If you had talked to me before the fights on Saturday night, I would have told you that UFC 136 was without question the most intriguing and exciting fight card of 2011.
But the preliminary fights were also really interesting and almost guaranteed to be exciting. With names like Melvin Guillard, Leonard Garcia, Brian Stann and Chael Sonnen in the mix, how could it be anything but spectacular?
I know, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I had a good feeling that this event was going to be epic, though. Did it live up to the hype? Let's get right into the results and find out.
Joe Lauzon submitted Melvin Guillard via rear naked choke in the first round. The very first fight on the broadcast was about as exciting as possible. Melvin Guillard came out swinging hard and throwing kicks. It looked like Lauzon might be overwhelmed, but he stood right in there and landed a short left right on Guillard's jaw. It just staggered him for a second, but Lauzon is crazy quick with submissions and jumped on Guillard's back right away. It looked like he was trying to go for something a little fancier, but the rear naked choke was there for him and he took it. It was deep and Guillard had to tap.
Nam Phan defeated Leonard Garcia by unanimous decision. The first round of this fight was much like the first fight between these two. Actually, it was much like all of Garcia's fights, which is to say that it was action-packed and a lot of fun to watch. Both fighters came out swinging, but Phan looked really sharp. He landed several left hooks that seemed to hurt Garcia and peppered him with body shots throughout the round. Garcia was engaged as well, but Phan seemed to be slipping a lot of what he was throwing. Round 2 was about the same. Phan was on point and, although Garcia never quit trying, he was definitely looking worse for wear. You have to love Garcia, though. He clipped Phan with a left hook that dropped him early in the third round, then teed off for a bit. Phan looked like he was on the ropes, but he hung in there, got a take down and was able to recover to some degree. I definitely had Phan winning the first two rounds, though, so it was the right decision.
Chael Sonnen submitted Brian Stann via arm triangle in the second round. This was pretty classic striker vs. grappler match making, but to be honest, I felt that Stann was overmatched. I really admire the guy and tend to root for him, but let's get real. Sonnen gave Anderson Silva his toughest fight to date in the UFC. His wrestling made Nate Marquardt look stupid and Stann has had trouble with good grapplers in the past. He's got a lot of power, though, so anything was possible. As I suspected, Sonnen completely dominated the first round. He took Stann down and controlled things from there. He had side control, full mount, got Stann's back and beat on him for the duration, but Stann hung in there and got it into the second round. Stann found himself on his back immediately when the second round started, though. Sonnen was pretty quick this time and got an arm triangle started from side control. He crossed Stann's body to get more leverage on it and Stann finally tapped right before he went out completely. Sonnen may have made bigger headlines with his post-fight interview. Shocking, I know. He told Anderson Silva that he, "absolutely sucks," and challenged him to a re-match in February. He said he wanted to raise the stakes and have Silva leave the middleweight division if he loses and that he (Sonnen) would leave the UFC forever if he loses. This should be interesting.
Jose Aldo defeated Kenny Florian by unanimous decision and remains the UFC Featherweight champion. There seems to be a growing contingent of Florian bashers, but I'm not among them. I've always enjoyed watching him fight and feel that he's continued to evolve and improve. Just like his prior title shots, though, I felt that he was grossly over-matched in this one. Everything that Florian is good at, Aldo is better. Plus, this was only Florian's second fight at 145 pounds, but there's always a chance. To me, Aldo looked better striking, but Florian weathered the first couple of minutes and was able to get him against the cage in a clinch. He got him down a couple of times, but wasn't albe to keep him there. It was an interesting first round, though, and unlike any of Aldo's previous fights in the UFC or WEC. They stood the entire second round and Aldo started to find his timing. He landed several punches and one really big head kick. Florian was getting his in too, though, and it was really turning into an interesting fight. Whatever happened, Aldo wasn't going to steamroll Florian, so that made it more intriguing. Aldo had been throwing kicks to the inside of Florian's lead leg and they started taking a toll. Florian's mobility seemed to be in jeopardy, but the real story of the round was Florian going for a take down, but ending up with Aldo on top of him. Aldo controlled him from there for most of the round and opened a lead on the score cards. The fourth round was a little tougher to call. Florian avoided serious trouble, but Aldo kept him from really being able to mount much offense. Aldo carried the fifth round as well. He got on top and got full mount on the ground for a little bit. Florian tried, but could out-strike him and just found that his tools weren't as sharp against this opponent. What's next for Aldo? I have no idea, but I'd love to see him go up to lightweight and face some top 155-pound competition.
Frankie Edgar TKO'd Gray Maynard in the fourth round and remains the UFC Lightweight champion. The first title fight between these guys, which was actually their second meeting, has already reached legendary status. Maynard rocked Edgar hard in the first round and looked like he would finish the fight then and there. But Edgar came back and arguably won the remaining four rounds. The fight was scored a draw, so everyone was expecting their match-up at UFC 136 to settle things once and for all. The first round was another torrid one. Edgar got in some shots, but once again, Maynard landed heavy strikes. Edgar's nose was broken and he looked like he was in big trouble by the end of the round. We'd been there before, though. Round 2 was more conservative. Both fighters settled into a more reasonable pace and Edgar avoided taking any more significant damage. The third round was similar, but Edgar's speed, combined with Maynard slowing down, started to tilt the fight in the champ's favor. Edgar was able to dart in and out without really taking any damage. In the fourth round, Edgar was really starting to run away with the fight. I was starting to wonder what the judges were doing when Edgar saved us all the trouble. He clipped Maynard with a right hand as they separated and sent him to the mat. Edgar wasted no time and pounced, landing several more shots and putting Maynard out completely. Everyone is saying that it was closure, but let's be honest here. They're 1-1-1 with each other now. The records are completely even. I'm not saying it's going to be in the next year or anything, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a rubber match somewhere down the road.