The crowd at UFC 142 in Rio sent shivers down the spine when their soccer-style chants rose in waves of emotion as hometown favorite Jose 'Scarface' Aldo (21-1) entered the Octagon to face challenger Chad 'Money' Mendes (11-1). The chants were befitting a soccer powerhouse like Brazil.
Aldo used to play soccer, and some say that’s where he gets the power in his brutal Muay Thai leg kicks that disable so many opponents. It’s why Mendes was ill informed to begin the fight with leg kicks, which seemed decent enough till Aldo landed one of his own and nearly felled the Californian.
Mendes tried a double-leg takedown relatively early and was easily stuffed, demonstrating once again why the top Brazilian strikers--- Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos---are such top-notch, well-rounded fighters: if you’re a world-class striker and can rarely be taken and held down, look out.
Mendes is quick and athletic, and needed to apply stand-up to set up takedowns, which was evident with his early inability to close the distance to get Scarface to the mat. Although there weren’t a lot of total strikes as the first round ticked by, the leg-kicks landed by Aldo had ‘Uh-oh’ written all over Mendes in deep, red welts.
Aldo chased down the challenger till another failed take-down had Mendes holding Aldo’s back, against the cage. Mendes began to knee Aldo’s thighs---a good wear-down tactic. But the position didn’t hold long. Aldo spun and timed Mendes’ next take-down attempt with a knee to the noggin. Mendes fell back hard, with Aldo jumping on top and landing another two hard shots. The referee stopped the fight at 4:59 of round one.
What happened next could not have been predicted. Aldo ran straight out of the Octagon and into the roaring crowd. A riot nearly ensued. Security tried dissuading Aldo from running amongst the crowd, but Scarface would have none of it. He wanted to share the win with the fans, like Green Bay Packers do with the Lambeau Leap into the stands after a touchdown.
With this win, Aldo has attained a new level of stardom amongst UFC fans worldwide, and a level of superstardom within his home country of Brazil, alongside Anderson Silva, with newly minted heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos not far behind.
Eight years ago Aldo began scratching his way out of abject poverty and anonymity, and on Saturday night it’s safe to say handing Mendes his first loss completed the scramble out.