Welcome to The Fight Horizon. This weekly column looks at newly announced match-ups (that are on the horizon) and what they mean for both fans and fighters alike.
This week’s match-up: Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis
Welcome to the big leagues.
While the situation for Lamas basically sucks, there is one silver lining in this cloud of disappointment that he can look forward to. He’s essentially in the same boat as Johny Hendricks and Dan Henderson, two of the best in their respective divisions who legitimately earned title shots, but were passed over for a variety of reasons, namely in order to make fights with more “wow factor”. But there is some small consolation: if you’re being compared to Big Rig and Hendo…well, then you know you’ve made it.
So just as the epic-bearded Hendricks and ageless Hendo will have to take another fight and wait for their title shots (assuming they win), Lamas will have to follow up his dominating stoppage of Koch in the same way until Pettis and Aldo duke it out. For the UFC and Lamas, a title eliminator against fellow title contender Chan Sung Jung aka The Korean Zombie (on the mend from shoulder surgery) probably makes sense here, the winner presumably getting the victor of Aldo vs. Pettis.
Pettis has stated that Aldo presents a tougher matchup than Benson Henderson, and while I’m not sure if the comparative “tougher” applies in this case, I do think Pettis will have his hands full.
Considering the tendencies of these two fighters, it’s likely to be a dynamic stand up and striking display. They are two of the best guys in the business under 155 and when it comes to kicks, they might be the two best period. Neither really looks to take the fight to the floor. Edgar went for clinches and takedowns in his fight against Aldo, but Pettis won’t be doing any of that, being content to keep it standing and pick his shots against the Featherweight champion. Even if Pettis tried, I don’t see him (or anyone at 145) taking down Jose Aldo and keeping him there. Aldo bounces up from the ground like he’s allergic to it.
Aldo’s cardio will be a question again, the guy is an absolute shark for the first few rounds, but someone with elite cardio and pacing (like Edgar) could give him trouble. Pettis is no slouch in that department, going 5 fast-paced and active rounds with Benson Henderson in the final WEC fight. A smart fighter might look to take advantage of that and try to keep the first few rounds even and turn it up later on, but the fighter in question would have to last that long to begin with – not an easy task against Aldo.
I love that Showtime has the guts and swagger to call out a proven champion as dangerous as Jose Aldo. That speaks volumes about his confidence in himself, especially considering he’s never fought at FW. And that confidence isn’t the false bravado of a pretender contender, it is the very real belief that he can and will defeat Jose Aldo. The question that must be asked is: what happens if Pettis wins? Pettis himself has said he wants to become the Lightweight champion, but what if he wins the FW title? Let’s get to that in a second.
If Aldo wins, the case can again be made that he should move up to lightweight. A fight with Lamas or the KZ has a lot of promise, but after beating Edgar and a fighter with the resume of Pettis (who has wins over current LW champion Benson Henderson, Cerrone and Lauzon), Aldo could be embarking on a streak that doesn’t come along very often. Defeating two elite former lightweights consecutively (toss in Florian to make it three) should be enough for him to decide to move up. In all likelihood he probably wouldn’t have to wait for a shot at the LW champion. The UFC may or may not want to see it, but if he manages his weight correctly, he may not even have to relinquish his title at featherweight. A two division champion, like BJ Penn, is very rare and that is something Aldo might be considering; he would have a chance to cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time, in any weight class.
Indeed, with victories over Frankie Edgar, Anthony Pettis, and whoever is the Lightweight champion, Aldo should move higher up on every P4P list. He’s heading towards a similar spot as Anderson Silva (albeit younger), who is just too good for his division and is seeking superfights in different weight classes. Guys like Silva and GSP (and now Jon Jones) are going to be legends in MMA down the road, and now Aldo is on the cusp of joining them. He’s not quite there yet, right now he’s behind those three in most P4P lists. Had he finished Edgar in dominant fashion (as Gray Maynard was so close to doing) then I think there would be no doubt, but people don’t give enough credit to Edgar for how close their fight was. Finishing Edgar is no easy task, but Maynard came a lot closer to it than Aldo did.
So back to what happens if Pettis wins – Pettis is a smart guy and smart guys don’t call out Jose Aldo on an impulse. He might be thinking the same thing since his cut to LW is so easy: win the FW championship, then challenge the LW champion next, whoever it may be. Aldo or Pettis, either scenario would be a dream for the UFC and all MMA fans, since the big word these days is “superfight”. Aldo vs. Edgar was a huge fight that delivered, so where does the UFC go from here? Just imagine the FW champion fighting the LW champion with title implications on the line. Another two division champion? It may be more of a reality than imagination.