Three days, 34 fights, and 68 human beings who sacrificed their bodies for the masses.
I would compare it to a quasi-sort of Christmas for fight fans, though Hanukkah might be a more apt description since we had multiple joyous nights instead of one measly evening.
It started out innocuously enough. Paige VanZant was met with the business end of Rose Namajunas’ fists, and though she had a stronger showing than many expected, she eventually submitted to “Thug” Rose’s tight rear naked choke.
Though a stellar performance that would otherwise provide enough fodder for a week’s worth of talking points, it was soon forgotten by the time Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza stepped in the cage on Friday night.
In what could have easily served as the main event on any number of UFC Fight Night events, Ferguson and Barboza threw down in a potential Fight of the Year nominee. Using his constant pressure and unorthodox striking, Ferguson forced Barboza into a grappling exchange that eventually earned “El Cucuy” his seventh career win by submission and an extra $100,000 in bonus money.
The victory would be short lived, though, as Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar stole the spotlight once again. After many had been expecting a back and forth war between the two top contenders, Edgar shocked the world when he knocked Mendes out cold with a clean left hook on the nose.
Now, at 5-1 and with four post-fight bonuses since dropping to featherweight, Edgar was seemingly poised to stake another claim for the 145lb. belt, especially after starching a former title challenger like Mendes.
But, in keeping with the trend, all was soon forgotten.
After sitting through a main card that felt torturously slow, fans were finally treated to the fight they’d been waiting literally half a year for.
Blink, and you might have missed it.
In what is now the record holder for the shortest title fight in UFC history (sorry, Ronda), Conor McGregor did exactly what he told us he would by knocking out Jose Aldo with a perfectly timed left hand.
There really are no words for the fight; it ended so quickly it felt as though we had been robbed of something. In his post-fight interview Aldo echoed the same sentiments through his translator.
“I think that we need [a] rematch. There was really not a fight, so we need to get back in here.”
While the words of a recently concussed man can should only be taken with a grain of salt, he said what most of us were already thinking: we need to see this fight again.
It’s unfair no matter how you slice it. If you forego the immediate rematch with Aldo in favor of giving Frankie Edgar his shot, you may permanently lose the potential for another mega-payday between McGregor and Aldo. Also, there’s already an established pattern the UFC has created with dominant champions.
If you lose, especially quickly, we count that as your mulligan. You “just got caught”, as the cliché goes. Zuffa gave one to Cain Velasquez after losing in under a minute to Junior Dos Santos on the first FOX card. Similarly, Anderson Silva got another crack at Chris Weidman even after getting so thoroughly smashed it was clear we shouldn’t have expected any other outcome in the first place.
The point is, there’s precedent here. Frankie Edgar of all people should understand it; from 2010 through 2012 he only fought guys named BJ Penn, Gray Maynard, and Benson Henderson, exchanging wins and losses with the latter.
And if there’s ever been a more dominant champion than Jose Aldo, we haven’t heard of him. Though his UFC tenure was definitely lackluster in comparison to his earlier career, he still experienced more than a decade of invincibility; his unbeaten streak was longer than Conor McGregor’s entire professional career.
That cannot be taken for granted, and it should be rewarded. And who knows, the rematch might look troublingly like the first fight, but Jose Aldo has earned the right to find out for himself.
And so here we are, seemingly left with more questions than answers after a whirlwind of pugilism. It was the best kind of over-saturation, but it was still over-saturation. Every single fight card within the last week would have been good enough to serve as solo events on any given day.
Now we’re left to piece together what meaning we can find from the bodies that lay strewn around us. People lost that never lose, people won in ways we could have only imagined. It was the best possible kind of chaos, and we have only a few days to catch our breath before Donald Cerrone head kicks us back into attention on Saturday.
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