ALDO TOSSES HIS NAME INTO THE MIX
I received about a dozen emails in the days leading up to last weekend’s Aldo vs Faber fight, asking whether I truly believed that Jose Aldo was among the best in the world, pound for pound, or if I took some liberties with hyperbole in my main event breakdown.
Anyone who witnessed Aldo’s thorough destruction of superstar Urijah Faber now knows the answer to that question. The fact remains that Aldo’s current lack of casual recognition is solely due to the fact that the mainstream fans have not yet fully embraced the greatness of the little guys who compete inside the cage as compared to their larger, more physically intimidating brethren. In other words, if Aldo weighed 170 lbs instead of 145 lbs, he would likely be a household name and a clear member of the elite pound-for-pound fraternity.
Aldo put on a virtuoso striking performance against Faber, one that rivaled anything that we have seen from recognized pound-for-pound Godfather, Anderson Silva. His leg kicks were so fast and so perfectly set up that Faber, who has amazing reflexes, was unable to effectively check them, despite training like a mad man to do just that.
Moreover, Aldo’s use of a sustained body attack, which included both kicks and punches, was something rarely before seen in mixed martial arts. Top strikers rarely throw kicks to the body for fear that they will be caught and used to transition to a takedown or, worse yet, deliver a knockout punch. Aldo didn’t care. He beautifully set up the kicks and also threw them at the end of combinations, which all but eliminated Faber’s ability to effectively counter.
The attack was so complete that after two rounds, it was clear that Aldo was the far superior fighter. The only question left for fighters to answer heading into the third round was whether Faber, who has the heart of a lion, would be able to find a way to survive to the final bell.
Of course, if we have learned anything in mixed martial arts, it is that parity is the name of the game. Just when a fighter appears to be unbeatable, he often suffers a shocking, humbling defeat. BJ Penn just suffered that fate against Frankie Edgar. Georges St-Pierre learned that lesson thanks to a right hand behind the ear from Matt Serra a few years ago. And so on.
The reigning featherweight champion is in the midst of a 10-fight winning streak. The lone loss of his professional career occurred nearly five years ago when a mistake led to an opponent taking his back and sinking in a rear naked choke. Since that time, he has been next to flawless and now owns decisive wins over fellow elite featherweights Faber and Mike Brown.
Aldo looks as close to unbeatable as any fighter in any weight class around the world. Does that mean an upset is in the making? Or will he be the one to establish new standards for featherweight greatness – he needs five more consecutive successful defenses to pass Faber’s record?
I’m betting on the latter.
“THE CALIFORNIA KID” LEFT IN LIMBO – DO THE KEYS TO REKINDLING HIS GREATNESS LIE SOUTH?
How quickly the mighty fall from grace.
Two years ago, Faber stood alone as the best featherweight in the world. His name filled the air during nearly every pound-for-pound discussion. And it was justified talk, since “The California Kid” had won 13 fights in a row and largely appeared unbeatable—sound familiar? There was even talk of him trying to move either up or down in weight to see if he could simultaneously hold two championship belts.
Then, he ran into Mike Brown. Two minutes and twenty-three seconds later, Faber was left on the canvas while his conqueror celebrated life as the newly crowned champion.
The former champion has now lost three of his last five fights. All three of those losses were clear defeats, which probably eliminates any near-term title challenges for all intents and purposes. Thus, Faber must be sitting in his Sacramento home wondering what to do next.
I’m the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers. Yet, if Faber were to ask me what he should do next, I’d strongly suggest a trip down to bantamweight where he just might be able to regain his former glory.
I certainly don’t think it would be a walk in the park for Faber to cut down to 135 lbs, but I think it is a very real possibility. Think about it for a moment. Faber stands 5’6, so he is not tall for a featherweight by any means. Indeed, three of the top four bantamweights (Dominick Cruz, Miguel Torres and Brian Bowles) are all taller than 5’6. He also packs some seriously thick muscle on that little frame, more than most of his competitors. If he shed some of that muscle, which isn’t necessarily needed in the fight game, moving to bantamweight would be much easier.
Faber’s lofty status in the sport would likely be enough to justify an immediate title shot against Cruz. And to be honest, I’d peg Faber the favorite to win that fight, and there’s a built-in incentive for Cruz, considering that Faber is the only man to defeat him.
GAMBURYAN RISES TO THE TOP
Manny Gamburyan certainly has a flair for the dramatic.
Back on June 23, 2007, he stepped into the Octagon with the biggest opportunity of his career on the line. He was facing Nate Diaz in the finale of the fifth installment of The Ultimate Fighter. The winner would receive the job security that comes along with a multi-fight, six-figure UFC contract. The loser would face life as just another competitor in the UFC’s ultra-deep 155-lb division.
After a dominant first round, Gamburyan attempted a takedown 20 seconds into the second and badly dislocated his shoulder. He had no choice but to instantly tap out, giving Diaz the win. It was a shocking end to a major fight watched by millions of fans.
On Saturday night, “The Anvil” again stepped into the cage with a career-altering opportunity in front of him. His bout with Mike Brown was tapped as the contest to possibly determine the next challenger for Aldo’s featherweight championship.
Gamburyan reacted with another improbable outcome—scoring only the second knockout victory of his 11-year career. It’s not like he did it against a powder puff, either. Brown was less than a year removed from his featherweight title reign and only one other man alive owned a knockout victory over him.
The win leaves no doubt that Gamburyan is the top contender for Aldo’s belt. It also adds to the uncertainty of the outcome to such a matchup. Gamburyan is a monster grappler with an extensive judo background. He should be able to put Aldo on his rear end, assuming he can get a hold of the champion. The question, of course, is whether he can survive long enough on the feet to get the opportunity to take down the Brazilian striker.