Jose Aldo must be feeling the strangest sense of déjà vu. And for good reason, since the Brazilian has been in almost this exact position once before.
He was supposed to defend his featherweight title for the first time inside the Octagon as the co-main event draw to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard's rematch at UFC 125. Fate intervened in the form of a neck injury and he was removed from the card until he was well enough to fight.
Now he finds himself once again set to defend his 145-pound championship in the co-main event of a Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard bout. Barring a last-minute injury, all indications are he will step inside the Octagon next Saturday (Oct. 8, 2011) opposite Kenny Florian in the "Lone Star State."
But before "Scarface" makes his second defense in the UFC -- and fourth overall -- at UFC 136: "Edgar vs. Maynard III," we'll take a look back at his Octagon debut. His fight against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 had over 55,000 people in Toronto and millions of others worldwide buzzing with excitement.
Each fighter left nearly everything in the cage that night. For 25-minutes, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were captivated by everything that made them fall in love with the sport in the first place conveniently packaged in a single fight.
It was an instant classic.
Let's dive in.
The fight served as the precursor to the welterweight showdown between Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields. The Canadian crowd was rabid for "Rush" but the main event was lackluster at best. In a perfect world, the 145-pound title bout would have closed the show and highlighted a night of great action.
Let's waste no time getting down to business!
The fight opens up with Hominick taking the center of the cage while Aldo opens up with lightning quick leg kicks. One quickly becomes two and then within seconds, four leg kicks have memories of Aldo's fight with Urijah Faber flooding back.
A takedown from the champ gets the Canadian on his back where he threatens with an armbar. Aldo is able to get free but "The Machine" has sent a message loud and clear: the champ won't get to rest on his laurels when the fight hits the mat.
"Scarface" spends most of the remainder of the opening round dropping elbow after elbow onto his opponent's forehead like a tiny, tan Mark Coleman. With less than a minute remaining, you can already see a small mouse forming on Hominick's head, an almost ominous sign of what is to come.
Almost as if the previous five minutes didn't even happen, the challenger presses the action instantly in the second. He begins putting together combinations that attack the body, giving no indication that the damage absorbed by his leg is affecting him at all.
Midway through the round, the Brazilian secures another takedown and gives a repeat performance of his first round ground and pound seminar. Fists and elbows find their mark while Hominick does everything he can to close the distance between him and his opponent.
With a minute remaining, the two are stood back but Aldo dives into a takedown and lands in side mount. No significant offense is landed as a result but it's an exclamation point on a round that was likely scored for the champion.
The third round masquerades as a boxing match for most of the five minute period save for two failed takedown attempts on the champion's part. It's during this stanza that Hominick looks his best as his speed nearly rivals that of Aldo's but the Canadian trumps his opponent in the technique department.
For most of the round, "The Machine" seems to be holding his own until a combination from the Brazilian catches Hominick and wobbles him. He stumbles to the mat and "Scarface" momentarily goes all-out, seeking the kill shot. When it becomes apparent that Hominick wouldn't be put to pasture so easily, Aldo relents and allows the round to close out.
The championship rounds begin and each fighters wears the scars -- as well as unseen mental fatigue -- of a tough fought 15 minutes. Aldo begins attacking the legs again, going back to the opening round strategy that worked well for him. As the kicks start to stack up, Hominick visibly begins to limp which allows Aldo to open up with his hands halfway through the round.
Hominick is dropped and "Scarface" follows him down. He immediately throws an elbow and the challenger's forehead instantly begins to swell up. By the time the referee calls time to have a doctor check on the hematoma, it's grown to the size of a baseball.
Joe Rogan is sure that the fight will be called off with less than one minute remaining in the round. Much to everyone's surprise -- and the live crowd's utter delight -- "The Machine" continues on to fight into the fifth and final round.
The Brazilian takes early control of the last round and lands a stiff uppercut that puts Hominick in survival mode. "The Machine" secures a takedown and begins landing ground and pound as a cut on his cheek drips blood onto his opponent and the canvas.
The hometown crowd roars in approval with every strike that lands from their hero and as the seconds tick away, the feeling that Hominick might pull off the upset begins to creep inside of those watching. Aldo simply has nothing to offer in terms of defense and is basically a sitting duck for his newly-energized opponent.
Head, head, body attacks "The Machine" as we enter the last minute. The crowd is now deafening, almost willing their fellow Canadian on. But the champion proves too resilient, too tough to give up and the final horn sounds off.
After 25-minutes, the 145-pound title stayed around the waist of Jose Aldo. In addition to the giant hematoma on his forehead, Hominick -- along with his Brazilian opponent -- takes home a check for $129,000 dollars for his part in the evening's Fight of the Night.
This was no mere fight. This was as close to warfare as the UFC will ever get. Both men left a portion of their careers inside the Octagon that night, sacrificed in order to earn the right to be called a champion. They are forever changed, never to look at themselves or how they have chosen to spend their lives the same way again.
The Canadian isn't set to return to the Octagon until December. A win could put him right back in the number one contender's slot.
Who would be there to meet him? An old foe ready for a sequel to their amazing bout? Or a long-time UFC veteran, destiny fulfilled by finally becoming a champion?
We'll find out in nine days.