UFC 129 was the coming out party for not just the featherweight division but the man that has ruled it with an iron fist for the final thirteen months of World Extreme Cagefighting. The Brazilian Jose Aldo had destroyed champion Mike Brown, decimated former champion Urijah Faber and demolished The Ultimate Fighter’s Manny Gamburyan in the championship end of a reign of terror that had seen him go 8-0 in the WEC. So it should have surprised nobody when the man universally regarded as a top 3 pound for pound fighter managed to retain his title in his UFC debut against home town favorite Mark Hominick.
What was surprising however was the manner of Aldo’s performance, which after an aggressive start soon lacked the energy of his previous fights. Instead of using his speed and more varied striking offense to tear into Hominick standing, Aldo retreated to a safety first strategy of going for numerous takedowns and at times came remarkably close to relying on what some would called ‘lay and pray’. So exhausted was Aldo that in the third round he couldn’t even get his takedowns and was clearly struggling to impose himself on a Hominick backed by 55,000 partisan Canadian fans.
The cause of the problem was obvious; Aldo’s dynamism had been sapped by a serve weight cut that had left him drained. Aside from Anderson Silva, mixed martial arts hasn’t seen a champion win their first title at a young enough age where they naturally have to move up through the divisions as they grow into their bodies. It increasingly looks likely that Aldo is beginning this process with many commenting that he looked ill and drawn at the ‘Super Seven’ session with his fellow UFC champions. At only twenty-three years old he will, like flyweight, bantamweight and featherweights boxers have for generations, have to move up in weight and it’s not inconceivable that ultimately he will have to move up more than one.
However at UFC 129 such talk was for the future with Aldo engaged in what was now becoming a genuine struggle for him to retain his newly won UFC belt. A strong fourth round saw him do enough to ultimately take fight, hurting Hominick with elbows from the top that caused a huge hematoma to grow on the Canadian’s head. The fight should have been stopped given the danger posed to the fighter by the injury but sadly once again a fighter’s corner and the ringside medical officials failed to properly fulfill their responsibility to protect the fighter’s safety. Hominick would however almost make the most of this ill-judged opportunity in a fifth round where he dominated with ground and pound after securing top position after Aldo unsuccessfully went for a guillotine. Aldo was clearly completely out of energy and could do nothing but hold on for dear life as Hominick peppered him with punches. Hominick however failed to improve position to where he could really threaten Aldo, and the champion was never in any real danger of not hearing the final bell.
Despite the one-sided final round Aldo did manage to secure a clear victory on the three judges’ scorecards and will likely next defend his title against Chad Mendes at UFC 133 in Philadelphia. However the serious problems he had with his conditioning raise serious doubts about even his future at 145Ibs. After the fight Aldo referred to having mistakenly added too much muscle mass but unless his camp find a way to get his size down and so make the final cut less drastic then Aldo will have to prove himself to UFC fans not as the dominant world featherweight champion but as the most dangerous possible challenger to whoever emerges as the undisputed champion at 155Ibs.
Tags: chad mendes, Jose Aldo, Mark Hominick, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC Bantamweight Division, UFC Featherweight Division, ufc lightweight division