There aren't many fighters out there like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 145-pound kingpin, Jose Aldo.
At 27 years old, the Featherweight champion has compiled 24 professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fights, coming out victorious in all but one. He has been a champion for more than four years, first in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) before being brought over to UFC proper.
Aldo's resume includes wins over impressive names such as Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, Urijah Faber and many, many more. With such an impressive hit list, it's a shock that "Scarface" still has yet to really break through as a bankable star with the world's leading MMA promotion.
However, later this evening (Sat., Feb. 1, 2014), the Brazilian has a chance to make his first step toward changing all that.
Aldo will defend his title in the co-main event of the evening against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169, a stacked card the night before Super Bowl -- always a big night for UFC -- at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. If he can win impressively, it would certainly be very favorable, making several old -- and new -- fans realize his immeasurable talent.
Nonetheless, even if he doesn't make waves with a win over Lamas, simply beating him is a huge step toward super stardom.
That's because leading into this fight, Aldo has reiterated that he would like to move up to Lightweight to challenge division champion Anthony Pettis. Indeed, should Aldo topple Lamas, he will have essentially sanitized the division and put himself in prime position to be the next 155-pound contender.
It's not like UFC President Dana White is foaming at the mouth to anoint former champion Ben Henderson the No. 1-ranked contender.
However, this is anything but a forgone conclusion.
Lamas is a solid all-around fighter, with great wrestling skills and terrific athleticism. Aldo has shown that he can stop one-dimensional wrestlers, but can he handle a well-rounded threat like Lamas? Some may bring up his showing against Chad Mendes, but that was a fight in which Mendes was way too focused on his wrestling rather than looking out for knees from Hades.
Indeed, Lamas isn't going to be satisfied to just go for takedowns (and then look lost when he can't get them). He is a pressure fighter who swarms opponents with constant attacks, which could overwhelm Aldo if he isn't prepared for the full MMA slate. Lamas' transitions from striking to grappling will be a threat at all times, and with the power he packs, don't be shocked to see him fluster Aldo for a few rounds.
Regardless, this really is a fight Aldo should win.
If Aldo wants to "play it safe," he might as well be playing with fire because allowing Lamas more time to get in the fight could be a death sentence in the championship rounds. Aldo would be best advised to take this fight to Lamas with the more violent approach he showed earlier in his career, throwing damaging leg kicks and threatening with potentially fight-finishing strikes.
In other words, the earlier this fight ends, the better it is for Aldo.
If Aldo wins this fight, there's not much standing in the way of him getting the next lightweight title shot if that's the path he chooses to travel. He is absolutely the fighter with the most on the line this weekend because him moving up to fight Pettis could allow UFC to finally hit on the "super" fight it missed out on with the untimely departure of Georges St-Pierre and the horrible injury to Anderson Silva.
Meanwhile, Featherweight would have a new life injection, allowing training partner, Bantamweight champion Renan Barao, to move up a weight class and challenge for the title should he defeat Urijah Faber this weekend. Make no mistake, Aldo defeating Lamas this weekend could have a domino effect that opens up several new avenues at 155, 145 and 135.
No pressure ...