Jose Aldo never gave
From the outset of his first WEC featherweight title defense (not that you'd know from watching the pay-per-view; more on that later), Aldo smoothly battered the former king of the division, whose support from a hometown crowd inside the sold-out Arco Arena diminished with each passing, painful minute.
This was the 23-year-old Brazilian at his clinical best against a swift, dangerous, smart, technical challenger. Aldo easily avoided Faber's early attacks by circling away or countering with disengaged knees to the wrestler's thickly muscled abdomen. He dug angrily to the body, and then the young champion's game plan took hold.
For three rounds, he pounded Faber's lead leg, picking away when he wanted. After the fight, which I scored 50-42 for the champion, Faber acknowledged that he made an effort during his training camp to defend leg kicks. The 30-year-old "California Kid," far and away the most bankable fighter his size in North America prior to tonight, will have about a month to think about the consequences of failing to check Aldo's kicks each time he takes a step or stands out of a chair.
Aldo, now 17-1, is the top athlete at 145 pounds, and possibly the most gifted fighter in the sport. It was a superlative effort, the kind made only better because of the man standing opposite him. Faber, who fell to 23-4, had never been out-quicked before. Never dictated to the way Aldo beautifully danced around him. Never beaten in every aspect of the game. When action hit the floor, which it did several times after the super-hero tough Faber couldn't support his weight under those abused legs, Aldo found dominant positions, nearly finishing in the fourth round from the crucifix.
As good fighters mature they tend to become more patient. Aldo already displays intangibles that suggest he is a special fighter, someone who can rightly own the title of best featherweight of all time with a few years under his belt. Considering his age, don't expect anything to get in the way of that.
Sure, he didn't finish tonight, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. This wasn't anything like
The knock against WEC-signed lightweights has long been the inability to measure their worth. Without a proper measuring stick, how could anyone know if
A rematch of a 2009 bout which SI.com called fight of the year, there wasn't any drama Saturday night. Henderson, a powerful 26-year-old Arizona-based wrestler, physically overwhelmed Cerrone, 27, before the choke, pounding away with knees that raised an ugly hematoma above the challenger's right eye.
There has been so much drama the past two weeks -- the disappointment of
WEC (or whatever you want to call it, more on that next) regularly delivers some of the best bouts in the sport, and fighters from 155 to 135 certainly made good on that. While the main event turned out lopsided, WEC's first pay-per-view has to be considered a success. Of course, that will ultimately be decided by how many people paid to watch.
When I called DirecTV Saturday afternoon to order "Aldo vs. Faber," the automated prompt politely wondered if I wanted to purchase the evening's UFC pay-per-view event. Well, of course not. For starters, there wasn't a UFC card scheduled. I declined and asked for the WEC. No luck. Aldo-Faber, perhaps? Nope. OK, fine, give me the UFC.
It's clear now this was the final step by Zuffa to remove any and all WEC branding from the card -- save close-ups of the lightweight and featherweight championship belts.
Since announcing it was bringing this card to pay-per-view, Zuffa blurred the lines between its two MMA brands.
Then the pay-per-view started and the "Where's Waldo?" treatment continued. There wasn't any placement of the WEC name on the cage canvas. No branding on the gloves.
Though I certainly don't mind subdued schilling for an organization, the card was counter to everything Zuffa has done so brilliantly with its branding in the past in the past, and it came off as nothing less than confusing to the consumer. Henderson, for example, was acknowledged as THE lightweight champion, which must seem strange to UFC title holder
I'm told the decision by Zuffa was a result of switching networks from Versus to SpikeTV for the undercard. But that wouldn't seem to explain the pay-per-view treatment. Rumors have persisted that Zuffa is biding time before folding the divisions featured by WEC -- 155, 145, 135 and possibly 125 -- into the UFC. WEC insiders have said in the past that wasn't true. The "organization," as play-by-play man
Just make it UFC already. Fighters like Aldo and Faber deserve the payday that would come as a result.
• Expect a vigorous debate over Aldo's placement on pound-for-pound lists. I had him No. 6 prior to
• It was ugly as all get out, but congratulations go out to featherweights
• Strikeforce middleweight champion