With the UFC’s featherweight champion José Aldo set to defend his belt against the highly-touted and extremely versatile Max Holloway this weekend, the time is perfect to take a closer look at the single definitive performance from the man who may well stand as the greatest 145lb-r in the history of the sport.
UFC 212 is finally upon us! In a matter of hours, the UFC’s featherweight title will be contested by the champ José Aldo and the rising Hawaiian Max Holloway.
The Brazilian city of Rio de Janiero will play host to this potentially epic encounter and though Aldo’s resumé is packed to the brim with some pretty impressive wins, the young-gun Holloway represents a very unique and unquestionably modern puzzle for the Manaus-native to solve.
After nearly ten years on some of the biggest stages the world of MMA has had to offer (between his time in the UFC and the WEC before then) and the heads of some of the world’s top featherweight contenders on his resumé, it’s crazy that the most dangerous and polished version of Aldo to date came in his last outing, his UFC 200 showdown with Frankie Edgar.
When José Aldo returned to the octagon seven months after his devastating 13-second knockout loss to Conor McGregor for an interim-title fight at UFC 200, questions, of course, lingered about his ability to place that fight firmly in the rearview and bounce back with a win over a guy – in Frankie Edgar – who perhaps represented the most difficult matchup for Aldo (outside of McGregor) in the entire featherweight division.
Edgar was, and is to this day, one of the UFC’s most consistent athletes. Over the course of his 12 years as a professional, he has lost just five times and has never once been finished. He earned the eternal respect of the mixed martial arts world when he won the lightweight championship in stunning fashion by defeating the legendary BJ Penn back in 2010 and has become the living embodiment of that ‘never-say-die’ attitude since then, coming into most of his fights as the smaller man.
Aldo’s victory over the unquestionably elite adversary that was Frankie Edgar may well stand as the single greatest of his career to date.
At 29-years-old, nobody was really expecting José to make any radical shifts in the approach that had seen him go unbeaten for nearly ten years but when he stepped into the octagon that night, we were gifted with a performance that spoke volumes about his determination and gave real insight into his character as a fighter.
Aldo was elusive, technically brilliant and completely unpredictable in that matchup. He employed a boxing-heavy attack and mixed forward pressure with some beautiful counter-punching on the backfoot, something that caused commentator Joe Rogan to exclaim that it looked like he was trying to do to Frankie what Conor McGregor did to him.
Leg-kicks were all-but-abandoned due to the wrestling credentials that Edgar brought the table but what was truly masterful about this win was the takedown defence that Brazilian exhibited throughout. At times it looked as though he was throwing his opponent around and for me, he did absolutely everything one could have hoped for from him after what was such a massive setback in losing his belt.
13 seconds is nowhere near enough time to put an entire career of brilliance in doubt and when José stepped into that yellow octagon at last year’s landmark UFC 200 event, he managed to pull off a win that showed him at his very best, a height he will have to reach once more if he is to retain his title this weekend and shut down the very credible threat that is Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena