He nearly blew it with another awful first round, but then Frankie Edgar did not leave any chance for a draw.
In their third match — their second with the lightweight belt at stake — Edgar survived a first-round onslaught from Gray Maynard then came back to score a fourth-round TKO at UFC 136 on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Jose Aldo scored a unanimous decision over Kenny Florian to retain his featherweight belt prior to the main event on a night full of decisions. Chael Sonnen did his best to steal the show, not with a second-round arm-triangle submission of Brian Stann, instead with his microphone skills calling out Anderson Silva after the victory.
Bonuses for the event were $75,000, and Edgar earned knockout of the night by default, and he had the only stoppage. Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia, each an extra $75,000 richer after winning fight of the night, picked up where they left off in their last meeting at TUF 12 Finale, except this time Phan walked away with his hand raised. The submission of the night went to underdog Joe Lauzon, who submitted heavy favorite Melvin Guillard in 47 seconds with a rear naked choke.
Maynard laid a beating upon Edgar in the first round, in near exact fashion as their fight of the year draw from Jan. 1. It was not quite as severe, as Maynard held back and did not burn himself out trying for a finish that was at his finger tips. The bloodied Edgar survived the onslaught — again — and then completely turned around the fight.
“I was thinking, ‘Not again,’ ” Edgar said. ”My corner told me I had to get my head off. I had been going in the middle. … Sometimes you get hit like that, you’re in survival mode. You don’t have a plan. I just listen to my corner. They helped me make the adjustments I needed to make to win this fight.”
Edgar picked away at Maynard, who somehow lost the answer to “The Answer” in between rounds. Edgar got inside and moved away before taking punishment. He did that for the second and third rounds, actually earning the lead on two of the three judges’ scorecards, since only one scored the first round 10-8 for Maynard.
It was more of the same in the fourth round until Edgar exploded with an uppercut that buckled Maynard, then unleashed a right cross to put him down and three more lefts when Maynard was on the mat to get the finish, just his second in the last nine fights.
“Maybe it has something to do with what Gray’s doing,” Edgar said. ”I don’t plan it, believe me. If it’s exciting for you guys, then great. … I think it puts some closure on it. I ended it with a bang.”
Edgar (14-1-1) avenged the only two non-wins of his career, both to Maynard (10-1-1, 1 NC), who is winless since beating Florian in Aug. 2010.
Florian used his grappling in an effort to wear Aldo down in the first frame. Aldo was hesitant to throw his devastating leg kicks, but by midway through Round 2 the Brazilian found his range.
After Aldo figured out the puzzle, the fight hit the ground and Aldo got the better of Florian. In the championship rounds, Florian tried to grind Aldo out against the cage in standing position. The Blackhouse team member turned the tables on Florian, and in Round 5 he mounted Florian to seal it.
“I wanted to keep kicking, but Kenny was trying to take me down constantly,” Aldo said. ”I talked to my coaches and they thought it was better to not kick as much.”
Sonnen changed his change of tune approaching this fight with Stann in regards to verbal assault, but the Team Quest fighter’s strategy inside the cage did not change.
Sonnen used his Olympic-level wrestling to dominate Stann from the opening bell. Sonnen’s grappling was too strong for the American war hero, and in the second round Stann fell victim to an arm-triangle. Following the fight Sonnen addressed the crowd and his arch-nemesis.
“Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck,” said Sonnen said to the middleweight kingpin, who was sitting cageside. “I’m calling you out, Silva, but we’re upping the stakes. I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I leave the UFC.”