Well folks, we’ve made it to the home stretch of the MMA year. We’re into December, and with only one Bellator and three UFC events left, 2021 is nearly behind us. But before it goes, this weekend we’ve got a truly magnificent main event featuring one of the best fighters to ever lace up the gloves and my choice for the top bantamweight in the world right now. If that doesn’t get the juices flowing, I don’t know what will. So without further ado, let’s talk about fights.
Jose Aldo vs. Rob Font
Will the winner of Font / Aldo be next in line against the winner of Aljo/ Yan ?? Or will they wait for TJ and Cory— rubenssj__ (@Thajuice408) November 23, 2021
If Jose Aldo manages to pull it out tonight, a few things will happen. First, I will scream violently and rampage about my neighbor in excitement, possibly even taking my pants off. Then, or perhaps concurrently, the MMA world will marvel at the continuing longevity of one of the greatest fighters who has ever lived, and relish that Aldo, despite being several years removed from his peak, is still able to hang and win among the best in the world. Finally, Sean Shelby or whoever is running the post-fight presser tonight will come out and say all the right things about how great Aldo and mutter some vagaries about “We’ll just have to see how it all plays out,” when they are asked the above question. And that’s because as much as I love Jose Aldo, and as much as the man deserves to fight for the title with a win tonight, given what he means to this sport, the cold reality is that he isn’t in line for a title shot in the near future.
Right now, the bantamweight division is a fustercluck. The true champion, Aljamain Sterling, is still managing a neck injury which has resulted in him being derided by a majority of the fans and viewed, even among the most knowledgeable people in the sport, as a paper champion. This is, of course, hogwash, but such is the way of the world. Petr Yan, who is now the interim champion (a title he won almost solely because no one in MMA wants to acknowledge that cheating is bad and the UFC is heavily invested in him being the champion) is now viewed by most as the true champion of the division, and as a result, Aldo is straight out of luck when it comes to a title shot, even if he styles on Rob Font this evening. Yan beat Aldo convincingly, not that long ago. Barring injury, there is no way that Aldo leapfrogs interim champion Yan for a title fight.
Even if something did happen to Yan over the next few months, there is still the matter of T.J. Dillashaw. For all the controversy surrounding him, Dillashaw never lost his bantamweight title in the cage and, though many disagree with the decision, he won his comeback fight. There is a legitimate argument that Dillashaw is more deserving of a title shot than Yan is (I would make that argument, actually) and given that, even if Yan or Sterling falls out, Aldo is still the odd man out.
So, unfortunately for Aldo, even if he wins tonight, The King of Rio is going to have to win at least one more fight before he can get back to a title shot and, with the lay of the land as it is currently, the most likely scenario is the winner of tonight’s fight takes on Dillashaw for a title shot. Yan and Sterling will settle their affairs sometime next year and I suspect that the co-main event of that card will be Dillashaw vs. Aldo/Font.
Why do you say Rob Font is "the best bantamweight in the world"?— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) December 2, 2021
Because I think he may well be, and I’d really like to see him get his chance to prove it.
I personally believe Aljamain Sterling deserves the title right now, as wins should matter in the sport and Sterling has the best bantamweight wins currently. Many disagree with that though and Petr Yan to be the best 135er alive since, when the two rematch, Yan will likely be a clear favorite. I But if we’re just talking about who wins fights tomorrow, if we’re doing the Trial By Combat test, I think I would pick Rob Font to be my champion at 135 pounds.
Aljo is the best grappler at bantamweight, Yan is probably the most complete fighter, and guys like T.J. Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen are the most dynamic, but Font is, for my money, the most consistent. He works behind solid, fundamental boxing, has excellent cardio, and he jabs his ass off. I love people who jab in MMA and Font is brilliant at it. The only guy who I think is more consistent than Font on the feet is Jose Aldo but, as much as I love The King of Rio, he’s well out of his prime. Font is only a year younger than Aldo, but he has substantially more fight miles left in him. I think Font is just now hitting his prime years and, sadly, we are probably going to see that this evening at the expense of one of my favorite fighters of all-time.
Where do you see Kevin Lee 5 years from now? Is him being released the best thing that could’ve happened to him?— Daniel Pompilio (@elpompilio) December 4, 2021
ICYMI, Kevin Lee was released from the UFC.
While many people are bullish on the future prospects of Kevin Lee, including Lee himself, I am slightly more cautious in predicting a big future for Lee. Don’t get me wrong, Lee has all the potential in the world to thrive outside of the UFC structure, but that has been the story on him all along: a tremendous amount of talent and potential that is ultimately unrealized because he can’t get it together between the ears. Unfortunately, I think there is a very real possibility that this is yet another chapter in the story of what could have been.
Whatever you think of the UFC, at a fundamental level they are decent talent evaluators. They rarely lose fighters who are still valuable commodities, either to free agency or to releases. In fact, the UFC is far more likely to sign and hang onto talent past that fighter’s peak than they are to break off a relationship early. For every one Kyoji Horiguchi or Ryan Bader, there are a half dozen Jon Fitch’s. Is Kevin Lee going to have a resurgence somewhere? Perhaps so, but I think he’s just as likely to be the next Jake Shields - he wins some fights and loses some fights and then fades away.
I said this after Lee’s last loss, but what the man needs now more than anything is to stack up a few easy finishes, build up his confidence, and get himself back on the winning track. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s in store. I think Lee is going to find his way to Bellator, who has a great welterweight division and promises more freedom than the UFC and a ton of fun possible matchups, but if you pit Lee against that group of hitters, he’s going to lose as many as he wins. And so will go the Kevin Lee story.
Do u oppose putting Chimaev against any Top 5 opponent in the WW right now ?— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) December 3, 2021
I do not. I may be drinking the Kool-Aid but I don’t care: Khamzat Chimaev is the next welterweight champion.
Look, that’s a big statement for a dude with only four fights in the UFC and only one win over a ranked opponent, I get it. But you know what else is a big statement? Getting hit only once in four fights in the UFC! That’s right, Chimaev’s four opponents - all of them solid, professional cage fighters - have collectively managed to hit him one time. The man is absolutely rinsing folks in a fashion we almost never see. Khamzat is showing this raw physicality that makes grown welterweights look like school children and the last time someone like this came along, he became the greatest lightweight in the history of the sport and retired undefeated. That’s in play for Khamzat right now, and while from a sporting and merit standpoint, we should see him fight someone like Neil Magny before jumping to the top of the division, if we straight shot that man into a fight with Gilbert Burns or Colby Covington or whatever, I’m there with bells on.
Like I said at the start, I think Chimaev is the next welterweight champion and I absolutely cannot wait to watch him take on Kamaru Usman one day.
Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.