During an interview he granted in the days leading up to UFC 212, Max Holloway said that he wanted “the very best Jose Aldo there has ever been” to show up at the Rio event.
“I don’t want that 13-second-knockout Aldo,” Holloway told FloCombat, obviously referring to Aldo’s extraordinarily quick loss to Conor McGregor in December 2015. “I don’t even want the fast finish. I want the best Aldo so I can dominate him and there will be no excuses going forward. The world is going to know I’m the best featherweight on the planet after Saturday night.”
On the night, Aldo looked sharp in the early stages, picking off Holloway with his fast, educated fists, but the ‘Blessed’ Hawaiian found his rhythm toward the end of the second stanza and began to catch up to the defending featherweight champion. In the third, Holloway, who uncharacteristically fought almost exclusively out of an orthodox stance, found a regular home for his right hand on Aldo’s chin. Holloway eventually dropped his foe with a combo that was punctuated by a clean, flush right and subsequently finished him with a steady two-minute salvo of grounded strikes.
It was a comprehensive win for the young veteran. However, according to Aldo’s longtime trainer, Andre Pederneiras, it didn’t come against the best possible version of the Brazilian great.
In the aftermath of the fight, many questioned why Aldo had relied so heavily on his hands and neglected his vaunted kicking game. Pederneiras initially suggested that his charge’s kicks had been somewhat negated by Holloway’s stance. However, speaking to Fox Fight Club recently, the Nova Uniao head coach claimed that Aldo had actually been hampered by a leg injury.
“Every fight the athlete enters he has some kind of injury, and Aldo is no different, he has his,” Pederneiras said. “Many people asked why he didn’t kicked. Aldo has a leg injury, so he couldn’t throw kicks or run during his entire camp(Transcription via MMAFighting).
“That doesn’t take anything away from Max Holloway’s win, we don’t want to say that,” he continued. “It was even funny because we would go back (outside the Octagon) between rounds the crowd said ‘tell him to kick,’ but we, the cornermen, were the only aware of it. We avoided the kicks because of this injury. We were afraid it would strain his muscle.”
“He spent his entire camp working on his boxing and his takedown, his ground game. Since Aldo felt well standing in the first rounds, he decided not to go for takedowns, but (Holloway’s) punch landed and everything changed.”
“We could train his kicks a bit in the last week, but we didn’t force it too much. We believed that, the way he was going (in training), he would be able to win with his boxing. And that was happening.”
Pederneiras added that Aldo also carried a neck problem into the fight.
Aldo has been plagued by injury ever since he joined the UFC, forcing him to pull out of five scheduled dates from 2011-2015. The fact that several of his Nova Uniao teammates were also forced to pull out of multiple fights through injury during this period has drawn frequent criticism upon training and sparring practices at the Rio gym.