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UFC 278, The Morning After: Jose Aldo’s title run ends with no bang, but a whimper

On the cusp of another title shot opportunity, Jose Aldo let Merab Dvalishvili sit in the driver’s seat for their fight in Salt Lake City.

Jose Aldo is very possibly the greatest fighter of all time.

The Brazilian has pretty much every necessary aspect to make a claim. A decade undefeated? Check. Nine total title defenses? Check. Being a clear generation ahead of his peers when he first jumped into the scene? CHECK!

We’ve known Aldo isn’t at his peak anymore since, what, 2013? That’s when Aldo shattered his foot against Chan Sung Jung’s knee and stopped throwing the low kicks that first made him a legend. Since then, we’ve seen various phases of Aldo’s career come and go, as Aldo reinvented himself several times to remain relevant.

Even a diminished Aldo was more than great enough to rib roast Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano, and it was awesome. It really seemed like Aldo’s drop down to Bantamweight in 2020 would be his final form. He gave one hell of a showing against Petr Yan, really keeping up with his fellow master striker, but when the tide turned and Aldo was bludgeoned, it seemed like an appropriate and respectable time to end his career.

Instead, Aldo reinvented himself one last time. He joined the Brazilian navy boxing team, went back to his low kicks a bit, and really showcased a new ability to manage his conditioning with precision. The result was a trio of tremendous performances, most notably a win over current elite contender Marlon Vera.

Unfortunately, the ride ended last night. Merab Dvalishvili came in with the necessary game plan of jamming Aldo into the cage. I f—king hated watching it, but “The Machine” won. He landed enough knees to the thigh and controlled enough time in the clinch that there’s no real argument for Aldo outside of the first round.

Aldo still did some remarkable stuff. His takedown defense remains untouchable, and he probably landed the hardest shots of the fight. Unfortunately, much like his loss to eventual champion Alexander Volkanovski, Aldo just could not let his offense go in the face of a smart, tactical performance.

It didn’t have to be like this. Aldo could have — should have! — been the man fighting Aljamain Sterling for the title instead of TJ Dillashaw. Maybe he stuffs all his takedowns and lands something major, or more likely, Sterling evokes a similar performance from the Brazilian legend. Either way, Aldo very easily could have scored one last shot at gold before facing Dvalishvili.

Ultimately, Aldo’s sendoff wasn’t the glorious occasion he deserves. Still, by combat sports standards, well, it could be a whole lot worse.

For complete UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards” results and play-by-play, click HERE.

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