forcibly remove the leg from the American’s body. Several submission fighters have been said to collect necks, arms, and even legs based on their preferred submissions. Palhares is starting to collect ACLs.
Erick Silva: Erick Silva arguably did everything right. His timing was unquestionable, his killer instincts were razor sharp, and his technique was flawless when he blasted Carlo Prater with a knee to the body. He then fired away with hammerfists until the fight was stopped just 29 seconds into the bout. All was well until the official decision was called a DQ due to blows to the back of the head. This raised a serious issue as replay showed clearly that all but one of the hammerfists were legal by the “Mohawk” definition of the back of the head. However, the blows were mostly questionable by the “Behind the Ears” definition, making it highly unlikely that the commission will change the bout to a No Contest. Silva did impress his bosses though and will likely come out unscathed in the eyes of the Zuffa brass.
Edson Barboza: One of the lightweight division’s most prolific young strikers, Edson Barboza, has done nothing but impress since coming to the UFC. He entered his UFC 142 bout on the heels of a TKO win and two clear cut decision wins as a solid blue chip prospect and he came out the other side an instant top contender and the owner of one of the most awe inspiring highlight reel KOs in UFC history. Just over two minutes into the third round, Barboza landed a spinning hook kick to the jaw of Terry Etim that instantly rendered the British fighter comatose. It earned him a “Knockout of the Night” award and more importantly burned his name and likeness into the mind of every UFC fan watching.
Chad Mendes: “Money” Mendes actually entered the cage against Jose Aldo as a favorite in the eyes of many pundits. His unstoppable takedowns and endless cardio were supposed to give him the ability to shut down Aldo’s offense and tax the champion’s questionable stamina to the breaking point, earning him a decision win in Aldo’s own backyard. Things didn’t quiet pan out that way for the undefeated challenger. Mendes failed to even come close to grounding the champ and with just one second remaining in the round he suffered the greatest pitfall of a one-dimensional skill set when Aldo slammed a knee into his face, ending Mendes’ night and his undefeated run.
Carlo Prater: Carlo Prater may have gotten the win, but there is nothing good about getting wrecked in 29 seconds. The journeyman fighter came out of the gates swinging and was instantly outclassed by Silva’s vastly superior stand-up. Prater instantly grabbed his shoulder after the stoppage, perhaps trying to save face by blaming the loss on an injury, but he got the win anyway when the bout was ruled a DQ. Unfortunately for him, he may have the win but he didn’t fool anyone into thinking he is capable of competing on a UFC level.
Mike Massenzio: A submission loss to Rousimar Palhares in just over a minute isn’t necessarily enough to land Mike Massenzio in The Ugly. Even seeing his UFC mark fall to 2-4 is excusable to a certain extent given the names he has lost to. The thing that places Massenzio squarely in the same career death category as “Rumble” Johnson is the potential damage done to his knees by Palhares. There was real pain in the fighter’s reaction to the Heel Hook and he had to be assisted from the cage following the lock. Good luck will find Massenzio sore for a few weeks. Bad luck will find him in an ACL surgery that his shaky career won’t likely recover from.
Anthony Johnson: “Rumble” missed weight. Again. This time he missed it by an absolutely appalling 11 pounds. Before he ever entered the arena for UFC 142, Dana White said that win or lose, Johnson’s job was on the line. This led many to believe that “Rumble” not only had to win, but dominate, in order to stay in the UFC. Instead, a fighter who was unapologetic about missing weight after going up a weight class to avoid just such an issue got completely dominated by a fighter who proved superior on every level. There was absolutely nothing good about this bout for Anthony Johnson and the result is so ugly that this article should henceforth be known as “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Rumble” just to make sure everyone knows that a screw up this bad makes a KO loss while on a three-fight losing streak look good.
Terry Etim: Any fight that sees a competitor topple over stone rigid and completely unaware of his own name, let alone his surroundings, is a very bad thing for a career. Etim wants to be known as a streaking young fighter who is dangerous in every aspect of the game, not as that guy who was put in a temporary coma by a spinning hook kick courtesy of Edson Barboza. Add to the KO a pedestrian 3-2 mark in his last five bouts and you have a fighter who is several years away from where he was just two fights ago when he was riding a four-bout hot streak.