Kyte on UFC: Defining fight for Aldo

Jose Aldo (right) handed Chad Mendes (left) his first career loss at UFC 142. The two will meet again at UFC 176. (Felipe Dana/AP)
February 1, 2013, 3:57 PM

You know who doesn’t get enough recognition for his accomplishments?

Jose Aldo.

While the UFC featherweight champion is revered as the best in his division, and a pound-for-pound fixture, we don’t talk about the 26-year-old Brazilian in the same hushed tones we use to address the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, and Anderson Silva.

While that trio is universally considered among the best champions in UFC history, Aldo’s impressive run atop the 145-pound weight class over the last three years and change isn’t held in the same esteem.

Unlike his contemporaries in the welterweight, middleweight, and light-heavyweight divisions, Aldo hasn’t been afforded the same amount of time in the spotlight, and for many fight fans, he only became a known commodity when he moved from the WEC to the UFC at the start of 2011.

In the three fights he’s had since transferring from the little blue cage into the big, bad Octagon, Aldo’s most memorable moment is his post-fight celebration following his win over Chad Mendes last January in his native Brazil. There have been highlight-reel finishes during his spectacular 14-fight winning streak, but the best of those moments came outside of the UFC bubble, leading to Aldo being undervalued, despite being every bit as dominant as his more popular and established colleagues.

As it stands now, Aldo is the third longest reigning champion in the UFC, officially edging out Dominick Cruz for the bronze by 26 days. When you run it back to his time in the WEC, “The Brazilian Buzzsaw” has been atop the division since November 18, 2009, leaving him trailing only record-setters Silva and St-Pierre in terms of divisional dominance over the last four years.

So why the lack of recognition from a wider audience?

The likely answer is that Aldo doesn’t have a signature victory in the UFC as of yet. He’s defended his title thrice, and the most impressive of those performances came in the bout that garnered the least attention — his UFC 142 first-round finish of Mendes.

That could change this weekend, however, as Aldo shares the cage with Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 156. A bona fide star and a former UFC champion, Edgar is the most recognizable and respected opponent Aldo has faced in the UFC, and a dominant performance against “The Answer” could propel the featherweight champion to new heights of recognition and respect.

To date, Aldo’s greatest performance (in my opinion) was his WEC 48 win over Urijah Faber, the former champion and long-time poster boy for the organization. Though he’d had more explosive finishes up to that point — and has had them since — dismantling “The California Kid” the way he did over five rounds in April 2010 stands out because of Faber’s standing within the sport.

That’s what makes this fight with Edgar so important.

The Faber win was nearly three years ago now, and came outside of the UFC spotlight, even though it was a pay-per-view main event. Beating Edgar, whom many believe should have reclaimed the lightweight title in his second meeting with Benson Henderson last August, would easily eclipse that victory, and give Aldo a high-profile win that carries weight with casual fans.

But not only does it have the potential to be the biggest win of Aldo’s career, it could conceivably be the final time he competes at featherweight as well. Think about it:

Aldo has talked in the past about moving up to lightweight at some point, and it’s common knowledge that his weight cut isn’t an easy one. As much as the division is starting to heat up, none of the emerging talents have as much name value as Edgar at this point, and it’s unlikely they will reach that level either.

Honestly, they also don’t have as much name value as some of the top contenders in the lightweight division either.

If he’s able to defeat the former lightweight champion on Saturday, there won’t be much left for Aldo to do in the 145-pound division. He’ll have cemented his standing as not only the unquestioned king of the featherweight division, but also the best 145er of all time, and at just 26 years old, there is plenty of time to move up and start making a run in the 155-pound ranks as well.

Aldo has won 11 consecutive bouts combined between the WEC and UFC, the last six of which have been title fights. In that span, he’s vanquished Cub Swanson, Brown, Faber, Manny Gamburyan, Mark Hominick, and Mendes. Add Edgar’s name to the end of that list, and you the featherweight equivalent of St-Pierre’s run.

The dynamic Brazilian champion is one of the best in the world, the clear fourth horseman riding alongside the French-Canadian welterweight champion, Silva, and Jones.

Unfortunately, right now he’s more like the Joey Bishop — you know, the other guy in The Rat Pack with Frank, Dean, and Sammy.

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