The UFC returned to Houston for UFC 136.  The event took place from the Toyota Center and featured a lightweight title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard, as well as a featherweight title tilt between champion Jose Aldo and challenger Kenny Florian.

Edgar survives another onslaught; finishes Maynard to retain belt

In a rematch of their UFC 125 draw, Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard went to war yet again.

The first round was eerily similar to the opening frame of the previous fight, as Maynard gave the champion everything he could handle for five minutes.  Maynard used his uppercut to batter Edgar, dropping him multiple times and blooding the nose and mouth of the New Jersey native.

In the second and third rounds, a resilient Edgar regained his composure and used his head movement, footwork and speed to get the better of Maynard.  He landed hooks to the body over and over to slow Maynard’s attack.

The fourth round featured more of the same until an uppercut from Edgar landed flush on Maynard’s chin and sent the challenger to the ground.  Maynard stumbled toward the fence and Edgar pounced.  After a series of right hands, Maynard crashed face first to the mat and referee Josh Rosenthal was forced to stop the bout.

Edgar retained his belt in another classic fight.  The loss for Maynard was the first of his career.  Edgar’s finish earned the champion the night’s “Knockout of the Night” award and a $75,000 bonus.

Aldo simply too much for Florian

Featherweight champion Jose Aldo retained his UFC belt in yet another strong performance against veteran Kenny Florian.

Florian started the fight well and appeared to frustrate the champion during the first round.  The challenger’s game plan was clearly to wrestle the champion and try to tire the Brazilian out.

After the first round, Aldo began to exhibit why he’s the division’s kingpin.  Using his fast hands and a mixture of kicks, Aldo prevented Florian from mounting offense for the final four rounds.

In the third and fifth rounds, Aldo gained top position and even moved to mount.  Florian simply could not put Aldo on his back and paid for it during the fight.  All three judges scored the fight four rounds to one for the champion.

Sonnen dominates Stann in return

Former middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen returned from his suspension to overwhelm United States Marine Brian Stann.

Sonnen had been out of action since he was submitted by champion Anderson Silva at UFC 117 in August of last year.  Following the loss, Sonnen was suspended for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

Stann entered the fight undefeated since he dropped to the 185-pound division.   However, Sonnen quickly exploited the biggest weakness in Stann’s fight game, his wrestling.

Sonnen took the fight to the mat at will, moving to mount and taking Stann’s back on more than one occasion.  In the second round, Sonnen locked in an arm triangle, forcing Stann to tap.  The win likely sets up a rematch with Silva in early 2012.

Phan gets revenge in rematch with Garcia

In a rematch of their controversial December 2010 bout, Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia provided the most entertaining fight of the night.

The featherweights went to war for the full three rounds.  Much like the first meeting, Phan’s crisp boxing proved to be the difference, but this time the judges got it right.

Garcia had Phan on the ropes in the final round, dropping him with a heavy shot, but could not finish the fight.  Phan’s work rate and repeated body shots over the course of the first two rounds earned the decision victory.  The fight was given “Fight of the Night” honors.

Lauzon shocks the world, upsets Guillard

Lightweight submission ace Joe Lauzon quickly proved why he deserved to be in the cage with rising contender Melvin Guillard.

The Boston-based fighter connected with a sharp punch that rattled the vaunted striker Guillard.  Lauzon quickly jumped on Guillard’s back and locked in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.

With the win Lauzon earned the “Submission of the Night” bonus, but also made his case for contender status in the division.

Preliminary Card

Middleweight Demain Maia showed off his superior top control to stifle fellow Brazilian Jorge Santiago over the course of three rounds.

Former WEC title holder Anthony Pettis rebounded from his loss to Clay Guida and outworked Jeremy Stephens en route to a decision win.

UFC heavyweight prospect Stipe Miocic kept his undefeated record intact by outclassing the tough-nosed Joey Beltran over the course of three rounds.

Featherweight Darren Elkins showcased superior wrestling and survived repeated guillotine attempts to defeat Chinese fighter Tiequan Zhang.

Aaron Simpson dominated Eric Schafer from the opening bell as the middleweight cruised to a decision win.

Mike Massenzio spoiled Steve Cantwell’s middleweight debut by outworking the former WEC champ.

MAIN CARD RESULTS

Frankie Edgar def. Gray Maynard by TKO (punches). Round 4, 3:54.  (retains lightweight title)

Jose Aldo def. Kenny Florian by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46). (retains featherweight title)

Chael Sonnen def. Brian Stann by submission (arm-triangle).  Round 2, 3:51

Nam Phan def. Leonard Garcia by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Joe Lauzon def. Melvin Guillard by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 0:47

PRELIMINARY CARD RESULTS

Demian Maia def. Jorge Santiago by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Anthony Pettis def. Jeremy Stephens by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Stipe Miocic def. Joey Beltran by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).

Darren Elkins def. Tiequan Zhang by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-27).

Aaron Simpson def. Eric Schafer by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Mike Massenzio def. Steven Cantwell by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).

Photo: Edgar (L) and Maynard (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)