This mixed martial arts stuff can be hard-hearted.
José Aldo gave a 30-second demonstration of that on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro.
The featherweight champion was in the fourth round of his title defense against Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC 163, and as had happened in some of his previous fights that had extended into the championship rounds was happening again. He was tiring. Not sagging lifelessly, but looking a little worn out in much the way he'd been late in his unanimous-decision wins against Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian.
It was a bit surprising to see a hint of fatigue this time, though, because Aldo had not exactly lived up to his reputation as a Brazilian buzzsaw to that point. The champ was winning -- make no mistake about that. But he'd landed only six significant strikes in the first round and just three in the third, according to FightMetric statistics. And he'd thrown few of the leg kicks that had debilitated past opponents. Later it was revealed that Aldo injured his foot on his first kick of the fight. Kicking became as painful for him as it was for his opponent.
So the champion threw punches. He went for takedowns. He fended off most of what Jung was throwing at him. And most important: He kept his injury hidden, because he knew that a hurt fighter is a vulnerable fighter.
The same can be said of a tired fighter, and as the rounds wore down, Aldo's breathing grew a bit heavy, and he couldn't hide it.
After starting the fight with uncharacteristic patience, the man known as "The Korean Zombie" turned up the dial toward the end of the third round. He didn't go overboard with his aggressiveness, but Jung no longer hesitated to throw leather. It was in one such instance when the fight was decided and the ruthlessness of this sport was laid bare.
About a minute and a half into the fourth round, Jung threw a hard right hand, and as Aldo was slipping out of the way, the challenger doubled over briefly and waved his right arm around in the air, a pained expression on his face. As the fighters separated, it was obvious why: Jung's shoulder had popped out of place. He backed off and grabbed his wrist. Unlike Aldo, the challenger could not hide his injury.
Not in MMA.
Aldo, who moments earlier might have welcomed a timeout to catch his breath, suddenly seemed rejuvenated. He found the energy to swarm, and as Jung (13-4) backed up, the champ aimed three hard kicks at the upper right side of the Korean's torso. Aldo then took down a brave but defenseless Jung, got on top of him and threw punches at his head until referee Herb Dean brought long-lost mercy into the situation and waved off the fight at 2:00, giving Aldo the TKO
"Yes, I did see that he had separated his shoulder, so I kicked him and tried to put him down on the ground for some ground-and-pound," Aldo (23-1) said in the octagon immediately afterward. "Thank you, everyone, for coming here. Drive home safely."
A little compassion, finally, from the champ.
Aldo is more than that after Saturday night. Now that Anderson Silva and his seven-year winning have fallen by the wayside, Aldo is at the top of the mountain. The victory over Jung was his 16th straight, including seven defenses of the lineal UFC/WEC championship he won nearly four years ago. Overall, he hasn't lost since early in George W. Bush's second term. He is terrifying. He is nimble. He is merciless. And he might be as close to unbeatable as there is in the UFC.
Notes from the undercard
• Dragon him down: What a shocker in the co-main event. Not that Phil Davis won, exactly, but that a close decision could go his way in a fight with Brazilian icon Lyoto Machida in Rio.
For three rounds, the fans roared with every strike launched by "The Dragon." There weren't many roars, though, because there weren't many punches. Machida threw just 61 significant strikes, landing 27, according to FightMetric. He looked good when he was moving forward with combinations, but there were few instances of that. Davis refused to rush in on Machida as past opponents have, knowing that allowing the karate man to counterpunch is a recipe for disaster.
Machida (19-4), who came into the fight ranked No. 2 (behind only champion Jon Jones) in the SI.com light heavyweight Top 10, took Davis off his game, too. The four-time NCAA Division I wrestling All-American and 2008 national champion attempted 10 takedowns and Lyoto fended off all but two of them.
But those two decided the fight. Late in both the first and second rounds, Davis (12-1, 1 NC) got Lyoto to the mat and went to work with what time he had left before the horn. He landed plenty of punches, elbows and even knees, with his brief ground attacks landing the majority of the 21 significant strikes with which he he was credited. But apparently that was enough to earn him the 29-28 win on all three scorecards.
The fans didn't agree, drowning out Davis's postfight interview with boos. Machida, 35, was with them. "I don't know what they are judging," he said of the judges. "Just listen to the crowd. They're telling you what happened."
• Hear her roar: There's a tendency to view the women's bantamweight division as Ronda Rousey and The Rest because, well, the "Rowdy" one has set herself apart. First-round armbar finishes, again and again, will do that. And with her now preparing for a rematch with the woman she beat to become champion, Miesha Tate, it's clearly time for new blood in the UFC's newest weight class.
Enter Amanda Nunes. The 25-year-old Brazilian stepped into the octagon for the first time Saturday and made a statement. Twice. The second time we got the statement, it was coming out of her mouth following the fight. "Who does she think she is," she said of her opponent, Sheila Gaff, "that she could beat me in my hometown?"
The first time that statement came out of Nunes, she conveyed it with her actions. Amanda showed early resilience after Gaff gained prime position behind her back right off the bat, and then remained persistent after she'd gotten on top of Gaff and secured full mount, only to lose the position. Nunes went right back to work, put the German on her back again and began dropping elbows until she was pulled away at 2:08, a TKO winner. And, a new presence in the women's division.
• Creeping back: Ian McCall is the last man to fight Demetrious Johnson and not lose. However, a few months after that March 2012 draw in the first round of the UFC's flyweight tournament, McCall faced the future champion again, and this time he lost. Then, in February, he faced top challenger Joseph Benavidez and lost again.
"Uncle Creepy" was fighting men at the top of the game, but without a victory in his three bouts, McCall was slipping.
The only slipping he did in his prelim against Iliarde Santos, though, was slipping punches. McCall was masterful in striking while not getting hit, himself, by the Brazilian home-run hitter on the way to a unanimous-decision victory that secures his spot among the flyweight elite.