Edgar rallies past Maynard at eventful UFC 136

HOUSTON – For better than 18 minutes, the main event of UFC 136 was shaping up as eerily similar to the main event of UFC 125.

Just like in their Jan. 1 draw, lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard had a huge first round at the Toyota Center, overpowering Edgar, cutting him and putting him consistently in bad spots. Edgar then boxed his way back into the fight in Rounds 2 and 3 and early in Round 4.

But the script switched in the middle of the fourth. Edgar (14-1-1) caught Maynard (10-1-1) with a big right hand that wobbled the challenger and sent him staggering back to the cage. He followed with a right to the chin that put Maynard on the ground.

Frankie Edgar was nearly finished in his bout against Gray Maynard, but he rallied and retained his UFC lightweight title.
(Getty Images)

Edgar then dove on top and brutally finished Maynard with a series of ground strikes – which Maynard couldn’t do to him in the first round of either of their two championship fights – to retain the belt. Referee Josh Rosenthal jumped in to stop it at 3:54 as Edgar won the final fight of their trilogy to keep the lightweight belt.

It was a dramatic turnaround for Edgar, who looked like he was on the verge of being finished early. Edgar ended the fight with his left eye virtually closed and blood pouring from his nose and mouth.

The main event was one of two title fights on a stacked card that featured some of the UFC’s biggest names.

The co-main event, a featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo Jr. and Kenny Florian, didn’t bring anyone out of their seats. Aldo wasn’t spectacular and he didn’t have any devastating strikes. But he did enough to hold on to his belt in a grueling unanimous decision victory over Florian.

[Related: Blog: Edgar pulls off another miracle]

All three judges scored the bout 49-46 for Aldo. Yahoo! Sports scored it 48-47 for Florian, giving Aldo Rounds 2 and 5 and Florian Rounds 1, 3 and 4.

Florian out-landed Aldo 66-55 in total strikes, according to CompuStrike, but Florian was just 2-of-14 on takedown attempts.

“I knew I couldn’t let him take me down. I wanted to keep him standing so that I could pick him apart with my hands,” Aldo said. “Kenny is a really strategic, experienced fighter and he is dangerous in a lot of areas. I’m just really happy right now.”

All of the rounds were very tightly contested and could have gone either way. Much of the fight was spent with the men grappling for position along the cage. Aldo managed to land a number of shots while they were inside that bruised up Florian’s face and bloodied his nose.

Florian was the aggressor early and backed Aldo off, landing some hard kicks. But Aldo managed to stem the momentum in the second and eliminated much of Florian’s attack as the fight wound down.

[Related: Aldo defends featherweight title against game Florian]

The Boston native has now lost three championship fights, also coming out on the wrong end of lightweight title bids to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 and B.J. Penn at UFC 101.

Chael Sonnen put the heat on middleweight champion Anderson Silva, calling him out after dominating Brian Stann and submitting the former Marine Corps captain with an arm triangle at 3:51 of the second round.

Sonnen, who hadn’t fought in 14 months, totally dominated Stann. He took the Iraq War hero down repeatedly and pummeled him with elbows before finally submitting him.

[Related: Sonnen calls out UFC legend after dominant win]

Minus the finish, the bout was reminiscent of Sonnen’s bout with Silva at UFC 117 last year. Sonnen used his wrestling to dominate the first 4½ rounds, but Silva came back to win the match with a triangle choke.

“I had the same problem with Chael that everyone has had with him and that his future opponents will have,” Stann said. “I thought I was strong enough to handle his wrestling and that wasn’t the case. You don’t want Chael Sonnen on top of you. It was horrible.”

The big news came after the fight on Saturday when Sonnen challenged Silva on Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas. UFC president Dana White had said before the bout that the Sonnen-Stann winner would meet Silva for the middleweight belt.

Sonnen, the sport’s top trash talker, spoke directly to Silva after the bout. Silva was seated cageside as Sonnen said, “I beat you, you leave division. You beat me, I leave the UFC forever.”

Silva arched his eyebrows and then beamed. Sonnen said the rematch would be “the biggest rematch in the history of the business.”

Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia fought a rematch that wasn’t the biggest in the history of the business but was highly entertaining. Because of a controversial victory Garcia scored over Phan last year in Las Vegas, they went at it again, and the rematch was a big step up, as they got into a back-and-forth slugfest that had the crowd roaring its approval.

Phan was the better fighter in the first two rounds and came out with the decision, winning 29-28 on all three cards.

It was a fast-paced bout, but Phan’s punching accuracy in the first two rounds was the difference. He was hitting Garcia with clean shots that appeared to be hurting him, but Garcia would not stop.

In the third round, Garcia picked up the pace considerably and he backed Phan up, as the pro-Garcia hometown crowd urged him on. Phan, though, regained his composure and managed to finish strong.

“When I finally had him hurt, I was already too far gone,” Garcia said. “I was tired and just couldn’t finish him. Nam Phan is a tough … dude. The fans always come out to support me here in Houston and there’s nothing like it. That was Fight of the Night. And Nam Phan … How about a third time?”

Joe Lauzon quickly put an end to the title talk coming from Melvin Guillard, ending Guillard’s five-fight winning streak by submitting him with a rear naked choke just 47 seconds into the fight.

Guillard had been steamrolling his opposition and had won three of his last four fights by first-round stoppage. But Lauzon put an end to Guillard’s streak with perhaps the most impressive performance of his career.

Lauzon landed an uppercut that clearly hurt Guillard and sent him staggering backward. Guillard eventually went down and Lauzon quickly maneuvered for the submission. He looked as if he was going to go for a guillotine choke but quickly transitioned to a rear naked choke after taking Guillard’s back.

In a middleweight bout, former world title challenger Demian Maia got back on track after a loss to Mark Munoz, outworking Jorge Santiago to win a unanimous decision that had the crowd booing.

Maia worked much of the fight from the guard, but he wasn’t able to pass on work on his submission attempts. Neither fighter ever came close to getting a submission, nor did they do much with their strikes.

The result was a technical battle that Maia easily won. All three judges, as well as Yahoo! Sports, had it 30-27 for Maia, who out-landed Santiago 52-23 and was successful on six of seven takedown attempts, according to CompuStrike.

Maia knew he needed a victory and, though it wasn’t flashy, he got it.

“I was nervous,” Maia conceded. “The pressure was on because of my last loss in the UFC. In my fight with Mark Munoz, I thought I was winning on points in a couple of the rounds and still lost, so I wanted this to be decisive. I am proud of this win over Jorge because he’s a champion in Japan.”

Anthony Pettis’s takedowns were enough to pull out a razor-thin decision over Jeremy Stephens in a key lightweight bout. All three judges had it 29-28, but Pettis won the split decision.

The fight wasn’t nearly as explosive as it had been expected to be, with each man wary of the other’s power. But after being controlled on the ground for long periods in the first round, Pettis, a former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion, turned the tables in the final two and took Stephens down several times.

Pettis wasn’t able to do a lot of damage, but he controlled Stephens for long stretches over the final 10 minutes and that was enough to get him the nod.

Stipe Miocic made his UFC debut a successful one, outgunning Joey Beltran to win a unanimous decision. Miocic won by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo! Sports had it 30-27 for Miocic.

“I was happy to get the victory but thought I could have gotten it sooner,” Miocic said. “I should have listened to my corner and that would have happened.

Early in each round of his fight with Darren Elkins, Tiequan Zhang would go for a guillotine choke. And just as regularly, Elkins would slip out and roll into guard and control the rest of the round.

The process played out in all three rounds and led to a one-sided unanimous decision win for Elkins. Judges had it 30-27 twice and 30-26. Yahoo! Sports scored it 30-27 for Elkins.

“He had me deep in a couple of chokes but when I gave him the body triangle I knew he couldn’t get out of, I knew that was the time to deliver lots of punches,” Elkins said.

Aaron Simpson’s base is wrestling, but one could be forgiven Saturday for thinking he’s a boxer as he thoroughly beat up Eric “Red” Schafer. All three judges, as well as Yahoo! Sports, scored it 30-27 for Simpson.

Simpson cracked Schafer with a right early on that opened a mouse under Schafer’s left eye. Throughout the rest of the fight, Simpson blistered Schafer with powerful shots that left Schafer in retreat as well as with a bruised and bloodied face.

“Aaron’s a better wrestler and a boxer than me,” Schafer said. “I wanted to use my reach so I wouldn’t get caught. I have some work to do.”

Mike Massenzio got the show off to a good start, using sharp hands to pull out a unanimous decision victory over Steve Cantwell. Judges had it 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Massenzio, who said, “My hands were on first tonight.” Yahoo! Sports also favored Massenzio, 29-28, giving him the last two rounds.

Cantwell got off to a good start and won the first round on two of the three cards. At one point, Cantwell landed a strong right hand followed by a kick to the head that backed Massenzio up and seemed to hurt him.

But Massenzio took control of the fight in the second. He used sharp combinations, landing uppercuts, hooks and crosses to bloody Cantwell’s nose and take over the bout.

Massenzio badly needed the win after coming off a loss and entering the bout with a 1-3 UFC mark.

“Aside from the birth of my daughter, this is the best night of my life,” Massenzio said. “After the first round, I knew I had to take control [and] that Cantwell was going to be formidable opponent.”

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Saturday, Oct 8, 2011