It wasn't quite the classic battle that MMA fans were hoping for, but it was another great showing by Aldo, who is by far the best 145-pound fighter in the sport. For Faber, who was long the featherweight champion of the world, it may have also been his last chance at winning a title.
Even after a one-sided title defense, Aldo sounded disappointed that he didn't win the fight by knockout, as he had in each of his previous WEC bouts.
"Every time I step in the Octagon, I always try to finish," Aldo said. "Unfortunately I wasn't able to tonight, but that's always my goal."
It was Faber who went on the attack at the beginning, landing a couple of kicks in the early going. Aldo knocked Faber down briefly with a hard leg kick, but for most of the first round the two were feeling each other out more than they were actually connecting with strikes. With 30 seconds to go in the first round Aldo hit Faber with a flying knee, but for the most part the first round was free of the kind of dynamic, powerful striking that Aldo is famous for.
In the second round Aldo began to take advantage of his superior height and reach, staying on the outside and landing some punches and kicks while Faber was just out of reach. Midway through the round Aldo landed a leg kick that made Faber grit his teeth, and it was clear that the cumulative effect of Aldo's leg kicks was starting to take a toll. Faber was throwing a lot of strikes but not landing many, and some of his hometown fans in Sacramento started to boo. With 30 seconds left Aldo landed a huge kick to Faber's left knee that had Faber hopping on his right foot. Faber limped back to his corner after the second round.
At the start of the third round Faber desperately wanted to take the fight to the ground, and he lunged at Aldo's leg to try to secure a takedown. But that didn't work, and Aldo went back to attacking Faber's left knee. In the middle of the third round Faber caught a kick and very briefly took Aldo to the ground, giving Faber his first chance at doing something offensively. But Aldo pulled free and got back to his feet, and Faber started to look frustrated. With two minutes to go in the third Aldo landed a kick to the head and followed it with a combination of punches, and it looked like he might even be able to finish the fight.Instead he just spent the rest of the round peppering Faber with shots that Faber couldn't answer.
Early in the fourth round Aldo wobbled Faber's legs again and knocked him down, but this time Aldo went to the ground with Faber, and for the first time American fans got a glimpse of the Brazilian's jiu jitsu skills. Aldo looked good on the ground, passing Faber's guard, getting Faber's back, getting to mount and later getting into a crucifix position. From the crucifix Aldo landed elbow after elbow after elbow to Faber's head, and it was surprising that the referee didn't stop the fight. But Faber wouldn't quit, and as soon as the fourth round ended he hobbled back to his corner and got ready for the fifth.
The fifth round was slow, as Faber didn't have much energy left, and Aldo didn't see much need to take any chances when he knew he'd win a decision. The fight ended with the crowd booing as Faber was on his back, Aldo was on his feet, and the clock ran out on an easy Aldo decision.
The judges scored it 49-45, 49-45 and 50-45 for Aldo.
Faber acknowledged after the fight that the leg kicks were too much for him.
"He really took away my legs and it was impossible to get anything going," Faber said. "I was losing mobility, and he was very good and very fast. It was a tough fight but I tried my best."
Aldo is now 17-1, and at age 23 he's so dominant that there aren't many fighters in MMA who can challenge him. Manny Gamburyan, who beat former featherweight champion Mike Brown on the undercard, may be his next opponent. It's hard to see Gamburyan beating Aldo. It's hard to see anyone beating Aldo.
Before he stepped out of the cage, the Brazilian Aldo looked into the camera and said something in English.
"Thank you to all my fans," Aldo said. "I fight for you."