UFC 156 Aftermath: Jose Aldo, understated superstar

Esther Lin

He's gone a year and a half longer since his last loss than Georges St-Pierre. His current win streak started two-and-a-half years before Jon Jones had his first mixed martial arts fight. Last night, he defeated former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar more convincingly than Benson Henderson did in either of their fights.

So why doesn't UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr. yet have the star power to match the likes of St-Pierre, Jones, or Anderson Silva?

Aldo has been as impressive as any champion on the Zuffa roster. His striking and ability for spectacular finishes puts him in the company of Silva and Jones. During his entire tenure in Zuffa, 11 fights, we've never seen him in serious trouble (No, Mark Hominick did not have him in serious trouble). That's something you can't even say about Silva.

Perhaps Aldo hasn't broken through as an A-list headliner because he seems content to stay in his native Brazil most of the time and simply be a great fighter and not a transcendent superstar. The language barrier doesn't help, either.

Maybe its the fact that, prior to last night, he only fought once in the past 16 months, leaving him out of sight and out of mind.

It could also be in part because Zuffa keeps putting the black hat on him: Fighting Urijah Faber in front of his hometown fans in Sacramento; fighting Hominick in front of 55,000 Canadians at Toronto's Rogers Centre, and last night, taking on everyone's favorite sentimental underdog in Frankie Edgar.

Aldo doesn't call people out, start feuds, or do any of the other things outside the cage that so often get fighters to the front of the line. Even when asked something as non-controversial last night as whether he should go to lightweight, Aldo demurred.

"That's up to Dana and Joe Silva, he's going to fight anyone, he trains to fight anyone, so whoever they put in front of him," Aldo's interpreter said.

He's earned his way into the upper tier of the pound-for-pound rankings discussion, something UFC president Dana White acknowledged.

"He's one of the best pound-for-pound guys up there. Off the top of my head, the list? I called this a superfight between two of the best pound-for-pound in the world in their primes, and Jose won. He's definitely top four or five best pound-for-pound guys in the world."

Maybe Aldo will transform into a Silva-level superstar one of these days. After all, there was a time when Silva's drawing power didn't match his skills in the Octagon, either. Or maybe he won't. And that's OK, too, because as long as Aldo keeps producing fights like last night's gripping five-round battle against the game Edgar, true MMA fans are winners, whether or not the casual viewers ever come around.


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UFC 156 quotes

"He said he respects all his opponents and [Edgar] definitely was tough, but the toughest fight to date was Urijah Faber, he fought with broken hands." -- Aldo, through an interpreter, ranking his toughest career fights.

"He didn't respect me. He talked a lot of s--- before the fight. He forgot, the fight is in the cage, not outside of it talking." -- Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, on making a statement to Alistair Overeem.

"Yes, I know he was a champion. Yes he had close fights with Benson and all else. But you can only fight so long, those type of wars, with bigger, stronger guys. It's not good." -- White, trying to figure out Edgar's future.

"He has lost that hunger. He has lost that desire and that drive, and he needs to get it back. There's no doubt about it. He needs to get hungry again." -- White on Rashad Evans, who looked listless in a loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

"God forbid, I never wish injury upon anyone. But March 16, my passport is valid. So if anyone falls out, I want in." -- Tyron Woodley, who is ready for a trip to Montreal for UFC 158 should any of the big three fights fall out.

Stock up: Strikeforce undercard fighters

OK, so it isn't as if they came in and ran right over Anderson Silva, GSP, and Cain Velasquez. But last night's Strikeforce fighters went all WEC on the undercard. Isaac Vallie-Flagg used a patient approach and stuck to his game plan to take rounds one and three from veteran Yves Edwards. Bobby Green has matured from an exciting-but-wild striker to a smart, well-rounded fighter who's still exciting, as he demonstrated in his third-round submission of Jacob Volkmann. And Woodley left no doubt about his intentions in the welterweight division with his swift finish of Jay Hieron. Somewhere in San Jose, Scott Coker had to be doing a fist pump.

Stock down: Alistair Overeem

I felt Antonio Silva's upset of Overeem coming all week (Don't believe me? Here's proof). So, to recap the past several years of Overeem's career: Overeem suddenly morphed from a glorified middleweight to a heavyweight while fighting in Japan -- where they don't even do the minimal performance-enhancing drug testing that's done over here -- and goes on a monster win streak. He flunks a test over here. He returns from his suspension and his physique looks nothing like it did for his previous fight against Brock Lesnar. And suddenly, his power is missing. If you can't connect the dots on this one, you're being willfully obtuse at best.

Good Call

To Demian Maia, for sticking with his game plan and absolutely dominating Jon Fitch. Was it the most exciting fight of the night? No. Far from it. But Maia has already proven himself capable of exciting fights at welterweight with his wins over Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story. Saturday night, for Maia, was about sending a message to the rest of the welterweight division. By defeating Jon Fitch in the manner he did -- to rehash the line everyone else used, he out-Fitched Fitch -- Maia showed himself to be a tough out for anyone in the welterweight division, all the way up to the champion.

Bad Call

We may never again see a standup call as bad as the one Kim Winslow ordered in the second round of Bobby Green's victory over Jacob Volkmann on Saturday night. Or at least I hope we don't. Green was dominating the second round from top position, was active in Volkmann's guard, and, oh yeah, was landing elbow after elbow. After the standup, Volkmann nearly got Green into a rear-naked choke, which would have been a wholly unjust finish to the fight.

"I thought the standup was premature considering I was landing elbows actively from the top," Green said afterwards. "I don't know why she decided to stand it up but I definitely didn't agree with it."

Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer can be pretty defensive of the criticism his referees and judges receive. It would help if those he supervises didn't make such criticism so easy, so often.

Fight I Want to See Next

With last night causing obvious changes to the UFC's plans going forward, here's a special edition of "Fight I Want to See Next," with three fights I want to see and two I don't:

Want to see: Aldo vs. the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez: Aldo just beat the former lightweight champion. Let's see him against the current champ.

Don't want to see: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva. Can you really see a rematch going any different than the first?

Want: Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis: If you can't make a featherweight/lightweight superfight, Aldo vs. Pettis at 145 pounds has "potential fight of the year" written all over it. Does that mean other featherweight contenders will have to wait? Yes. If that bugs you to the point you don't want to see Aldo-Pettis, go watch a Bellator tourney, where your fragile "pure sport" sensibilities won't be so easily offended, and let the rest of us enjoy the fight.

Don't Want: Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez. Not yet at, least. I think Benavidez could earn a title shot eventually, but, like Velasquez vs. Silva, can you see the rematch going any different? Benavidez seems to realize it, too, because when asked he essentially said he'd take a title shot if offered, but would like other fights.

Want: Frankie Edgar vs. a top-notch bantamweight. We all love Frankie Edgar. But the fights against bigger foes are starting to produce diminishing returns. Aldo was noticeably bigger than Edgar in the cage. Edgar wasn't able to bull his way through and rally the same way he did in both his draw and win over Gray Maynard. It's not going to get any easier as he gets older. So it's time for Edgar, once and for all, to fight guys his own size.

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