Jose Aldo has been insisting for a month that 2019 will be his final year in the fight game. On Saturday, though, he made it clear that he's not done yet, battering rising featherweight contender Renato Moicano for a second-round TKO in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Assuncao vs. Moraes in Fortaleza, Brazil.
It was a turn-back-the-clock performance by Aldo (28-4) both in winning the fight and in celebrating the victory. After a feeling-out first round in which neither man seized an advantage, Aldo came out for the second and almost immediately hurt Moicano, sending the 29-year-old into retreat. Aldo pursued him with a measured relentlessness and landed with precision and power until the referee pushed him away at 44 seconds of the round.
Aldo then raced across the Octagon and leaped over the cage to celebrate with his cheering countrymen in the deafening Northeast Olympic Training Center. It was reminiscent of Aldo's celebration amid the Rio de Janeiro crowd after his victory over Chad Mendes in a 2012 title defense.
"Tonight I came in here as the underdog. Nobody believed in me. But I knew I would have you guys' support," Aldo told the crowd, through an interpreter, during an interview in the Octagon. "In life, a lot of times, people say that you can't do something. You have to believe in yourself. You have to chase your dreams."
While Aldo is just three years older than Moicano, experience was heavily on his side. When Moicano made his pro debut in May 2010, Aldo was already the best 145-pounder in the world, a dynamic champion in the midst of an 18-fight winning streak. That run and the title reign ended in 2015 in a 13-second loss to Conor McGregor, and since then Aldo has lost twice more, both times to current champion Max Holloway.
But losses to top-level opponents only obscured the sustained greatness of Aldo, whose big-fight experience helped him close the show. Once he hurt Moicano, he smartly pursued the finish like a veteran while Moicano had nowhere to go to save himself.
"I wanted to vary my shots," said Aldo. "Hit him high, hit him low."
Moicano (13-2-1), a former champion in the Jungle Fight promotion in Brazil, had lost only once previously, in a 2017 Fight of the Night submission against recent title challenger Brian Ortega.
Borella defeats Santos in split decision
Mara Romero Borella defeats Taila Santos via split decision at UFC Fight Night: Brazil.
Maia did what Maia does, pursuing the takedown right from the start and methodically working toward a submission, which he got at 2:38 of the first round via rear-naked choke.
The 41-year-old Brazilian (26-9), who had lost three in a row starting with an unsuccessful challenge of welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in 2017, stalked Good (20-5, 1 NC) right from the moment the referee waved the fighters together. And once he got the New Yorker against the cage, Maia took him down and secured back position, which he maintained even after Good got back to his feet.
It took awhile for Maia to get his arm under his standing opponent's chin, but as soon as he did, his squeeze was too hard to withstand and he became the first to finish Good. It was Maia's 10th submission win in the UFC, tying him with Royce Gracie in second place, behind Charles Oliveira, who got his 13th UFC sub in the fight right before Maia's.
Maia also put himself in a tie with some other all-time greats in the category of victories, according to ESPN Stats & Information, as his 20 UFC wins are the second most in company history, tying him with Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping, behind Donald Cerrone's 22.
Alves defeats Griffin via split decision
Thiago Alves defeats Max Griffin via split decision in their welterweight bout at UFC Fight Night: Brazil.
Not-so-breaking news: Oliveira won a UFC fight by submission. The 29-year-old Brazilian extended his winning streak to four, finishing Teymur with an anaconda choke 55 seconds into Round 2.
For Oliveira (26-8, 1 NC), it was his 14th UFC victory, his 13th by submission, most in the promotion's history. He has 18 subs in 26 career victories overall.
It's almost as though Oliveira can get a submission with his eyes closed, and on this night that was practically the case. In the first round, the fight was halted twice after Teymur poked the Brazilian in the right eye. In an interview in the cage after the fight, Oliveira said he told his coaches between rounds that he could not see out of the eye.
Teymur (8-2), who came in on an eight-fight winning streak, had a point deducted after the first eye poke. He also had problems with his own right eye, after an Oliveira kick caught him late in Round 1. Then, early in the second, Oliveira stunned him with an elbow and a flurry of punches, and it looked like a TKO in the making. But Oliveira took the fight to the canvas and latched on one of his trusty chokes.
Walker danced on his way to the Octagon, then rested against the cage during introductions, as if he were out for a night of leisure. And then he got down to business in a hurry, collapsing Ledet with a spinning back fist just 15 seconds into their light heavyweight bout.
Walker (16-3), who has 13 first-round finishes, first touched Ledet with a head kick, then threw the spinning maneuver that put the Texan on the canvas.
As perfect as that fight opening sounds, though, Walker then made a mistake that could have cost him the win. With Ledet dazed on the mat, Walker threw a kick that, had it landed, likely would have resulted in his disqualification. But the kick missed its target, and Walker pounced on his opponent with punches until the referee jumped in.
For Ledet, it was his second straight loss after a 9-0 start to his career.
Souza used her grappling advantage and maintained distance on the feet to eke out a close one against the bigger Frota, who had missed weight by seven pounds on Friday to turn this scheduled strawweight bout into a 123-pound catchweight contest.
Souza (13-1), a former Invicta champion who has won four in a row since losing her belt in 2016 to UFC veteran Angela Hill via split decision, was in control early but appeared to sag as the fight wore on. However, even though she was being outstruck, she avoided any heavy damage in the Brazil vs. Brazil matchup.
Frota, making her UFC debut, lost for the first time in her 10-fight pro career.
Perez turned a back-and-forth middleweight fight in his favor with a body kick that sent a hurt Herrnandez into retreat, then swiftly took the fight to the canvas and finished with an anaconda choke at 1:07 of the second round. The Brazilian (11-2), who had lost two of his past three, handed Hernandez (6-1, 1 NC) his first career defeat.
Perez, a 28-year-old from Sao Paolo, is the 15th fighter in UFC history to win by anaconda choke, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Only two fighters, Charles Oliveira and Phil Davis, have done so more than once.
Borella got back on the winning track by a slim margin, taking two of the three 29-28 scores in her first fight since seeing a seven-fight win streak end last year.
The 32-year-old Italian (12-5, 2 NCs) closed the distance constantly to make it a grappling match, and she was in control for the first two rounds. But then Santos (15-1), who suffered her first career loss in her UFC debut, got into a standup rhythm in the third and landed consistently. She never hurt Borella to the point of coming near a finish, though, and fell just short.
Alves, fighting in his hometown of Fortaleza for the first time since his pro debut in 2001, put on a gutty performance in persevering to end a two-fight losing streak. Griffin (14-6) controlled the fight for a round and a half with slick movement, smart distance control and a relentless array of punches, kicks and knees that bloodied up Alves. But the 35-year-old Brazilian (23-13), who challenged Georges St-Pierre for the 170-pound belt back in 2009, had no quit in him. And after he hurt Griffin with a body shot midway through the second, Alves seized advantage and was the fresher fighter after two rounds.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28, and two of them favored Alves, who earned his 15th welterweight win in the UFC, third-most ever behind GSP and Matt Hughes.
Rozenstruik, who seemed unwilling to commit to his kickboxing skills in the first round after being wrestled to the canvas just 30 seconds into the fight, came alive at the start of the second round and remained unbeaten by flooring Albini with a four-punch combination followed by a head kick, then swarming the big Brazilian heavyweight for the TKO finish at 54 seconds of the round. For Rozenstruik (7-0), a longtime kickboxer who is the first athlete from Suriname to compete in the UFC, it was his sixth career KO.
Albini (14-5) lost his third fight in a row.
De Freitas Jr. was a step ahead in the standup and the aggressor during much of the ground fighting as he won his seventh in a row and handed Colares (8-1) his first career loss in this UFC debut for both Brazilian bantamweights. Two of the judges scored the bout 30-27 for de Freitas (12-4) and the other had it 30-26.
Nurmagomedov did not fight the way one might expect of someone with that surname, as he never even looked for a takedown, instead backing up Ramos with a standing attack and finishing him in the first round with a spinning kick to the body.
The bantamweight fight did go on for a few more seconds, as Ramos (12-2), immobilized on the mat, absorbed a swarm of punches before the referee stopped the fight at 2:28 of the round.
It was the seventh win in a row for Nurmagomedov (13-1), the 26-year-old cousin of lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Bontorin made quite a splash in his UFC debut, countering Bibulatov's relentless wrestling with submission threats to earn two of the three 29-28 scores. It was high-level grappling from the start, as Bontorin (15-1) was taken down early but reversed position and nearly sank in a rear-naked choke.
For Bibulatov, it was his second straight loss after starting his career 14-0. He had not fought in 16 months while recovering from a back injury, and he missed weight on Friday, prompting the fight to be switched to a 127-pound catchweight contest.