Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo takes on former lightweight kingpin Frankie Edgar this Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) in the main event of UFC 156 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
To see our complete fighter breakdown on "The Answer" click here.
"Junior" will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon after more than a year of inactivity. Injuries to both him and his opponents have kept him sidelined, but now he will attempt to defend his strap in the promotion's first pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2013.
After decimating every challenger the WEC and UFC could throw at him, the Brazilian now faces the biggest test in his young mixed martial arts (MMA) career. Does "Scarface" have the skills to crush Edgar and cement himself as one of the greatest fighters of all time?
Let's find out.
Jose Aldo is a vicious Muay Thai wrecking machine, embodying the "Art of Eight Limbs." He attacks his opponents with admirable violence and is constantly seeking to finish the fight. Of Aldo's 21 career victories, 13 are by way of knockout/technical knockout.
The most important part of Aldo's striking game is his devastating leg kicks, landing them with shocking consistency. When "Junior" throws a leg kick, he really turns his hip into it and lands on almost the exact spot every time, which makes it even more effective.
Aldo prefers to throw the leg kick at the end of a combination, when his opponent is backing away from his other strikes, because then they are more difficult to counter. If his opponents start reaching down towards his leg, Aldo will often fire off a quick high kick to discourage them.
The most famous -- and brutal -- example of Aldo's leg kick mastery was against Urijah Faber.
Aldo destroyed "The California Kid's" lead leg, making his power punches and takedowns slow and useless. By the end of their fight at WEC 48, Faber could barely walk and "Scarface" had made a serious statement to the rest of the division.
"Junior's" boxing, while not as dynamic as his kicks or knees, is still very effective. He hits fast and hard, often landing a heavy right cross backed up by a flurry of hooks. The one problem with his boxing is that he doesn't jab very often, which would allow him to keep his opponents in leg kicking range even more than he already does.
One of Aldo's most unique punches is his lead uppercut. The lead uppercut is a risky punch because there are plenty of opportunities to counter, but Aldo is fast enough to make it work. He also waits until his opponents have a healthy respect for his power before throwing it and sets it up with a left-hand feint.
Perhaps Aldo's knees are his best weapon. He explodes into them and times them better than anyone else in MMA. "Scarface" attacks with dynamic knees at all opportunities, but particularly when his opponent is attempting takedowns.
One spectacular example of Aldo's dangerous knees is his fight against Cub Swanson. A skilled striker in his own right, Swanson was destroyed by "Junior" in just eight seconds. Perhaps he was expecting a kick, and wanting to counter with an overhand, ducked down as Aldo moved forward and rocketed into a flying knee, quickly earning himself a title shot under World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
Aldo's defense is almost as dynamic as his offense. His loves to stand in the pocket and slip strikes, before returning some of his own. His footwork is also very good and is constantly able to maintain a range where he can land leg kicks while his opponent cannot land punches.
Aldo rarely bothers taking his opponents down, choosing to knock them out instead. When he shoots for a takedown, he succeeds most of the time, in part because his opponents are shocked that he is shooting on them. While Aldo is proficient at taking his opponents down, it is perhaps the weakest point in his game, simply because he is elite everywhere else.
"Junior" is also one of the hardest guys in MMA to take down. He is very quick, his hips are very strong and is nearly impossible to hold on to. When these factors are combined, we get to see world class wrestlers like Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber look silly when they try to take the Brazilian down. Aldo's favorite way to stuff takedowns is to push the head towards the mat and turn away, making it very difficult to hold onto the champion's leg.
The factor that really elevates Aldo's takedown defense to the next level is his ability to damage fighters while they are trying to take him down. Whenever a fighter shoots in for a double or single, Aldo quickly hammers their skull with hooks and uppercuts. In addition to making the focus on their current takedown difficult, this discourages future attempts.
Aldo's ability to attack while his opponent is trying to take him down is particularly evident from the clinch. "Junior" may be incredibly difficult to hold onto in the middle of the cage, but against the fence, it is much easier for his opponents.
To counter this, Aldo has become an expert on capitalizing on small openings to throw knees. Kenny Florian tried to grind Aldo against the fence, and it was sort of working early, but then Aldo landed some big knees that seriously deterred "Kenflo" and made him much more hesitant. More recently, Aldo nearly decapitated Chad Mendes after escaping his grasp.
Aldo has earned a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt under Nova Uniao head coach and Carlson Gracie-trained black belt Andre Pederneiras. Before his MMA career, "Junior" was an up and coming jiu-jitsu competitor. Despite this, we rarely see Aldo's ground game, as he is far too busy knocking people out.
The only time in recent memory that we saw Aldo's jiu-jitsu was against Mark Hominick. For the first four rounds, Aldo occasionally took Hominick down and thrashed him from the top, showing solid guard-passing skills and heavy pressure, also keeping consistent posture.
In the fifth frame, a battered Hominick took down a seriously fatigued Aldo and was able to land hard punches from the top, but despite Aldo's severe exhaustion, "The Machine" wasn't able to pass. "Scarface" maintained a fairly active open guard, vainly trying to kick Hominick off him. Unfortunately, this doesn't tell us a lot about his guard at full strength.
Aldo may be the very best finisher in MMA. He is able to capitalize on minute holes in his opponent's defense and quickly finish them. When Aldo hurts an opponent, he violently swarms on them, attacking until the referee pulls him off. Aldo's reflexes are also incredible, making it even easier to find those defensive gaps.
One example of Aldo's killer instinct would be his fight against Manny Gamburyan. Aldo easily handled Gamburyan in the first round, forcing "The Manvil" to shoot for a takedown. "Junior" lands a lead uppercut, stuffs the shot, and runs around to Gamburyan's back, before unleashing a vicious flurry of haymakers that put the Armenian out cold
Aldo can quickly jump into any number of dangerous techniques. This ability to finish the fight at any moment raises him from a very good fighter to one of the best in combat sports.
Best chance for success
Aldo should leg kick Edgar as much as he possibly can early in the fight. Edgar's circling leaves him very open to leg kicks, so "Junior" should exploit that. The two most likely scenarios where Aldo wins are an early knockout and one where he does so much damage in the first couple rounds, that it negates Edgar's cardio advantage, and leg kicks really open up both options.
When Aldo isn't kicking Edgar's leg out from under him, "Scarface" should attempt either a knee or an uppercut every time "The Answer" bursts forward. Both strikes serve the dual purpose of defending takedowns and doing serious damage.
Once Aldo gets his kicking game going, Edgar's circling and footwork should be a shell of what they were earlier. When that happens, the champion can really open up with his boxing, If Edgar can't circle like he wants to, he'll be forced to trade with "Junior" at Aldo's preferred range, which is a very unpleasant place to be.
Will Aldo get the biggest win of his career, or will Edgar lay claim to the featherweight title? Find out in two days!