By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the HSBC Arena in Barra da Tijuca Saturday, January 14th, and saw Brazilian featherweight champion Jose Aldo knock out undefeated American challenger Chad Mendes in the first round. Mendes, a champion wrestler got caught by a knee from Aldo, resulting in a quick end to the action.
The defense was Aldo’s third successful one since debuting in the UFC in 2011, and the 21st career victory for fighter from Manaus.
“This is the spirit I wanted to come out with tonight,” said Aldo. “The fans here gave me so much energy. We knew Chad was going to try to take me off my feet. We prepared for that and I had a chance to land the knee.”
With the win, Aldo ups his record to 21-1; Mendes falls to 11-1. “Jose’s a great champion,” said Mendes. “He’s a tough dude. That was the best I felt for any fight, and he got me.”
The other major match-up of the night for MMA fans was Rio’s favorite, Vitor Belfort, against American rising star Anthony Johnson. Despite Johnson’s potentially career ending failure to make weight – coming in 11 pounds (five kilos) overweight – Belfort stepped up to the challenge and was rewarded by submitting Johnson in the first round.
UFC president Dana White did not forgive the lack of professionalism by Johnson, after not making weight for the third time, and at the press conference after the matches did not pull punches. “Anthony Johnson’s attitude was one of the greatest shortcomings of professionalism I’ve ever seen in my entire life. This was certainly the greatest disaster in the history of weighing the UFC.”
“I always say that the UFC is like this: three strikes and you’re out. Johnson made three errors at once. So, it’s out. Things like this can not happen in an organization like the UFC – White concluded.”
Vitor Belfort also spoke about the situation afterwards, and said he would never refuse to fight in the UFC. “What happened was a huge lack of respect for the athlete to perform [five kilos] overweight. But I told Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta) he might be up to 250 pounds that I would fight. I could never disappoint them and not the fans who came to watch the UFC here in Rio.”
“I fought big guys,” said Belfort, who weighed in Friday at 186 pounds to Johnson’s 197. “I’m not scared of size. I’m ready to fight whoever. I cut 25 pounds in four days so I gotta be professional. You sacrifice to achieve glory.”
Belfort submitted Johnson in a rear naked choke that forced Johnson to tap out at 4:49 of the round. “A loss is a loss,” said Johnson. “My legs just got really tired. I didn’t get beat up in there and he really didn’t hurt me with what he hit me with. I just got tired. I’ve got to figure this thing out.”
With the win, Belfort improves to 21-9; Johnson falls to 10-4.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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