Following his brutal UFC 212 loss to Max Holloway, the UFC’s former longtime featherweight champion José Aldo could well make the move up 10lbs to 155lb, and with that in mind the time seems right to have a look at three big names who could welcome him.
The José Aldo era is officially at an end. At UFC 212 in the beautiful Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the two-time featherweight champion Aldo was picked apart and finished in the third round by the rising superstar that is Max Holloway.
It was a clinical performance from the young Hawaiian and one that saw him make the leap from prospect to an undeniable force on the pound-for-pound rankings. Aldo’s strong start probably saw him come away with the first two rounds but some clever game planning from Holloway saw him push the pace as the fight went on to a level that the veteran Brazilian could not match. It was a third-round TKO win and a performance that was as good as any championship win in recent memory.
Now, José Aldo finds himself in a position where he has lost his 145lb title twice in the space of 18 months and with his 31st birthday only a few months away, will have to take a close look at where his career is headed.
Sure, his UFC 194 loss to Conor McGregor was just about as brief and brutal as you can get in this sport but after taking such a battering at the hands of Max Holloway, a move up to the lightweight division could well be on the cards.
Aldo’s a pretty big featherweight frame-wise. In his earlier years his trouble making the 145lb championship limit was well documented and, as we know, his ease in getting himself down will only do more damage to his body as he gets older. Speed has always been one of José’s greatest strengths and his explosiveness at 155lb may well be even more of a factor if he does, in fact, move up.
Aldo is the embodiment of championship material and if he does take a leap of faith in order to test himself against the bigger men, here’s a list of three opponents who I’m sure the fans would love to see do their best to rain on his welcoming parade.
Wouldn’t this be an absolute cracker!? You’d have arguably the two most lethal leg-kickers in the history of the UFC, both Brazilian, and both with proven fight-finishing abilities from anywhere. I’d pay good money to watch these two square off in a leg kicks only competition but in an MMA match-up there’s virtually no chance of this being a stinker.
Barboza’s length may cause Aldo some difficulties but over the years he has proved that his chin is hittable and if José can time his bursts early – as he did against Holloway last weekend – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him kick off his lightweight career with a knockout.
Edson is slowly carving out a reputation for himself as one of the most versatile and ultimately devastating finishers in the game and after seeing both him and Aldo hurt badly within the last two years, it’s safe to say that this would be a fight that would probably not see it past round two.
Alright, this might be a long-shot given his recent loss but the UFC have been pretty unpredictable in recent times, especially when it comes to throwing out interim titles. Tony Ferguson’s claim to both a shot at the undisputed title and an interim one is as strong as anyone’s at 155lb right now and following the collapse of his UFC 209 bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov, he’ll undoubtedly be looking for a marquee name to get the attention of the champ, Conor McGregor.
As much as he denies it, revenge must still be one of the top priorities in the career of José Aldo and if a move to the lightweight division does materialise, what better way to get a shot at the ‘Notorious One’ than to take out the number one contender in his division in emphatic fashion.
Stylistically, Tony poses several of the same problems Max Holloway did for Aldo – and then some. He’s longer, just as tall, more versatile and unpredictable wherever the fight goes and a much better wrestler. He’s also durable and an absolute cardio machine, but still his body type is more befitting of a mid-sized welterweight so in a fight between him and Aldo, the speed advantage would be considerable for the Brazilian.
It’d be a high risk but massive reward for the former champ and one that anyone would want to see become a reality.
Another longshot but if Tony Ferguson somehow coaxes Nate Diaz out of his self-imposed hiatus than who better for Aldo to take on than the man who would lose out more than anyone in this situation, the unbeaten sambo master himself, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Now, again, this is one that is entirely dependent on the conviction of José Aldo’s revenge mission but if he does, in fact, wish to make himself an undeniably appealing option for the Irishman, taking on the 24-0 animal that has mauled each and every man he has faced so far would be a no-brainer.
Well, it would be if there wasn’t a very high chance that he himself would be mauled.
Khabib’s size and masterful takedown game could very well prove to be a foil for Aldo’s legendary takedown defence and though the striking advantage would undoubtedly be in favour of the Brazilian, we’ve seen on so many occasions that when those octagon doors close, it matters little when facing someone as good as Nurmagomedov.
Big risk, big reward would again be the name of the game with this one but like I said before, if Aldo does wish to make a dent at lightweight, he must be prepared to navigate deep waters because this division is one swarming with sharks.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena