Jose Aldo has done it again.
Often hailed as one of the top pound for pound mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters on the planet, last night (Feb. 1, 2014) the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight champion defended his 145-pound crown for an ultra-impressive eighth time.
And once again, he did so in decidedly unmemorable fashion.
It's become something of a disheartening trend in Aldo's fights as of late. Watching the decision prone, conservative fighter "Scarface" has turned into, it's sometimes hard to remember he's the same man who violently ran through the competition in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) like a chainsaw slicing up pieces of cheesecake.
Sure, Aldo showed glimpses of his past brilliance against challenger Ricardo Lamas en route to a five round decision victory over him at UFC 169 -- particularly early in the fight when he hit "The Bully" with some leg kick/punch combinations so beautiful they'd make any true art lover get a little misty eyed -- but at no time did Aldo give off the air of being an untouchable killer cut from the same premium cloth as his fellow countryman, and possible GOAT, Anderson Silva, or even his Nova Uniao teammate, bantamweight champ Renan Barao.
Simply put, while Aldo may have looked very good against Lamas, he failed to look transcendentally great.
That may be fine if all "Scarface" wants to do is keep stacking up "W's" and collecting a healthy winner's purse on a regular basis. However, if he wants to be a star commensurate with the level of talent he showed in his WEC run, Aldo is going to need something no amount of blue boxes on his Wikipedia page can earn him.
It's telling that at UFC 169 Aldo became the first champion in history to co-main event a PPV card headlined by lighter fighters. UFC's (not so) big Superbowl weekend event may have originally been set to be main evented by the long-anticipated bantamweight title unification match between former champ Dominick Cruz and interim title holder turned undisputed champ Renan Barao -- before "The Dominator" was forced to pull out of the bout due to a groin injury that is -- but traditionally the higher weight champion always headlines UFC cards that feature two title fights, regardless of discrepancies in drawing power.
That UFC didn't see Aldo vs. Lamas as worthy of headlining its Superbowl weekend event says all you need to know about how the company perceives Aldo as a draw, and how tepid of a challenger they thought Lamas was from a box office perspective.
Seeing how Aldo doesn't speak English, he's never going to able to pull a Chael Sonnen and reach the next level of stardom with his mouth. That leaves him only one option: getting over with the public the old fashioned way and letting his actions in the cage do his talking for him.
Which is why it's in Aldo's best interest to not only stack up wins, but begin stacking up the kind of attention-grabbing wins that in the aggregate lead to an Anderson Silva-like legacy. It took years for Silva to become a pay per view (PPV) selling attraction, and it was his feud with Chael Sonnen, along with a spectacular front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort, that truly set the former Middleweight champ's star in orbit.
What Aldo needs more than anything right now is an opponent who will push him out of his comfort zone -- one who is talented enough to take the fight to "Scarface" and not allow himself to be played like an orchestra obediently following the lead of its conductor. As game as Lamas was, what Aldo needs next is to face an elite fighter who, in theory at least, can stand toe to toe with him and present him with a Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jon Jones or Johny Hendricks vs. Georges St. Pierre-type challenge.
What Aldo needs is Anthony Pettis.
The offensive minded, superlatively skilled Pettis is just what the doctor ordered for a formerly exciting fighter who has gone to decision four times in his UFC reign (and, realistically speaking, notched up one of his two UFC finishes due to an in-cage injury to UFC 163 challenger Chan Sung Jung).
If Pettis can't take the fight to Aldo and force him to look for the finish, it's tough to see who could.
Not only that, but a bout between Aldo and Pettis would almost certainly be imbued with more of the ever-coveted "big fight feel" than any other match-up conceivable south of 170-pounds at the moment. In fact, it's arguably a bigger match than anything the Welterweight division has to offer in this brave new 170-pound world without "GSP."
At the UFC 169-post fight press conference UFC President Dana White admitted his company is looking to make a fight between Aldo and Pettis, when "Showtime" returns from rehabbing the knee injury that is currently keeping him on the sidelines.
Although there may appear to be a slight risk involved for Aldo in this scenario -- according to White he would have to vacate his featherweight title in order to challenge Pettis for the lightweight belt -- it's really a win/win for "Scarface."
If Aldo can beat Pettis, and the fight ends up being as exciting as it appears on paper, then it would likely help him take his star to the next level. In the event he comes up short against "Showtime," Aldo can move right back down to 145 pounds and immediately challenge for the title.
The alternative is for Aldo to keep doing what he's been doing for the past three years of his UFC tenure: silently amassing wins, while failing to garner the same degree of interest in his fights as that afforded to his fellow champions.
Luckily, it appears White is going to get what he wants this time around, and we'll finally be able to see Aldo take on Pettis sometime later this year.
Let's just hope Aldo stays off his motorcycle and Pettis trains with his knee in covered in bubble wrap before the fight. This is one match it would be a real shame to see called off due to injury.