Jose Aldo da Silva Oliveira Junior, aka “Junior” or “Scarface”, is considered by many the Featherweight GOAT. Considering how long Aldo has been competing at the highest level of MMA it’s hard to believe he’s only 33. I find it funny when MMA fans talk about Aldo like he’s over the hill, I don’t think that’s the case. The overall talent in MMA has improved quite a lot since Aldo became a champion in 2009. It’s more probable the reason for his 3-4 record since his 2015 loss to Conor McGregor is due to the raise in his level of competition, not that he got worse.
Max Holloway is levels above anybody Aldo faced during his long reign as champion. When the bar gets raised as much as Max has raised it, often times people view the ones who’ve been surpassed as diminishing more than crediting the improved skill level of those raising the bar. I believe Jeremy Stephens made that mistake before fighting Aldo. When Stephens was interviewed by Kevin Lole of Yahoo Sports he said “This guy, he’s stayed the same. Conor’s taken his head, Max took his heart, I’m gonna take his soul.”
So much for that… Aldo not only won, he looked great before landing a fight ending body shot that left Stephens crumpled on the cage floor.
*Photo courtesy of mmamania.com
With Max fighting Volkanovski at UFC 245 regardless of who wins, it’s highly unlikely Aldo gets a rematch against either opponent anytime soon. This is the evident driving force behind Aldo’s decision to drop to 135, I doubt it’s because he wanted to change his diet to 2 pounds of salad a day. Before he announced the drop to 135 many were curious if Aldo might try his hand at 155, I don’t recall one person saying Aldo should drop to 135. However, when you stack up Cejudo/Moraes/Sterling/Sandhagen/Yan next to Khabib/Ferguson/Poirier/McGregor/Gaethje, 155 probably looks a lot more dangerous than the weight cut and opponents at 135. I remember Aldo’s first attempt at 155 years ago, which he lost by submission (the first and only submission loss of his career). Though an old loss, it’s probably one that still resonates within him. Because of the current landscape at 155, getting a title shot would take some serious work. However defeating the #1 ranked Moraes could easily earn a title fight vs Henry Cejudo. Since Cejudo has labeled himself a “legend killer”, it’s very likely Cejudo aims his sites toward Aldo if he wins this weekend. All things considered, it makes a lot of sense why Aldo chose to drop to 135 rather than stay at 145 or jump to 155.
During Aldo’s 10 year unbeaten streak (18 straight) he was known for devastating leg kicks and knees, supported by solid boxing and excellent takedown defense. Watch Aldo’s 8 second flying knee KO against Cub Swanson, his knee KO vs Mendes in their first fight, or look at pictures of Urijah Faber’s leg after he fought Aldo. Aldo has always been dangerous attacking with his legs, it’s just a matter of how much he uses that weapon. The last 5 years he’s had a boxing heavy approach, seemingly abandoning kicks, with varied results. I’m no MMA coach, but I try to think of the adjustments fighters and coaches may make after previous fights. I’ve always thought Aldo is most effective when he’s able to damage people with leg kicks, like many other fighters who have that skill (like Douglas Lima or Justin Gathje). It seems logical for him to use that strength more often, I’m curious if he does at UFC 245.
*Photo courtesy of reddit.com via Urijah Faber on Twitter
Jose Aldo vs Marlon Moraes is an interesting match up due to their similar fighting styles. Both are Brazilians with a solid BJJ foundation but tend to “stand and bang”. Though MMA is very unpredictable, I don’t expect these guys take the fight to the ground unless one of them gets hurt in the stand up game. I picture both being tactful, picking their spots carefully and trying to land something meaningful before attacking too aggressively. Both are killers when they get their opponent hurt, it’s just a question of whom can hurt whom first (if at all).
*Photo courtesy of lowkickmma.com
How will the first weight cut to 135 affect Aldo?
After seeing Pettis vs Holloway, it makes me nervous when fighters decide to cut even more weight in pursuit of a title in a lower weight class. Many have had success going up a weight class but not many have success going down. From what I always knew, 145 wasn’t easy for Aldo to make. Picturing him stepping on the scale at 136 this weekend sounds scary. I guarantee this week when he weighs in he’ll look depleted beyond anything we’ve seen in his career. I’m genuinely hoping he makes weight & only looks a little more depleted than expected, is able to rehydrate well and come into the fight feeling good. It’s been interesting to hear some fighters opinions on Aldo’s drop to 135, especially Conor McGregor (who’s shown support for the decision). If anybody knows how to handle a terrible weight cut, it’s Conor McGregor.
The next step for Aldo is obvious if he defeats Moraes; shoot for that title shot vs Cejudo. However, what does he do next if he comes up short in his Bantamweight debut? I would imagine he’d be done with 135, consider it a failed experiment and either go back up in weight or possibly retire. Who knows, maybe he’d go the opposite direction and give 155 a try. It seemed he was close to retirement before, but those words were spoken after heartbreaking losses. When you have the heart of a champion, which Jose Aldo surely has, often times upon reflection from a tough loss the champion mindset will take over and force somebody to “get back on the horse”. This weekend Aldo gets back on his horse and we’ll soon find out if 135 has a new threat to Cejudo’s belt. ■
Jason Marlowe, UnknownMMA