Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight champion Jose Aldo entered UFC 156 on the heels of the longest layoff of his career (13 months) against arguably the toughest opponent he has ever faced in former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar.
From watching Aldo's spectacular performance against "The Answer," you wouldn't guess either of the points above to be true.
"Scarface" looked like he didn't miss a beat during his time away with a stellar effort against Edgar that earned him a decision win via scorecards of 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47. The win pushed Aldo's record under the ZUFFA banner (UFC and WEC) to 12-0 and after beating an opponent who was believed to be his biggest challenge yet, the Brazilian has plenty of options for his next move.
Aldo can remain at 145-pounda and continue to defend his title, or he may decide now is the time to jump up a weight class to the lightweight division after taking out the former champion of the 155-pound division.
To address the latter option first, Aldo has not made any commitments when it comes to moving to lightweight, but he has stated in the past he will eventually be forced to fight at a higher weight class, as the cut to featherweight is grueling. If the 26-year-old wants to enter the ranks of the lightweight division, an argument can be made that there is no better time than now after defeating the man who ruled the weight class for over two years.
Should Aldo choose to remain at featherweight, there are a number of challengers deserving of a shot at the gold, but none more so than Ricardo Lamas, an American fighter who knocked out Erik Koch last weekend at UFC on FOX 6: "Johnson vs. Dodson."
Lamas is 4-0 in the weight class with back-to-back-to-back wins over Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Koch. Victories over those fighters are nothing to shake your head at. Swanson has reeled off three knockout wins in a row since losing to Lamas and is flirting with title contention himself, which should prove how significant that victory was for "The Bully." Hioki was one win away from fighting for the UFC belt until he ran into Lamas and had his title aspirations derailed. Koch was scheduled to fight Aldo for the 145-pound strap on two separate occasions in 2012 before the fights were scrapped due to injury. Lamas just knocked out "New Breed" in devastating fashion.
If that isn't a good enough case for a title fight, nothing is.
There is a contingent of people who say Chan Sung Jung should get the next title shot, but "The Korean Zombie" simply doesn't have the same amount of quality wins when comparing his resume to Lamas. He does, though, have the bigger name -- something that has proven to be more than enough to get title fights in the past.
If you're talking about deserving contenders, Lamas and Jung are the frontrunners, but if you're talking about the biggest fight the UFC could make at this time, you have to take notice of the bombshell UFC President Dana White dropped at the UFC 156 post-fight press conference (watch it here).
White announced that lightweight contender Anthony Pettis texted him shortly after the conclusion of the UFC 156 main event requesting a fight with Aldo at featherweight. "Showtime" is in line for a title shot at 155-pounds, but it appears he has no interest in waiting for Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez to face off at UFC on FOX 7 on April 20, 2013, and wants to get back in the cage as soon as possible, leaving the UFC with a very intriguing option for Aldo's next fight.
Aldo's next move really depends on what his goals are. Does he want to continue to rack up title defenses at 145-pounds and set a record that will likely never be broken? Does he want to vacate the belt and move up to lightweight? Or maybe keep the belt, go up to lightweight and try and become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold belts in two weight classes. As we said at the top, the possibilities are endless.
Who would you like to see Aldo face next? Let us know in the comments section below.