Jose Aldo isn't done chasing titles in the UFC. He continued his campaign to earn a crack at the title in the bantamweight division with a unanimous-decision victory over Rob Font in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 31 from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas.
Font came out of the gates hot. He was determined to lead the dance early on and put a pace on Aldo that it didn't seem the former champion was willing to match. He scored a rare takedown against the Brazilian and was headed toward winning the round.
Then Aldo reminded him that he has fight-turning power and scored a knockdown to close out the round.
As the fight went on, the dynamic became clear. Font's volume would be pitted against Aldo's more powerful strikes. The New England Cartel fighter did a good job of putting together combinations behind his jab, but Aldo was there to answer with powerful counters at every step.
That gulf continued to widen as the fight progressed. The fourth round was an especially strong showing from The King of Rio. He put Font on the ground and proceeded to hold top position for much of the frame.
Font showed a lot of grit as the fight continued to get away from him, but Aldo's power was too much. He rocked Font in the fifth and final round and finished the fight in dominant position to get the win even if he couldn't get the finish.
Aldo continued his redemption tour in the bantamweight division. He dropped his first two fights at 135 pounds but has since reeled off three wins in a row.
It will be hard to deny Aldo the opportunity to become a two-division champion if he continues to put up performances like his display on Saturday night.
- Jose Aldo def. Rob Font via unanimous decision (50-45 x2, 49-46).
- Rafael Fiziev def. Brad Riddell via third-round TKO (2:20).
- Jamahal Hill def. Jimmy Crute via first-round KO (0:48).
- Clay Guida def. Leonardo Santos via second-round submission (Rear-naked choke) (1:21).
- Chris Curtis def. Brendan Allen via second-round TKO (1:58).
- Alex Morono def. Mickey Gall via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
- Dusko Todorovic def. Maki Pitolo via first-round TKO (4:34).
- Manel Kape def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via first-round TKO (4:02).
- Bryan Barberena def. Darian Weeks via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
- Cheyanne Vlismas def. Mallory Martin via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2).
- William Knight def. Alonzo Menifield via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
- Claudio Puelles def. Chris Gruetzemacher via third-round submission (kneebar) (3:25).
- Vince Morales def. Louis Smolka by first-round KO (2:02).
Rafael Fiziev def. Brad Riddell
For just over two rounds, former training partners Rafael Fiziev and Brad Riddell took turns taking the lead with their boxing. They exchanged punches in bunches, but it was a kick that brought an end to the fight.
With a close two rounds in the books, Fiziev unleashed a spinning back kick that landed flush on Riddell's cheek. His opponent was out on his feet, and Herb Dean had the presence of mind to call an end to the fight before he took any additional damage.
The 28-year-old Fiziev continues to make waves in the lightweight division. He has just one loss in the UFC, which came against Magomed Mustafaev when he lost by knockout to a spinning back kick.
Five fights later, Fiziev used the same technique to take out his friend in Riddell. He should be getting a top-10 opponent the next time out while Riddell will likely have to earn his way back into the rankings.
Jamahal Hill def. Jimmy Crute
On a night with plenty of upsets, there was not a more shocking one than Jamahal Hill's first-round TKO win over Jimmy Crute.
It wasn't necessarily a shocker that Hill won. He is, after all, a talented striker and rising prospect in the light heavyweight division. But Hill was coming off a first-round knockout loss to Paul Craig and had his only other first-round knockout win overturned against Klidson Abreu.
Facing a dangerous fighter like Crute who had a great opening round against Anthony Smith, he wasted no time in establishing himself as the better striker.
Crute attempted to uncork a massive right hand, but Hill sneaked in a crafty right hand himself that put Crute down and brought forth the finish in under a minute.
Hill is back in the win column after suffering his first career loss in his last fight. It's always interesting to see how a prospect bounces back after getting their first loss. For Hill, there didn't seem to be any loss of confidence and that makes him an interesting prospect once again in the division.
Clay Guida def. Leonardo Santos
You can talk about skills and look at technique all you want. Cardio and heart still have a lot to do with MMA and Clay Guida has been the embodiment of both throughout his career. The 39-year-old turned back the clock in scoring a submission win over Leonardo Santos.
Guida has been submitted 10 times in his career. Santos is a fourth-degree jiu-jitsu black belt. If anyone was going to get a submission it was expected to be the Brazilian.
In the first round, it looked like it would play out as expected. Santos actually hurt Guida with his striking in the opening five minutes but appeared to empty his gas tank in the process of going for the finish.
An exhausted Santos could barely defend himself as The Carpenter went for the rear-naked choke in the second frame. He earned the tap quickly and notched his 37th career win.
Even this late into his career Guida has proved he can be a difficult out if a fighter doesn't have great cardio.
Chris Curtis def. Brendan Allen
It's never a good idea to dismiss anyone in the UFC. Chris Curtis sent a strong reminder of that concept with a third-round TKO win over Brendan Allen.
The 34-year-old was not the favorite in the welterweight main card fight. Curtis was making just his second appearance in the UFC while Allen had a 5-1 record in the UFC looking to climb up the rankings.
In the first round, it looked like Allen would coast to a win as expected. In the second, Curtis landed a few heavy shots that inspired some hope. In the third, he pulled the upset. He followed up a strong hook to the body with a flush right hand that staggered Allen.
It's Curtis' second knockout win in as many UFC fights. He's now on a seven-fight win streak with all but one of those wins coming by knockouts.
As for Allen, this is a significant bump in the road in his development as a prospect.
Alex Morono def. Mickey Gall
Alex Morono started the main card off with a clean sweep on the judges' scorecards over Mickey Gall.
The 31-year-old scored his third win of 2021 with a performance that showed off his striking skills. Gall was a game opponent who attempted to play the role of aggressor, but Morono was adept at turning that aggression against him.
There were several instances where Morono stunned Gall with a well-timed counter while his opponent was trying to get something going.
Morono has been fighting in the UFC since 2016, but he finally seems to be putting some good performances together. Gall isn't the best of competition. He has alternated wins and losses since getting consecutive wins over CM Punk and Sage Northcutt in the second and third fights of his UFC career.
But it may be time for Morono to get a better step up in competition next year after a strong 2021.