Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight contenders Jose Aldo and Alexander Volkanovski will go to war this Saturday (May 11, 2019) at UFC 237 from inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Volkanovski is Featherweight’s hottest new contender, currently riding a 15-fight win streak that includes a knockout win of former title challenger Chad Mendes. That puts him in a precarious position, though, as Aldo is beginning to make a habit of knocking off top contenders. Since losing his crown, the Brazilian has secured consecutive knockout wins for the first time since 2009, looking incredibly dangerous and composed in the process. Frankly, it’s the best fight on the card, the highest level match up of two very different but equally violent technicians.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 179, UFC 142), Frankie Edgar (UFC 200, UFC 156), Renato Moicano (UFC 232), 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: One of the absolute best to ever strap on a pair of 4 oz. gloves, Aldo is known as the best counter wrestler is mixed martial arts (MMA) history for a reason. Aldo destroys opponents who look to take him down, forcing them to walk through a minefield of jump knees, uppercuts and chopping low kicks.
Given Aldo’s largely impenetrable takedown defense, I do not expect the wrestling of the Aussie to be a major problem for Aldo. Instead, it’s Volkanovski’s pace that is the threat. “The Great” applies massive amounts of pressure, both on the feet and with his takedowns, looking to sap an opponent’s gas tank.
At this point, making Aldo tired is pretty much the only proven and consistent way to defeat him, but that does not mean it is easy. Opposite the wrestler, I’d like to see Aldo really commit to smacking his foe’s lead leg out of position, which will make it easier for Aldo to circle freely. In addition, the jab proved to be a great weapon against Frankie Edgar, and that would be a fairly low energy way to keep Volkanovski back.
For Aldo, this fight is really all about managing his gas tank, as he’s going to be the better man early. He has to pick and choose when to engage and when to rest, as Volkanovski will not be put away easily.
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 133), Jeremy Kennedy (UFC 221), Mizuto Hirota (UFC Fight Night 110)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Volkanovski may be unable to match Aldo’s explosiveness and speed, but Volkanovski is a hugely impressive athlete in his own right. The Aussie has some immense strength and a seemingly endless gas tank, which combine to make him a suffocating and punishing wrestler. In addition, Volkanovski’s pressure kickboxing is quite smart, relying on kicks and jabs to herd his opponent into the fence and power shots.
In truth, there is no real surprise to Volkanovski’s approach: he’s just really damn good at mixing together his kickboxing and wrestling while pressuring. Luckily, that’s a style that gives just about everyone trouble, as Volkanovski forces foes into a more defensive position.
Against Aldo, there’s really only one adjustment I’d like to see Volkanovski make, which is to limit his early takedown attempts. A real shot here or there is necessary to make his foe respect the takedown feints, but trying to wrestle Aldo to the mat early simply isn’t going to happen and only puts Volkanovski in danger. Instead, Volkanovski must imitate Holloway and fatigue his foe with constant stand up pressure.
Once Aldo is tired, wrestling becomes a more viable option, but even then, punches to the jaw is the more proven method of defeating “Scarface.”
Bottom Line: This will be an awesome fight.
I don’t precisely know what the consequences are for Aldo, as the Brazilian seems disinterested in the title hunt. Usually, three straight wins over top-notch contenders would see a former champion immediately back in contention, but not when the current strap-hanger has already bested him twice. If Holloway were to lose at any point, Aldo would be the most deserving man, but it’s still unclear that Aldo actually wants to fight that much longer.
Perhaps retirement or the boxing ring hold more sway over Aldo’s heart at this point.
Conversely, the stakes are crystal clear for Volkanovski: “The Great” is fighting to earn a title shot. Volkanovski is already on a hell of a win streak, so another victory — against one of the greatest Featherweight of all time — does nothing less than guarantee a title shot. Plus, Volkanovski vs. Holloway would be a fantastic match up and true threat to the “Blessed” throne.
At UFC 237, Jose Aldo and Alexander Volkanovski will square off. Which man will earn the victory?