In a bout that many will consider a candidate on the short list for 2014's Fight of the Year, Jose Aldo retained his UFC featherweight title in a five-round war with top contender Chad Mendes in the main event of UFC 179 on Saturday night. Their performances earned them Fight of the Night honors and $50,000 each. UFC President Dana White announced them as winners of the bonuses at the event's post-fight press conference.
Aldo won the bout via unanimous decision, claiming 49-46 across all three judges' scorecards, but those numbers don't properly convey how pitched or close the battle between the two featherweights actually was.
From the opening bell, Mendes demonstrated noticeably improved striking techniques, landing clean left hooks, moving around the Octagon, scoring with leg kicks and forcing the champion to react. While an inadvertent eye poke temporarily halted the bout in the second round, it also forced the champion to kick everything into high gear, storming Mendes.
In the second frame, the pace of things slowed just a bit as the the champion was content to sit behind the jab and stuff Mendes' takedown attempts. The third round, however, is when the fight was arguably at its peak. Mendes cracked Aldo with a thudding uppercut that clearly hurt the champion. As the American followed up, Aldo turned the tables, dropping Mendes, following him to the ground and moving to mount. Mendes would survive, however, and the round would end with the two on their feet.
An exhausted Aldo did enough to not take a substantial amount of damage in the fourth round, but Mendes, clearly the fresher fighter, was finally able to have success in the takedown department in addition to scoring with a barrage of varying strikes.
By the fifth round, Aldo seemed to have recovered. He scored with body shots and stopped Mendes' takedowns cold, but was still on the receiving end of Mendes right hooks and leg kicks.
Ultimately, Aldo retained his title and remains the sole Brazilian champion in the UFC.
Earning one of the two Performance of the Night bonuses was another main card fighter as well as a Brazilian in Fabio Maldonado. The striker found himself on his back almost immediately in his bout with Hans Stringer, but managed to stop any real offense from the Dutch fighter. By the second round, Maldonado was able to stop many of the attacks and once on the ground, reverse position to get on top. From there, that was the beginning of the end. Maldonado battered Stringer with a series of lefts and rights, elbows and hammerfists.
The bout was officially called to a halt at 4:06 of the second round. Maldonado earned an extra $50,000 for his efforts.
Last, but certainly not least, jiu-jitsu black belt and world champion Gilbert Burns put on a sensational performance against newcomer Christos Giagos. After eating a few unwanted strikes on the feet, Burns secured a textbook double leg takedown. From there, Giagos showed strong defense, but Burns remain undeterred as time ticked away. From Giagos' back, Burns eventually took mount as his opposition turned. With seconds left in the round, he spun for the armbar. Giagos tried to sit up, forcing Burns to triangle his legs to help break Giagos' grip of his own hands to stop the armbar. The technique worked and as Burns straightened Giagos' arm, he had no choice to tap.
Burns' victory came at 4:57 of the first round and netted him an additional $50,000.
UFC 179 took place at the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The main card aired on pay-per-view.