There are a lot of terrific fighters in the world. Established greats like Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua all can make valid claims as the top mixed martial arts fighter on the planet.
But as Jose Aldo Jr. proved Thursday in retaining his World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title with a dominant second-round technical knockout of Manny Gamburyan in the main event of WEC 51 at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo., if he's not the best fighter in the world, he's no worse than 1A.
The 24-year-old Brazilian has a brilliant all-around game, which he showcased in taking apart Gamburyan in the main event of what was yet another sensational WEC card.
As he has been, though, since joining the WEC, Aldo was the star of a very impressive show. He wobbled Gamburyan with a jab and a right cross right behind it. Before Gamburyan could recover, Aldo decked him with a punishing right uppercut. When Gamburyan fell onto his face, Aldo went behind him and whaled away with rights and a couple of lefts before referee Herb Dean stopped it at 1:33.
It was Aldo's eighth consecutive win without a loss in the WEC, his third in a featherweight title bout and his 11th win in succession overall. He hasn't loss since he was stopped by Luciano Azevedo on Nov. 26, 2005 in Brazil. He's now 18-1.
"The guy's a stud; a real bad mama jama," said WEC lightweight Donald Cerrone, who was a pretty bad mama jama himself on Thursday in dominating Jamie Varner in the co-main event.
The first-round was hardly one-sided and the stocky Gamburyan put the pressure on Aldo. Aldo took the round by raking Gamburyan with several hard low kicks.
All that did was to set Gamburyan up for the finish from Aldo, one of the game's dynamic strikers and finest finishers.
"In the first round, I was studying him to see what I could do," Aldo said in the cage. "In the second round, I put all the hard work I've been doing in the gym to use and I was able to knock him out."
There was also a one-sided fight in the rematch of the WEC's most bitter feud. Cerrone lost a controversial technical split decision to Varner in a lightweight title fight in 2009 in San Diego, a bout that was stopped when Varner was hit by an illegal knee in the fifth round. The bout went to the scorecards and Varner won a split decision.
The momentum Cerrone had in the second half of that fight carried over until Thursday. Cerrone was better than Varner in all aspects of the game, even taking the one-time collegiate wrestler down several times.
Cerrone won a unanimous decision, winning all three rounds on all three judges' cards. Yahoo! Sports had it 30-27 Cerrone, as well.
Cerrone hit harder, landed more often and did more damage.
"I've been working hard on my wrestling, man," Cerrone told Yahoo! Sports after the bout. "Getting taken down sucks. I wanted to be better than him in all aspects and I've been drilling and drilling and drilling. One of the things I really wanted to do was to pick up where I left off in the last fight."
A notoriously slow starter, Cerrone promised before the fight to start strong and he made good on that by racing out of his corner and attacking Varner. He landed a hard right and then followed with a knee to set the tempo.
Varner fought hard, but he didn't have nearly enough on this night to stay with his rival. He landed a few overhand shots, but Cerrone didn't as much as blink.
"You feel them," Cerrone admitted. "But I was really focused on getting the job done tonight."
Another man who was focused like that was former bantamweight champion Miguel Angel Torres, who submitted Charlie Valencia in the second round with a rear naked choke to end a two-fight winning streak.
After losing his title to Brian Bowles at WEC 42 and being submitted by Joseph Benavidez at WEC 47 in March, Torres went to Montreal to train with Firas Zahabi at the TriStar Gym in Montreal.
Torres displayed his championship form in dispatching Valencia. He ended it at 2:25 of the second, blasting Valencia with a pair of rights, landing a couple of kicks and then a knee. When Valencia crumbled into a heap, Torres took his back and submitted him.
Despite the back-to-back losses, Torres insisted afterward that he was not concerned.
"There was never any pressure," he said. "There's nothing about a crossroads (fight). I'm only 29. I have a long way to go."
The most impressive knockout was a second-round kick to the head by George Roop that ended his fight with the "Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung, at 1:30.
- Jamie Varner
- Donald Cerrone