The night before Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor will fight to determine the UFC featherweight champion, Frankie Edgar knocked out Chad Mendes in the first round to emphatically establish himself as the top contender for the winner of Aldo-McGregor.
In one of the first exchanges of the fight, Edgar dropped Mendes with a nasty left hook and referee John McCarthy stepped in immediately to call a stop to the fight. It was a quick and explosive ending to what many expected to be a longer war. Edgar isn’t known for his knockout power but he has finished fights with strikes throughout his career.
The win is Edgar’s fifth in a row, and against a very high level of opposition: Charles Oliveira, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber and now Mendes. Moreover, his losses prior to that were very close and controversial to the best fighters in the lightweight and featherweight divisions. Edgar is unquestionably deserving of another shot at the featherweight title next.
For Mendes, it is a difficult step back. He lost his previous fight to Conor McGregor via knockout as well and the second consecutive loss will force him to run off a series of wins to get back into title contention. Mendes is still looking for a signature win against an elite 145 pound fighter.
In the finals of the most recent season of the Ultimate Fighter, Ryan Hall picked up a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) over Conor McGregor’s friend and training partner Artem Lobov. The fight resembled an early UFC fight with Lobov not offering much when unable to strike and Hall not bringing much to the table beyond his jiu jitsu.
Hall has the ignominious distinction of being perhaps the least impressive winner in Ultimate Fighter history. He lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament but was brought back because Saul Rogers lied on a visa application. His finals win over the 11-11-1 (1 NC) Lobov didn’t win any style points either.
Tony Ferguson notched one of the biggest wins of his career, submitting Edson Barboza with a D’Arce choke in the second round. The win was his seventh in a row and he is now in the title picture in the deep lightweight division. Ferguson is tough, durable and possesses both knockout power on the feet and dangerous submissions on the ground.
Edson Barboza was no soft opposition for Ferguson. He landed many hard shots throughout the fight and demonstrated Ferguson’s stout chin in the process. Both fighters ended up extremely bloody in an exciting brawl before Ferguson finally locked up the choke for the finish. It was an important victory against a dangerous opponent.
In other action:
-Evan Dunham earned a third straight win via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26) over Joe Lauzon. The fight was generally closer than the scores indicate but Dunham clearly deserved the victory on the basis of his superior striking
-Tatsuya Kawajiri grinded out a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Jason Knight. Knight struggled to prevent takedowns and Kawajiri controlled the fight as a result.
-Julian Erosa edged out Marcin Wrzosek via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) in a battle between Ultimate Fighter contestants. Erosa had a large cheering section that was thrilled he pulled off the narrow victory.
-Gabriel Gonzaga won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-28) over Konstantin Erokhin in an awful bout where neither fighter engaged much. The biggest crowd reactions were to Chuck Liddell taking his seat and passionate booing when the bout mercifully concluded.
-Ryan LaFlare picked up a unanimous decision win over Mike Pierce (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). Pierce really poured it on at the close of the fight but it wasn’t enough to overcome the advantage LaFlare held for most of the contest. Pierce was left with a nasty hematoma on his head.
-Geane Herrera knocked out Joby Sanchez in the second round of their bout with a hook and additional punches on the ground. Herrera was the crisper, more dynamic striker and well in control of the fight before the finishing blows.
-Chris Gruetzemacher defeated Abner Lloveras via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a competitive, back and forth fight. Both fighters competed on the Ultimate Fighter and with the win, Gruetzemacher will have the opportunity to compete against main roster UFC competition.