Pardon the bluntness. UFC 163 absolutely sucked. Where is Dana at? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him. The best fight of the main card: John Lineker versus Jose Maria ended quite abruptly with a freak accident to Maria. Tom Watson put on such a sad performance he walked out to the Backstreet Boys in a mask and bad judging reared its ugly head again after Lyoto Machida found himself on the wrong end after, despite out-striking and controlling most of the match lost a shocking unanimous decision to Phil Davis.
And the main event – the event that pitted arguably the two most exciting dynamic fighters in their division – Jose Aldo and the Korean Zombie – fell flat on its face. The main fight just seemed to go from bad to worse especially for Zombie who dislocated his shoulder and lost the match via TKO. Aldo and Zombie looked lethargic the whole match and honestly I’ve seen sparring matches more entertaining for what could’ve been the Fight of the Year. Disappointment just isn’t strong enough of a word.
But I wish Korean Zombie well on his way to recovery and a win is a win for Aldo who never looked in danger throughout the whole match though he looked gassed by the 3rd round, which reminds me of how Edgar out-cardio’d him in their fight earlier in the year. This may very well be Aldo’s only “flaw” if we were to nitpick him.
Jose Aldo sports one of the best takedown defenses in the UFC, he has the most lethal leg kicks and tramples absolutely every fighter he’s faced and his striking in general is surgical. He also fights aggressively and has a killer mentality. Jose Aldo may very well be the next coming of Anderson Silva as differently as they are and as much as I would hate to use this comparison. But he might just be the P4P greatest Brazilian fighter when Silva inevitably fades away (as surreal as that is to imagine right now).
I’m getting ahead of myself. Other than his cardio, Aldo has also been injured repeatedly. Now he’s dealing with a broken foot. He’s suffered at least an injury each year since the WEC/UFC merger and I can’t help but think if Aldo’s career is ever going to live to its GOAT potential should his litany of injuries keep piling up.
As it stands, Aldo is in the top 4 P4P MMA rankings and while I feel he doesn’t have to prove anything any more, the featherweight division (in my opinion, the most exciting division in the UFC) is ripe with scintillating matchups. I’m balling trying to pick who should get Aldo next.
Here’s a look at five contenders (three of whom Aldo has already faced, one who he should’ve faced) who could (or should) get next crack at the champ along with some extra (loose) criteria such as a) likelihood they get the next shot and; b) their chances of beating Aldo. Their rankings are based on UFC.com’s rankings:
Ricardo Lamas (#2 Featherweight)
Reach: 70 in
Lamas wants a title shot. Scratch that. Lamas DESERVES a title shot; hard to argue with a guy who is undefeated (4-0) in his time at featherweight and with the UFC. He’s the last person to beat Cub Swanson (see below) and the first to finish off highly touted prospect, Erik Koch.
It is very likely Lamas fights Aldo next or at the least fights for a #1 contender’s fight (most likely with Cub Swanson). Though I’m not entirely confident how well Lamas is going to fare against Aldo given how his stand-up game is not anywhere close to keeping Aldo honest. Aldo’s takedown defense (as you will see me refer to like a broken radio) is all-but legendary and his two losses came via KO though they were at lightweight. Anything can definitely happen and Lamas can shock the world with a stunning upset but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Chances of Beating Aldo: Moderate
Cub Swanson (#4 Featherweight)
Reach: 70 in
My pick for the guy who needs to fight Aldo next; without a doubt Cubby has been the hottest featherweight contender outside Lamas and his 4 knockout wins in his last 5 fights speaks enough for itself. Aptly named “Beautiful Destruction”, Swanson transformed what was an up-and-down WEC career into a brilliant UFC career since joining Greg Jackson.
The last time Cub fought Aldo was the latter’s WEC debut and a freak double flying knee ended the fight quite abruptly. Cub’s vast improvement would make things more interesting. Cub is also most likely the most explosive (if not strongest) striker Aldo will have to face and his BJJ background makes him more than capable on the ground. I like Cub’s chances at pushing Aldo, maybe even pull off the shocking upset. Maybe.
The more likely scenario is Cubby fights Lamas in a rematch for the chance to face Aldo while he waits for his foot to heal. Losing to Lamas (again) will slow down Swanson’s momentum some but he’ll hang around the title picture. If it’s anyone Dana loves, its guys who finish fights and Cub will get his shot sooner rather than later.
Chances of Beating Aldo: High
Frankie Edgar (#3 Featherweight)
Reach: 72 in
A Frankie Edgar-Jose Aldo rematch is something that will inevitably come provided neither fighter decided to call it a career and go Yeti-hunting. Frankly (no pun intended :p), I see little reason why this rematch will be too different from the first. Aldo clearly won the first three rounds of the fight and seemingly “gassed out” although it’s hard to find fighters who can out-cardio Frankie Edgar.
What’s notable is Frankie being able to throw Aldo into the mat. Given Aldo’s takedown defense, that is impressive and Frankie is going to have to pull a couple more of those from nowhere to secure a decision over Aldo. Frankie is one of the quickest strikers in the UFC and usually against most competition he can outscore them in this category but that is considering if he can keep eating Aldo’s leg kicks. It’s only a matter of time before the iron-chinned lion-hearted fighter eventually succumbs to his physique. But I’m rambling here. Bottom line: Aldo will still secure a decision win though this next fight may be slightly closer than the first. Maybe a split decision win? Hmm.
Chances of Beating Aldo: Moderate
Chad Mendes (#1 Featherweight)
Reach: 66 in
Chad Mendes was approximately a second away from making it into round 2 with Jose Aldo during their title fight a year ago. That marked his first ever loss and it lit the proverbial “fire up his ass” as he tore through his next three opponents knocking them all out within 2 minutes of the fight. That stat while impressive should still be taken with a grain of salt as none of those three opponents were in the top 10.
“Money” is a force to be reckoned with and is probably the closest thing to Urijah Faber during his golden WEC days. He faces Clay Guida next in what could be a #1 contender’s match for Mendes. This would also be the first top 10 guy Mendes faces outside of Aldo in his UFC career and should be a good indication if he is a pretender or a contender.
While I love Mendes’s combination of strength, endurance and aggressiveness, I don’t see how his second go round with Aldo will yield an entirely different result. He may probably take Aldo all the way to a decision and wear him out with his strong wrestling background but he isn’t any better than Frankie Edgar or Faber when they faced Aldo. I don’t see Mendes getting another shot at least not over the aforementioned fighters and I see even less of an upset chance.
Chances of Beating Aldo: Low
Anthony Pettis (#2 Lightweight)
Reach: 72 in
This match is going to happen whether Pettis wins the Lightweight title or not. It has to happen and I’m not the only one who feels this match is still owed to us fans. Physically, Pettis is the most imposing of all fighters listed. He is taller and has longer reach than Aldo and his striking skills are just about as lethal and creative. You’re looking at a kid (only 26) who finished 13 of his 18 opponents and beat 16 of them. He’s coming off of two huge knockout wins over two well-regarded lightweights and is the last guy to have beaten Benson Henderson over three years ago. Here’s a reminder:
With that overhyping behind us, Pettis hasn’t fought a guy with the same pedigree as Aldo. As great as Bendo is, he hasn’t nearly looked as dominant in his title defenses as Aldo – who has all but trampled his competition – even whilst suffering through injuries. Aldo ranks 5th in significant strike defense (72.1%) and 2nd in takedown defense (89.7%). Aldo’s also notable for giving a lot of guys such as Mendes, Swanson and former WEC champion Mike Brown their first KOs. Is Pettis next?
That said, I like Pettis’s chances the best out of all the fighters. Maybe slightly over Cubby. Pettis has one of the most diverse striking backgrounds and is a slick BJJ tactician. Styles make fights and he definitely has the style to pull off the upset. Though the likelihood of this fight happening is very hard to predict though if Pettis wins the Lightweight title back it would be a “Superfight” in its own category.
Chances of Beating Aldo: High