Ten years of sheer dominance over every fighter in his wake washed away by one staggering left hand.
Jose Aldo is no longer the UFC featherweight champion. Seeing him fall to the canvas in an unconscious version of the man who defeated 18 straight opponents forces you to understand it as much. He was out cold, leaving no controversy surrounding the way he was defeated by Conor McGregor at UFC 194.
But what isn’t so easy to understand, what’s hard to comprehend is his current standing with the promotion. The most dominant fighter in the history of the featherweight division is being robbed of a deserved opportunity for redemption.
Aldo came into the bout recognized as the B-side fighter, and he leaves nothing but the man who lost at UFC 194. To the less-than-avid fan buying into a UFC event for the first time, the ones who spent their Saturday night with no greater hope than an exciting contest, Aldo is nobody.
To them, he may not be the man who defeated Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber, Ricardo Lamas or Cub Swanson; he’s the guy who lost 13 seconds into the biggest fight of his already historic career.
To them, he may not be the mild-manered fighter who absorbed 77 of the most significant strikes Mendes could offer at UFC 179; he’s the guy who couldn’t take one punch from McGregor at UFC 194.
Without an immediate rematch on the same stage on which he lost, those same fans won’t have reason to believe otherwise.
It’s all a damn shame, really, considering Aldo did what he did for as long as he did.
So the division moves on with Frankie Edgar as its next challenger, leaving Aldo with nothing but time to grieve and a tall mountain to climb.
And, you see, this would all be fine had the promotion not created precedence by giving so many of its previously dominant, but ultimately fallen champions immediate opportunities to exact revenge.
Just one month ago, Ronda Rousey fell from the very pedestal we’d placed her on. Seen as the most dominant female fighter in the history of combat sports, Rousey was reduced to a fighter “exposed” by a far superior striker. For six consecutive minutes we saw Holly Holm pierce the very armor we thought impermeable. Rousey was human, providing us with nothing so much as a sign of hope that she could defeat Holm in a rematch.
But she got one anyway — an immediate one, to be specific. Though it’s not set in stone, conventional wisdom tells you Holm vs. Rousey II goes down at UFC 200 in July.
It didn’t matter that Miesha Tate had already won four in a row and was next in line. Forget about Amanda Nunes, while you’re at it. After all Rousey had done for the sport of women’s mixed martial arts, after all the arms she’d collected along the way, the former Olympic judoka was the UFC’s only choice for Holm’s first title defense.
We venture a bit deeper into the archives, finding ourselves at the halfway point in 2015 to be reminded of another similar situation — the night the baddest man on the planet slapped his hands onto the thigh of his Brazilian title challenger as a sign of defeat.
Cain Velasquez was not the better fighter at UFC 188. There were too many jabs, too many knees from the challenger and far too many deep breaths from the champion to maintain otherwise. But plenty were quick to discount Fabricio Werdum’s performance that night, claiming Velasquez was merely a victim of the extreme altitude.
Adopting that mentality, the UFC granted Velasquez an immediate rematch. He meets Werdum at UFC 196 in February.
Forget that Andrei Arlosvki had won six consecutive bouts — four of which came inside the Octagon. Nevermind that Stipe Miocic, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett or Ben Rothwell could make a strong case for a title shot in late 2015 or early 2016. Velasquez’s “off night” was of most importance here, and it may have been the only factor considered in creating the next title fight in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Two relatively dominant champions had fallen, both awarded an immediate opportunity to reclaim the throne.
In a seeming attempt to further unclog the top of the 145-pound division, the UFC will opt out of offering its most recent fallen titleholder the same luxury.
Only Aldo’s defeat wasn’t one in the same with those belonging to Rousey or Velasquez. The former featherweight titleholder wasn’t dominated for several minutes before being stopped in his tracks. Referee “Big” John McCarthy spent more time reminding Aldo and McGregor of the rules than the two fighters spent in competition at UFC 194.
Rousey and Velasquez were dominated. Aldo got caught, plain and simple.
Not only that, but Aldo’s reign atop the featherweight division far surpasses Rousey’s or Velasquez’s. All things considered, if any of those three champions deserved an immediate rematch, it’s Aldo.
To be fair, this is the same writer who said McGregor’s potential victory at UFC 194 was best for business. I stand by those words; they still ring as true today as they did the moment my fingers first hit the keyboard. Aldo spent far too much of his championship reign hiding from the media, preferring to be a dominant champion who proved himself in the cage and out the headlines.
That’s also not to say Edgar isn’t a compelling foil to McGregor’s puzzling style. Nor does this mean Edgar isn’t deserving. But he’s been deserving for quite some time now. The UFC’s already shown Edgar he isn’t the money fight. That’s why he was passed up to face Aldo at UFC 189 in favor of the Irishman. It’s the same reason they asked Mendes, not Edgar, to step in on two week’s notice when Aldo pulled out of said fight.
If nothing else, Aldo didn’t do enough for the UFC to motivate the figureheads to do right by him.
That doesn’t make it right, though.