Whether it's Anderson Silva, Jon Jones or whichever top fighter is performing, the battle to be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA) is often swayed by the guy who fought last. Perhaps it's because between these two and Jose Aldo, they've stocked the highlight reels for years to come.
Aldo had looked sluggish in his last two fights, tiring late against Mark Hominick and, quite frankly, tiring early against Kenny Florian. But he's obviously made the proper adjustments, because he looked his fantastic old self against Chad Mendes, an unbeaten challenger with a ton of ability and horsepower to potentially test the champ, in the UFC 142 main event last night (Jan. 14, 2012) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
While an obvious fence grab denied Mendes what would've been a clear takedown and a likely slam onto the mat, moments later, Aldo scuttled all hopes of an upset with a move that was precisely executed: spinning out of a back-control clinch by Mendes, Aldo rotated around and, while still gripping Mendes' wrist, rammed home a booming knee.
It was pretty much like hitting a T-ball given the control he had of Mendes, and one hell of a veteran move. Like every good wrinkle that turns into a highlight-reel moment, you can bet you'll other fighters trying it more often in the coming months and years.
But, the visual after the fight was what truly captured the gravity of Aldo's win. Sprinting into the crowd, he celebrated the victory with his fellow Brazilians. That kind of thing really captures the hearts of fans, and will go a long way toward helping him fill Silva's shoes if and when the "Spider," who turns 37 in April, decides to retire.
With a talent-rich lightweight division, and a title that could well change hands several times in the next few years, Aldo faces a tough call. He seems head and shoulders above everyone at 145 pounds presently, but that also is an opportunity to string together some good defenses and continue building his name and fame.
What's scary is he took at a contender in Mendes that right now would be at least a 2-1 favorite over anyone else in the UFC currently fighting at featherweight. The guess here is we'll see more 155-pounders drop down given the circumstances in both divisions.
Meanwhile, as long as Aldo stays Aldo, getting to the top of that mountain will a tough assignment for anyone.
For a recap of the fight between Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes click here and here. To check out complete UFC 142: "Aldo vs. Mendes" results click here.
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst