UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo (21-1, 11-0 UFC/WEC) came into his UFC 142 title defense against Chad Mendes (11-1, 6-1 UFC/WEC) with a lot of pressure weighing down on him. First there was the pressure of facing the undefeated Mendes, the undisputed #1 contender for Aldo's title. Then there was the pressure of fighting in his native Brazil for the first time since 2007 and headlining a UFC for the first time. Not to mention the pressure to get a spectacular finish after going to decisions in his first two UFC title defenses.
Aldo lifted those burdens with a spectacular leaping knee KO win over Mendes with only one second remaining in the opening round of their UFC 142 bout. He then exploded into a wild celebration that saw him charge out of the Octagon and run deep into the surging, cheering crowd.
"This is the spirit I wanted to come out with tonight. 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. It connected and I finished the fight. I was so overcome with emotion that I wanted to celebrate with my people," Aldo said after the fight.
It will be very interesting to see if Aldo succeeded in planting himself into the Brazilian national consciousness the way UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva did with his UFC 126 win over Vitor Belfort. UFC 142 was a far less hyped event in the U.S. or Brazil than that bout, but pending the enthusiasm of the Brazilian media, Aldo just may have made himself a bit of a star in his native land.
For his part, Aldo's opponent Chad Mendes, took the loss with resignation and respect.
"Jose is a great champion and he was the better man tonight. He showed why he's one of the best fighters in the world. I knew it would be hard to take him down, but I kept trying. I tried to keep the pressure, but he is just so tough and his takedown defense is great. I wanted the title so bad," said a disappointed Mendes.
The UFC would dearly love to see Aldo emerge as a star in Brazil or the U.S. They've struggled to establish the 145 pound featherweight division as a legitimate draw since adding it to the UFC in early 2010. The return of Aldo to his exciting knock-out ways could be a harbinger of better days ahead for the division.