With the increased number of events in 2014, a card featuring not one, but two title fights, will soon become a rarity. While many expressed their confusion towards not putting Aldo vs. Lamas on a FOX card scheduled for Lamas's hometown, with a controversial main event between Bendo and Josh Thomson simply reinforcing said concerns, the past is behind us, and the future looks bright with a stacked line up for UFC 169. As I mentioned before, two titles will be on the line as Jose Aldo goes for his sixth consecutive title defense, eight if you count the WEC, against Ricardo Lamas, and Renan Barao looks for his first 'official' title defense against Urijah Faber. While the main event featuring Faber and Barao has been stealing many of the headlines with the late-replacement aspect along with Faber's undeniable popularity, an intriguing featherweight title fight has managed to slip under the radar. And now, it's time to give that fight its just deserts.
Jose Aldo is currently sitting in the #2 spot on the UFC pound-for-pound ranking, though an argument can be made that he is the true #1. At 27 years of age, Jose has amassed a 23-1 record, knocking out more than half of his opponents and decisively dominating the rest. Aside from a rear-naked choke by Luciano Azevedo back in 2004, he has never really been in trouble inside the cage. He's been so dominant, in fact, that guys like Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian receive praise for simply hanging with the guy for five rounds. But if 2013 taught us anything, it's that champions can fall. Both Jon Jones and GSP were severely tested, leading many to conclude that they had actually lost their most recent title fight. Perennial top dogs like Anderson Silva and Benson Henderson (I know it's unfair to include them in the same sentence) fell to promising new champions. And yet, Rhonda Rousey, Demetrious Johnson, and Cain Velasquez look more unbeatable than ever.
So where does Ricardo Lamas fit into the picture? He may not be the biggest name at 145 lbs, a fact he attributes to his lack of mic skills, but he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the division, unquestionably. Unbeaten in the UFC, Lamas has defeated all four of his opponents, finishing three of them in explosive fashion. With a strong wrestling base and a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, Lamas is a serious threat on the ground, evident by his brilliant arm-triangle choke of Cub Swanson at UFC on FOX 1. The most dangerous facet of his game, however, is his improved striking. His knockout power, if nothing else, gives opponents something else to think about in the Octagon, thus opening up more opportunities for take downs. And if they choose not to heed his warning? Well, ask Erik Koch how that worked out for him. I think we can agree that Lamas is a world class fighter and a true #1 contender, but will that be enough to dethrone the best featherweight of all time? I'll save my predictions for later, but I will say this. I believe the co-main at UFC 169 will be an extremely entertaining fight, and I can't wait.