RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JANUARY 14: Jose Aldo (L) celebrates after defeating Chad Mendes in a featherweight bout during UFC 142 at HSBC Arena on January 14, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
After two straight hard-fought decision victories that didn't exactly leave everyone begging for more, some fans were wondering if the "old Jose Aldo" had disappeared.
Mendes, with his spotless record and extremely potent wrestling attack, was expected to be Aldo's most difficult test to date, potentially pushing him to his limits both on the ground and with his conditioning.
Instead, he found himself staring at the ceiling before time had expired in the first round, wondering what had gone wrong.
So how did Aldo channel his old killer self? And what happens next for both young featherweights?
Mendes opened up as a frenetic bundle of energy, cautiously throwing leg kicks at Aldo but the champ showed him what a real leg kick looked like with his first strike, landing a thundering right leg kick which wobbled the challenger.
Next up was the takedown defense. When Aldo snapped a left hook, "Money" immediately changed levels and shot in for the takedown with incredible speed and power, but Aldo reacted so quickly that he was able to spin away from danger and leave Mendes clutching at air.
Aldo again landed a ferocious leg kick and later followed it up with a big lead right uppercut which connected but again, Mendes reacted by dropping down, latching deeply onto a leg and attempting to power through and finish a takedown but the champ showcased his incredible speed and agility by again twisting away from danger.
With how deep Mendes got on that takedown attempt and how effortlessly Aldo was able to escape, the bout turned from a competitive match up into a race to see when Aldo was going to knock the challenger senseless.
Aldo again didn't even have to sprawl at Mendes' next takedown attempt, again deftly spinning away. He would delay the inevitable by latching onto a rear body lock (and Aldo did grab the fence to prevent a takedown attempt) but he also immediately popped back up without need of the fence the next time Mendes tried to lift him up and put him on the ground.
With five seconds left in the round, Aldo finally broke Mendes' grip and in a flash of brilliance, turned and kneed the undefeated Team Alpha Male fighter directly in the face. "Money" dropped to the canvas and the champ pounced with two heavy punches on the ground before Mario Yamasaki put a halt to the fight, just one second before time expired.
It was wild. It was incredible and then Aldo raced out of the cage to go celebrate with the hometown Brazilian crowd in one of the those rare moments that fans around the world will never forget.
For Chad Mendes, he didn't even do anything that poorly. He had a decent gameplan, but Aldo is simply that much better than he was last night. He was quick with everything from his leg kicks to his multiple takedown shots and he did everything he could to try to put Aldo on his back. His biggest problem was giving the champ the smallest of windows after losing his grip on the back body lock and "Scarface" made him pay. The key for him moving forward will be to simply continue to develop the rest of his game, but he's got a lot of catching up to do if he ever wants to give Aldo a true test.
It's going to be very difficult for Mendes to find a suitable opponent as he's clearly better than most everyone else at featherweight and the UFC won't want to see him take out potential title challengers. Perhaps a potential bout with former champion Mike Brown would be suitable. Other possible opponents could be George Roop or Tyson Griffin, who are always game.
For Jose Aldo, that was the old destroyer of worlds that WEC fans were expecting to see in 2011. He looked sharp, his takedown defense was on point and his leg kicks were as vicious as ever. He had such a small opening to finish that fight, but he took it with full force and finished a fighter who had never lost a round in his MMA career. It was the type of performance that makes fans wonder, "Is it even possible to beat this guy?" In this writer's opinion, the only way Aldo could ever lose in the next few years would be if he's ill or is suffering a horrible weight cut again. There is no one even close to his level in the talent department.
More importantly, this kid is now a transcendent superstar in Brazil after that performance.
Potential future title challengers include Hatsu Hioki if he can get past Bart Palaszewski or perhaps the young gun Dustin Poirier, who's facing unheralded Max Holloway in three weeks. One other potential option could be fan favorite Chan Sung Jung, who's coming off a Submission of the Year effort and the second fastest knockout in UFC history. I doubt any of these guys could actually beat Aldo, but he has to face someone.
Let's just hope that this is type of performance we can expect from the champion for years to come.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you impressed with Aldo's ferociousness? Is there anyone at featherweight who can actually give him a run for his money?