The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to Houston, TX on Saturday Oct. 8 for one of the most stacked cards in recent history, featuring a featherweight Championship matchup between Jose Aldo and Kenny Florian, a lightweight Championship matchup between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, and the highly anticipated octagon return of “The Most Interesting Man In the World,” Chael Sonnen. The stars had aligned, the heavens were opened, and if Mike Goldberg would have shut up for just a minute with his nonsense about Gray Maynard walking at or near 200 pounds, I am pretty sure we all would have heard angels singing a glorious hymn celebrating this stacked fight card.
Yes, UFC 136 had the potential to be THAT good.
And to be honest, it was damn close to being, dare I say…?
From an explosive opening performance from Joe Lauzon, outstanding showings of heart and persistence from Frankie Edgar and Nam Phan, and one very pissed off Chael Sonnen, UFC 136 was proof that (almost) everything is not only bigger, but also better in Texas.
So in case you missed it, here you have it:
A blow-by-blow recap peppered with some sarcasm, and vale tudo opinion – your UFC 136 Main Card Bri-cap – woops, I mean RECAP.
(See what I did there? Word play. Boom.)
Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon
The pay-per view event opened with an exciting lightweight bout between Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard and Joe “J.Lo” Lauzon that ended faster than you can say: “why in God’s name would a grown man choose to be nicknamed J.Lo?”
As the match came to a start, both fighters moved toward the center of the cage, with Guillard looking to end the fight quickly with his extremely heavy hands.
After throwing a few crisp strikes, Guillard throws a nice left kick – and this is where Guillard’s whole “I want to knock my opponent the hell out” game plan pretty much got thrown out the window, as Lauzon returns fire with a beautiful left hook that causes Guillard’s knees to buckle.
Immediately, Lauzon pounces on his downed opponent, taking his back and securing his hooks before sinking in a speedy rear naked choke.
Guillard tries to hold on, but is forced to tap or nap as Lauzon tightens the choke by flattening his opponent out on the mats.
The referee called a stop to the match after only 47 seconds in the very first round, declaring the winner by tap out due to a rear naked choke, Joe Lauzon.
Though the fight was short-lived, Lauzon was extremely impressive – wisely avoiding the standup game with his opponent, and capitalizing upon the opportunity to end the fight as quickly as possible on the ground.
And while Melvin Guillard was unable to pull off a win, the noticeable change in his attitude and character was not only impressive, but refreshing.
Rather than conducting himself disrespectfully, Guillard congratulated his opponent after the fight and mouthed a reassuring message to his fans: “I’ll be back.”
With the level of talent and power Guillard possesses, I am sure I’m not the only one looking forward to seeing him fight again sometime very, very soon.
Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan
Almost every card is plagued by a dull, slow paced and technically underwhelming bout.
Fortunately, the second main card fight, a rematch between the ever-so intense Leonard Garcia and a very crisp and technical Nam Phan, was not one such dull bout.
As the first round began, both fighters moved toward the center of the cage, with Phan seeming a bit stiff in comparison to Garcia.
Phan opens the action with some leg kicks, seemingly meant to close the distance and help him loosen up rather than cause real damage.
Garcia, on the other hand, begins throwing with bad intentions from the get-go, and while he displays more discipline in his striking than in previous matchups, Garcia continues to swing for the fences.
Phan pushes forward with a nice combination as Garcia slips and falls to his back.
Immediately, Phan moves into Garcia’s guard where he remains until the ref brings the men back to their feet.
Continuing to utilize and establish his jab, Phan tags Garcia who has already begun to drop his hands and swing more wildly than at the beginning of the round.
Rushing forward, Garcia moves in for a take down, but Phan defends nicely with a smooth sweep before the striking match continues.
In a clean flurry, Phan lands a beautiful left hook to the body and another to the chin of his opponent, eating a solid kick shortly after.
However, Phan continues to push forward, focusing heavily on sharp strikes to the abdomen of Garcia.
Garcia continues to move and return strikes, but is clipped by a sharp strike that apparently poked him in the eye a bit.
After a very brief pause in the action, Garcia shoots for another take down, but fails to attain a dominant position, as Phan manages to take his back as the round comes to an end.
The action in the second round starts immediately, with Phan moving nicely and Garcia landing a beautiful strike.
Unshaken, Phan seems to have established a nice rhythm, ducking some wild swings from Garcia and responding with brilliant and well-timed body shots.
For those of you who have never had the absolute pleasure of eating a hard hit to the kidney, liver, or ribs, please take my word for it: it not only causes debilitating pain, but can also severely interfere with your ability to breathe deeply.
And it is at this point that the body shots really seem to begin impacting Garcia, who, while obviously winded and wincing, continues to press forward and fight.
Phan throws a very clean technical kick that barely grazes Garcia’s head before the men enter into an exciting striking exchange.
Garcia wildly swings, hoping to connect, while Phan paces himself a bit more, picking his shots with expert precision and then quickly moving out of the reach of the heavy-handed Garcia.
In and out, Phan lands some excellent combinations and body shots that eventually leave Garcia bleeding slightly and leaning heavily to one side.
Before the round comes to an end, Garcia musters the strength to explode with a few more wild strikes and narrowly missing on a couple of occasions before eating a few crisp strikes to the mug.
As the third round begins, Garcia smiles at his opponent, lovingly calls him an expletive, and the men touch gloves to start the action.
While the audience has been having throughout the entirety of the explosive bout, the fighters begin to really have some fun in this third and final round.
Seemingly refreshed, Garcia begins showing new signs of life, moving forward aggressively, yelling as he strikes – while not uncommon in traditional martial arts, yelling as you strike is not exactly the most common of occurrences in the octagon.
Regardless, he pushes forward, landing a nice left that knocks Phan to the ground for a moment, following with several big strikes.
One hit lands after another and Phan looks as if he is barely holding on, and while Phan will likely have no immediate recollection of this round, he displays impressive heart by holding on.
Garcia continues to land heavy strikes back and forth until Phan pushes forward into a clinch, allowing himself a few moments to recover against the cage.
On the clinch exit, rather than step back, Phan pushes forward — a perfect example of a little something I like to call indomitable spirit.
Phan clips Garcia with a nice left followed by two more crisp strikes before taking the exhausted Garcia to the ground and landing in his guard.
The referee stands the fighters back up after a few moments and Garcia reopens the action with a combination and leg kick before missing with a big spinning back fist.
Phan responds with another flurry of clean strikes as Garcia shoots in with a wild and reckless take down.
Simply pushing him aside, Phan continues his combinations and Garcia swings wildly until the fight comes to an end.
After three rounds of action, the fight went to the judges’ scorecards. All three judges scored the fight 29-28 for the winner by unanimous decision, Nam Phan.
Nam Phan conducted himself like a true warrior in and out of the octagon, even when Joe Rogan allowed Leonard Garcia to talk over Phan in the post fight interview, stealing a bit of the glory from Phan who was not given the opportunity to speak following his first win in the UFC.
Oh well, I am sure Phan is more than happy with his win and a hefty $75,000 bonus check to keep him warm at night.
Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
As a citizen of the lovely state of Oregon, lifelong Team Quest fanatic and general sucker for good looking men with arguably testy attitudes, I may or may not tend to favor Chael Sonnen over other athletes on a personal level.
That being said, Sonnen’s amazing capabilities as a wrestler, aggression and underrated striking game require no favor whatsoever, as they clearly speak for themselves – even when pitted against the brute force, heart and will of an amazing American hero and athlete such as Brian Stann.
Sonnen wastes no time opening the action, shooting for a double leg take down as Stann defends by bringing his back against the fence.
Pressuring Stann onto the cage side, Sonnen throws knees in the clinch as Stann reverses his position, landing a couple well-placed strikes to the abdomen of his opponent.
Sonnen quickly reverses the clinch position again, landing a solid knee to the body before taking Stann to the ground and moving directly into side control.
From the dominant top position, Sonnen throws short but heavy strikes and lands a few knees to the ribs of Stann before transitioning his position.
While trying to pass to the mount, Sonnen ends up in half guard, but is able to take the back of Stann in a matter of seconds.
Wisely, Stann sits up and kicks out his feet to disallow Sonnen from getting his hooks in place and tries to spin out of the compromising position, but Sonnen follows and achieves full back control with both of his hooks in.
In a single fluid motion, Sonnen transitions again, this time removing his hooks and gliding into a full mount.
Having Chael Sonnen on top of you in a full mount is never a good thing … well, unless you’re into that sort of thing.
Stann, unlike some of you dirty birds out there, was not feeling the mount, and gives up his back rather than eating the leather from Sonnen’s gloves.
Stann powers back to a standing position with Sonnen still on his back, both hooks sunk in nicely.
Holding onto the arm of his opponent, Stann seeks to disallow any submission attempt, but is easily thrown to the mats as Sonnen removes his hooks, drops from Stann’s back and puts the fight right where he wants it: back on the ground.
In another dominant position in his opponents’ half guard, Sonnen postures up and throws wild punches from the top, pauses, transitions into full guard, and then continues striking.
The round ends with Sonnen transitioning into side control, displaying his dominance by completely controlling the direction of the match.
There are many lessons that I have learned from watching MMA over the years, such as:
Never lead with your chin.
Be conscious of your limbs at all times, particularly when on the ground with a submission specialist.
And it is not typically a wise decision to throw kicks in a match against a wrestler.
Unfortunately Brian Stann did not get the last memo, as he opened the action of round two with a kick … one that was immediately caught by Sonnen who brought the fight down to the mats.
In a completely dominant fashion, Sonnen throws strikes incessantly from the top position, showcasing a brilliant pass from Stann’s dominant defensive side, to his weaker side by using his body literally fold Stann up into a sort of fetal position.
Mere moments later and with a single hook, Sonnen passes easily into mount.
Stann, in an attempt to control the posture of his opponent, basically sticks to Sonnen like glue, his head against the Oregon native’s chest.
Pressuring Stann’s head to the mats with his chest, Sonnen disrupts the breathing of his opponent by basically smothering him before Stann is able to make hip space and escape to full guard.
At this point the referee stands the men back up, playing off the drunken boo’s from the crowd, and Stann clips Sonnen with a nice right hand.
Sonnen shoots forward for another take down, but Stann is able to sprawl and the men rise into a clinch against the cage.
Almost immediately, Sonnen drops levels and picks Stann up like a sack of potatoes before slamming him to the mats and passing directly into side control.
From side control Sonnen is able to secure a solid arm triangle, stepping holding the submission with his upper body as he slides his legs and hips up and over the torso of his opponent, flattening his body and tightening the choke.
Stann, like the true warrior he is, holds on for as long as he can before he is forced to tap.
The referee called a stop to this match at 3:51 of the second round, declaring the winner by tap out due to an arm triangle, Chael Sonnen.
While Brian Stann is an absolute beast and is absolutely one of the top middleweight contenders in the UFC, he was completely dominated by Chael Sonnen, who was able to control the direction, pace and obviously the outcome of the bout.
Immediately following his victory, Sonnen made sure to call out the last man to hold a win over him in the octagon, Anderson Silva – and in true “American Gangster” form, made Silva an offer he can’t refuse.
“I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I leave the UFC forever.”
Without so much as a word more, and after sufficiently exciting the crowd in the Toyota Center, a very pissed off Sonnen exited the octagon.
Not typically a proponent of hype or talk, even I was a bit excited by the prospect of an upcoming Sonnen vs. Silva II.
Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
You can do a lot with 25 minutes.
You can pay your bills online, paint your nails, pick a fight with a Brock Lesnar fan on Twitter, make some break and bake chocolate chip cookies, heck, you can even save 15% or more on car insurance … all in under 25 minutes.
So why would I waste all of your precious time going through the blow-by-blow details of an arguably, dare I say, dull 25-minute Championship matchup between current featherweight Champ Jose Aldo and the incredible shrinking man, Kenny Florian?
While the correct answer may be: “because it’s your job, Sabrina,” I’d rather save you some time and make this as quick and painless as possible – kind of like a band-aid.
Florian opens the action by throwing some kicks before shooting in for a takedown. While his first attempt is easily foiled, Florian manages to take Aldo to the mats shortly after, but the fight almost immediately returns to standing.
Florian pressures Aldo against the fence, landing a couple nice knees before going for a single leg takedown and eventually a trip that brings Aldo to the mat, again, for only a moment before he explodes back to his feet.
Florian moves in with a combination of strikes and eats a nice uppercut from Aldo before ducking and attempting another takedown.
The round ends in a clinch against the cage with Florian utilizing his knees.
Round two continues similarly to that of the first, with Florian circling away from Aldo’s powerful kicks, shooting in with a couple strikes, and attempting to bring the fight to the clinch or to the ground.
Aldo begins utilize more leg kicks, even throwing a couple head kicks followed by a nice right hand.
Florian responds with kicks of his own, moving in slowly for single leg takedown but is unable to bring the fight to the mats before the round comes to an end.
The trend continues as Florian continues to try and avoid Aldo’s powerful kicks, but eventually eats a solid leg kick and limps noticeably.
As the men press forward, Florian ducks under Aldo in an attempt to bring the fight to the canvas.
Unfortunately, however, Florian ducks directly down into Aldo’s mount.
Florian, typically very active from his back, creates space with his hips and escapes into a less compromising bottom position, managing to keep up with Aldo’s transitions and avoid any damage.
Aldo returns to his feet as Florian throws several up kicks, all of which are controlled by Aldo who forces the fight back to standing.
Florian pushes forward in another takedown attempt, dropping levels and eventually ending the round whilst trying to trip his opponent.
Aldo begins throwing more kicks in the fourth round, but Florian continually checks the kicks and responds with his own in return.
The round continues on with short striking exchanges that are more strategic in nature than explosive.
Florian shoots for another takedown, but is unable to combat the wide stance and defense of Aldo, who lands a nice knee as he is pressured against the cage.
Florian drops down for a single once again, but Aldo steps out and lands a solid body shot before the men enter into another clinch and the round ends with Florian attempting another single.
The fight finally picks up a little bit in the fifth round, as the men enter into a longer exchange than in previous rounds.
Florian continues to throw more strikes as a whole, shooting for a takedown but only managing to clinch against the cage where he lands a knee before changing levels.
Aldo easily steps out of Florian’s takedown attempt and Florian slips to the mats after pushing forward for a knee.
On his back, Florian throws kicks to the standing Aldo, even seeming to contemplate a leg lock before Aldo drops into his guard and almost immediately transitions into a secure mount position in which is ankles are locked under the torso of his opponent.
Perhaps Joe Rogan describes it better by saying: it is a guard mount … like having a guy in your guard, but in your mount.
Yes, Joe. Thank you for clearing that up for us.
Florian tries to escape but Aldo patiently allows him to move and follows, maintaining a dominant top position.
The men change positions and return to standing, entering into a clinch before the referee, whose large stature makes both fighters look like small children with beards, separates them.
The separation doesn’t last long, as they return to a clinch at the center of the cage, with Aldo pressuring Florian against the cage.
Florian lands a couple of knees, reverses his position and throws a couple more knees that all fail to really connect.
In the final seconds of the fifth round, the men separate and Aldo shoots in with a flying knee.
After five rounds of repetitive action, the fight went to the judges’ scorecards.
All three judges scored the fight 49-46 for the winner by unanimous decision and still the undisputed UFC featherweight Champion, Jose Aldo.
While Aldo was able to successfully defend his title against Kenny Florian, he did not do so in a dominant fashion.
Rather than push the pace, he fought defensively – and Kenny Florian undoubtedly left his heart in the octagon, as the look of disappointment on his face following the fifth round was more than just a little bit heartbreaking for fans to see.
While Florian was unable to pull out a victory, he did push the pace and hold his own against one of the top featherweights in the world, and that is not something to take lightly.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
As both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard made their way to the octagon, a few things crossed my mind:
I wonder if Snooki is present to support her Jersey Shore brethren, Frankie Edgar.
Only a burly fighter like Gray Maynard could pull off ringlet curls and a tramp stamp tattoo.
This fight is giving me serious déjà vu.
Please, let somebody get knocked out, I don’t think I could stomach an Edgar vs. Maynard IV.
Thankfully, my request to the MMA Gods came true, and while the bout carried out almost identically to that of their last meeting for nearly four full rounds, the end result was far different.
The first round opened with Maynard maintaining a very low wrestler’s stance, seemingly stalking his opponent who opened the action with a nice combination of strikes.
After a short feeling out process, Edgar swarms Maynard and attempts to bring the fight to the canvas.
Unsuccessful, the men meet in a clinch before separating.
As the striking match resumes, Maynard rocks Edgar with a big uppercut, follows with another and lands a solid knee.
Edgar, obviously shaken, stays in the fight, pushing forward into a clinch and throws a nice right hand before eating one in return.
After taking another heavy hand from Maynard, Edgar drops levels and tries to take the fight to the mats once again, all the while eating solid uppercuts and barely holding on.
Edgar lets go of the attempt and lands a nice left hand before taking a huge knee and falling to the mats.
Maynard rushes him and gets his back, but Edgar returns to his feet, eats another big left hook and somehow not only holds on but continues striking until the round comes to an end.
Back on his toes as if the first round had never happened, Edgar moves forward with a nice combination, looking rejuvenated and ready to fight.
Maynard, on the other hand, has begun to back off a bit, fighting less aggressively than in the previous round.
Edgar lands a few nice combinations and some solid leg kicks, pushing forward in short bursts and avoiding the hands of his opponent throughout the second round.
The men exchange strikes until the end of the round – not unlike the second round of their previous meeting.
The pace quickens again slightly as the third round comes to a start, with Maynard throwing with more power behind each strike than in the previous round.
Edgar rushes in to take Maynard down with a single, but his attempt is stuffed like a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Returning to the striking game, Edgar lands a solid lack kick, but eats an even harder one in return before responding with a crisp combination.
Really beginning to find his rhythm, Edgar begins utilizing better footwork and head movement, landing another nice combination before slipping past Maynard and landing a solid body kick before the round comes to an end.
The first two minutes of the fourth round did not make the round as a whole out to seem too promising, as there was very little action.
However, that quickly changed as Edgar began utilizing more combinations and footwork, avoiding a takedown attempt from Maynard and eating a knee in the process.
Light on his feet, Edgar ducks some heavy strikes and pushes forward with a nice uppercut, shortly followed by another.
Maynard manages to land a few solid counter strikes before shooting in for another takedown attempt, but Edgar sidesteps easily.
Edgar presses forward with another nice combination, ducking Maynard’s fists before shooting in and catching Maynard with a clean uppercut that completely rocks him.
Capitalizing on the opening to end the fight, Edgar pounces on Maynard, landing three precise right hands before swarming him with strikes.
Within seconds, Maynard is face first on the mats and the match is finished.
The referee officially called a stop to the match at 3:54 in round four, declaring the winner by TKO and still the UFC lightweight Champion, Frankie Edgar.
One of Frankie Edgar’s most endearing qualities, not only as a Champion but simply as an athlete, is his undeniable heart.
What can I say, I guess some fighters need to get really close to getting knocked the hell out before they are really ready to throw down.