It’s been said many times that the myth of the unbeatable fighter is just that – a myth.
Still, for seven years, Jose Aldo looked like the reality of that story. Often called the most skilled all-around fighter in the sport, Aldo arrived in the WEC in 2008 and was untouchable until Conor McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds.
While Aldo’s aura of being unbeatable was gone, when he came back and beat future Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar to win the interim featherweight title, he looked as good as ever. His on-paper weakness, stamina in a long fight, never played into it as he kept a strong pace for five rounds. You could come out of the Edgar fight thinking that Aldo simply had a bad spot in one match and he still was one of the best pound-for-pounders in the sport.
With McGregor not coming back to featherweight any time soon, Aldo was promoted to real champion, With Aldo not defending the title by the end of the year, the UFC created another interim title, this time going to the winner of the Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis fight in December.
But in round three on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, Aldo, at 30, suddenly looked older than his chronological years. He had won the first two rounds of a fight that was expected beforehand to be one of the better bouts of the year, and was living up to all expectations.
Round three came and Aldo was tired, and getting lit up. Only once, in the fifth round against Mark Hominick in 2011 when Aldo, comfortably ahead on points, hit the wall after an extremely tough weigh cut the day before, had Aldo ever taken anything resembling a prolonged beating.
He was in trouble, taking punches on the ground for several minutes and not getting out of trouble before the fight was called. This wasn’t the same fighter who at one time had a 10-year winning streak. A notable stat to tell the difference is that Aldo, best known for blistering low kicks, in three rounds threw exactly one low kick.
Titles change hands all the time and everyone has bad days. But this felt like a changing of the guard, that the Aldo era was crumbling before our eyes. At 25, this could become the Max Holloway (18-3) era. Holloway’s 11-fight winning streak, dating back to a to a loss four years ago to McGregor via decision, is now tied for the fifth-longest in the company, trailing only the greatest fighters in UFC history, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Demetrious Johnson.
Even though Holloway hasn’t been in the spotlight as a longtime champion in compiling his streak, this was not a guy who fattened up a record in the least. His last six opponents were some of the division’s best – Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas, Pettis and now Aldo.
The key active name missing on his list, and the second-biggest beneficiary of the title change, was Edgar. Edgar, with two losses to Aldo, was sitting in the worst position anyone could be in, the Joseph Benavidez and now Claudia Gadelha spot of being the clear No. 2 fighter in a division. With two losses to the current champion, the path to a title shot becomes a road that at times appears to have no end. Plus, booking someone like that becomes an issue. You don’t want to put him against a possible title contender, because then you’re knocking off a contender without creating a viable opponent for the champion.
Let’s look at how fortunes changed for five stars from UFC 212.
MAX HOLLOWAY – Many times when a new champion comes along, there are questions regarding being untested. But Holloway’s last six fights have established him as clear championship caliber.
While Cub Swanson (25-7) is heavily pushing for the next shot, Edgar (22-5-1) seems like the easy pick. Swanson was not only stopped, but took a terrible beating against Holloway in their fight two years ago, and Holloway is much improved since then. Edgar is ten years older, at 35, in a weight class that is not kind of older fighters, but Edgar dominated Yair Rodriguez in his last outing. He’s the best known and most popular fighter Holloway could face, as well as the most deserving fighter.
JOSE ALDO – At 26-3, Aldo’s next fight, provided he wants to stay in the division, would most logically be with Swanson. The key questions with Aldo coming off this fight will likely be answered, such as whether he can walk through hard hitters like in the past, destroy people with leg kicks once again, and most important, go the distance.
As much as Saturday, Aldo was a very different fighter than in the past, fighters have rebounded from far worse.
CLAUDIA GADELHA – Gadelha (15-2) was the favorite against Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a battle of the only two women who have given Joanna Jedrzejczyk at least a moment of real trouble.
But this was not expected to be a first round one-sided fight. From her performance, Gadelha looks like the fighter who has the best shot at beating the current champion. UFC booking history shows the challenger with two losses to the champion is in the worst kind of fighter purgatory, because no matter who you beat, it’s never enough.
Where Gadelha may benefit is she’s in a division lacking depth. Jedrzejczyk would likely face Rose Namajunas next, and after that, if Gadelha gets one more win, she’d almost have to get a title shot.
As for a next opponent, Jessica Andrade (16-6), coming off a loss to the champion, is probably the best call for now. But there is no great answer for her direction.
KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ – Kowalkiewicz (10-2) has now lost to the top two in the division. Tecia Torres (8-1) or Michelle Waterson (14-5) would look to be the best possible next opponents.
RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO – Assuncao (25-5) got a very fortunate decision over Marlon Moraes (18-5-1) on Saturday, in judging that was highly questionable.
It’s hard to see where Assuncao got two rounds out of the fight. The first round was a toss-up, but Moraes seemed to win rounds two and three rather handily. Round three was the strangest since it felt like Moraes’ was a clear winner, but all three judges gave the round to Assuncao.
On MMA decisions, 94 percent of the reporters had the fight for Moraes.
Assuncao has now won nine of ten, dating back six years. Dominick Cruz (22-2) doesn’t have a new opponent, and this win puts Assuncao as the most likely opponent for the former champion. If not, John Lineker (29-8) would be the most logical foe.
Source:: mma fighting