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UFC Fight Night 144 card: Jose Aldo vs Renato Moicano full fight preview

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight combatants Jose Aldo and Renato Moicano will go to war this Saturday (Feb. 2, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 144 (watch on ESPN+ here) from inside Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil.

We’re a few years removed from Aldo’s near decade of dominance, but the Brazilian remains must-watch entertainment. In fact, Aldo is still quite near the top of his division. Aldo recently commented that he’s retiring at the end of the year and no longer interested in the title, but Aldo isn’t about to take any softball fights, either. Moicano, meanwhile, is one of the most promising fighters to emerge from prospect status in the last couple years. Moicano is well-rounded, violent, and opportunistic — and he’s one of the most deserving contenders who has yet to face the “Blessed” champion.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Jose Aldo

Record: 27-4
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 179, UFC 142), Frankie Edgar (UFC 200, UFC 156), Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 30), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 169)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 218, UFC 212), Conor McGregor (UFC 194)
Keys to Victory: Aldo is an all-time great on the strength of his incredible Muay Thai, slick defense, and status as possibly the best anti-wrestler in UFC history. Last time out, Aldo showed off both his creativity and violence opposite a dangerous man in Jeremy Stephens to score his first stoppage win in years.

Realistically, we have a kickboxing match, and Moicano does bring to the table some of the tools that troubled Aldo in his losses to Holloway and McGregor. First and foremost, Moicano is a long, rangy fighter, and he’s also quite capable on the counter.

To navigate that range disadvantage, I’d like to see Aldo force Moicano to come to him. He’ll have to motivate Moicano with some low kicks and sharp jabs, which just so happen to be his primary weapons. Moicano is certainly comfortable advancing too, but when he’s coming forward, his defense is less sure, and there’s a smaller chance of Aldo running into a straight shot.

Renato Moicano

Record: 13-1 (1)
Key Wins: Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 24), Cub Swanson (UFC 227), Calvin Kattar (UFC 223), Zubair Tukhugov (UFC 198)
Key Losses: Brian Ortega (UFC 214)
Keys to Victory: A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, a majority of Moicano’s work inside the Octagon has been done at range. Moicano is a rather active striker, making great use of the jab, counter combinations, and punishingly hard kicks. He’s also a smart strategist, a trait seen first when he made Jeremy Stephens miss for three straight rounds and once more when he kicked the leg out from boxer Calvin Kattar.

As mentioned above, Moicano’s most obvious advantage is range here. When looking to the past men who beat Aldo, Moicano seems more likely to find success copying the Holloway strategy of rangy pressure and activity rather than hoping for the perfect cross counter like McGregor scored early.

With that in mind, I’d like to see Moicano increase his volume as much as possible. That will certainly prove dangerous early on — Aldo’s counter punches are not to be ignored — but Moicano’s ability to string together a four-punch combo and cap it off with a kick is promising. If he can put forth a huge number of strikes early, things are likely to get easier for him as the fight wears on.

Bottom Line: It’s an absolute banger of a fight with potential title implications.

Aldo’s current plan for 2019 is to fight three times in Brazil, win each match, and retire with his head high. As such, there’s no real division implication since he isn’t interested in the title hunt anymore. However, retiring on a high note is certainly serious motivation, and Aldo will serve a valuable cause in testing potential title challengers with these three fights.

As fight fans, be sure to enjoy seeing Aldo in the Octagon before he leaves it for good.

The stakes are more dramatic for Moicano, who’s potentially fighting for a title shot on Saturday. It’s only taken a few wins for Moicano to dramatically assert himself in the title picture, and he does have a solid skill set and the brains to challenge Holloway. It would be a great title fight, and it’s very possible with just one more victory. Unfortunately for Moicano, there are a few other very dangerous Featherweight prospects vying for that opportunity, and a loss puts him at the back of that line.

At UFC on ESPN+ 2, Jose Aldo and Renato Moicano will collide in the co-main event. Which Brazilian will have his hand raised in Fortaleza?