Jose Aldo should not be good anymore.
The legendary Brazilian, however, is more than good. He’s a bonafide contender at 135 pounds, which doesn’t make a lick of sense, going against almost all established precedent. The 34-year-old former Featherweight kingpin put on very arguably one of his career best performances last night, battering the ultra tough Pedro Munhoz for three rounds.
Before we get into last night’s master class, let’s quickly recap Jose Aldo’s professional career. “Scarface’s” professional debut came in 2004. Most professional MMA fighters fall off harshly at about the 10-year mark, and Aldo seemed to be following the trend, as his knockout loss to Conor McGregor came in 2015. Let me be clear in saying that Aldo did not suck in the following three years, but he won about as often as he lost, whereas previously Aldo had not tasted defeat in a decade.
That should have been it. By most any established precedent, champions who are dethroned late in their careers do not get better. They definitely do not rebound while flirting with transitioning to boxing or jumping up a weight class.
Due to the aforementioned Lightweight interest, Aldo’s move to Bantamweight came as a shock. More specifically, it read like a real bad idea. The older former champ who struggles with his weight cuts and cardio is going down a weight class? How is that going to help?
The outcome defies logic, but Aldo has improved. The Marlon Moraes split-decision ruins the narrative a bit, but on most fan and media scorecards, Aldo took that victory immediately following Moraes’ excellent title bid. He lost cleanly to Petr Yan but gave the Russian a hell of a fight, and now Aldo rides a two-fight win streak over very good Bantamweights.
Last night was so encouraging for Aldo’s future. Against Marlon Vera, Aldo won, but he showed his age a bit, coughing up a round to Vera’s pressure before his wrestling skill seemingly bailed him out of trouble. Munhoz is a natural pressure fighter and looked to recreate Vera’s moments of success, refusing to take a backwards step and trying to drain Aldo through sheer force of will.
It didn’t work. Not only did it not work, but Aldo landed the most strikes in his entire UFC career! The Brazilian’s boxing was sublime, as he pieced Munhoz up with multiples of jabs. His late career signature body work was there, doing damage to his advancing foe, but the most exciting aspect was the low kicks.
By the third round, Aldo was in pure flow state. He was reacting perfectly, having mastered Munhoz’s timing, and the low kicks just started landing. He didn’t score an absurd number, but he managed to knock Munhoz to the floor and clearly damage “Young Punisher” in quick fashion. Aldo brought together all the great elements of his game that have been displayed independently and put them together. Best of all, at the end of 15 minutes, he looked fresh!
If Aldo stepped into the cage tomorrow with champion Aljamain Sterling, who would you pick?
Jose Aldo should be in the twilight of his career. Instead, he might genuinely be better than ever, if still less deadly than the famed WEC Aldo. There is no time to waste: throw Aldo in a title eliminator vs. someone like T.J. Dillashaw before Father Time finally notices that one has slipped his notice.
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