Technical knockout, second round. TKO, third round. KO, TKO and TKO, all in the first.
That's how José Aldo exploded onto the scene of American mixed martial arts nearly six years ago. The last of those five fights during his early days in the WEC was as brisk as it was brutal. His eight-second flying-knee destruction of Cub Swanson earned him a shot at the featherweight title.
Aldo seized the opportunity, knocking out champion Mike Brown in the second round, just as he seized every opportunity, exploited every opening, devastated every opponent. The Brazilian was a buzzsaw, an unrelenting assault of flailing fists, flying knees and heart-thumping finishes.
But ever since Aldo captured the belt in the late fall of 2009, opponents haven't been falling with quite the deadened thud of the old days. When the 25-year-old steps into the octagon Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro for the main event of UFC 142, he will be making his fifth title defense, his third since the featherweight division moved to the UFC. So Aldo (20-1) has been winning, even doing so in dominant fashion. However, three of his four challengers have taken him the full five rounds.
That's Chad Mendes' game. The 26-year-old Californian who will challenge for the title this weekend is a decision machine. The 2008 NCAA Division I wrestling championships runner-up is 11-0 in MMA, with the last five of those wins coming in the two years since he joined the WEC/UFC. All but one of his victories in the game's top promotion have been by decision -- unanimous decision, in fact, with Mendes barely losing a round.
The same has been true of Aldo's decision wins. So something has to give. The judges, once-idle bystanders at Aldo fights, will be wise to pay close attention this time.