In a world where rankings do not matter and MMA fan morale is at an all-time low, we have a fight that sits right in the middle of these two ideas; The bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Jose Aldo is booked and going down (hopefully), but not without controversy. 135lbs is, without question, the hottest it’s ever been, and for good reason.
There are a handful of world-beaters like Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling sitting in the chamber, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The division is so hot right now that you can imagine, of the top 6 as champ, vets like Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbandt aren’t even on that list.
Bantamweight gold may be switching hands like a hot potato in the near future. Jose Aldo’s last fight was against former champ Marlon Moraes, where he lost a controversial split decision. I, personally, scored it for Jose Aldo, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that UFC president Dana White scored it for Jose Aldo. He’s moving the division along as such.
“Scarface” defended his Featherweight title seven times, which is a record for the division. There are only 3 fighters that have defended a UFC strap more times than him. Jon Jones, George St. Piere, and Demetrious Johnson. Holding records like that and being in the conversation with those all-time greats lets you know what level of fighter he is.
His reign at 145lbs dates back to the UFC’s acquisition of the WEC promotion. It was ended in 2015 by Conor McGregor. He is, without question, the most successful Featherweight of all-time. Jose Aldo has been fighting professionally for 16 years. It is pretty safe to say his run in the sport is probably near its end. For him to drop down a weight class and win a fight (in some people’s eyes) at this stage of his career, is a testament to his greatness.
Many casual fans didn’t even give him a shot at making the 135lb limit. Not only did he make weight, but he also got stronger as the fight went on. Common logic would indicate that draining yourself that drastically to make weight would have you fade as the fight goes on. This was not true in his debut at that weight. I saw a look of surprise on Marlon’s face when the decision was read at UFC 245, I think Marlon thought he lost the fight before the scorecards were read last December. Let us also not forget Marlon is the former champ of that division.
In a world where rankings do not matter, as we have seen before, where company men have gotten title shots or quirky match-ups that took place to move divisions along, we have a legend in the twilight of his career that is getting a shot at becoming champ-champ.
Petr Yan (27) and Aljamain Sterling (30) are the fighters whom people are arguing deserve a shot over Aldo. Jose Aldo (33) has been fighting professionally since he was 18! The amount of sacrifice on the altar of blood, sweat, and tears this man has given can not be overstated. It’s the ‘take on all comers’ type of approach that has made Jose a company man, a big draw, and a worthy contender for Bantamweight gold. If you strictly went by the rankings, Marlon Moraes would be getting the next shot at Henry Cejudo. We already saw that fight at UFC 238 last June, where Marlon lost in devastating fashion in round 3.
Aljamain Sterling is on a four-fight winning streak, but 3 of those wins are by decision, which doesn’t fare well as far as first title shots are concerned. Sterling also has a massive hand injury he has been dealing with in the past year.
Petr Yan has looked terrific and his time will come, but in my opinion, he’s still one win away from getting a title shot. As much as “paying dues” sounds cliche and gross, it’s a true aspect of the sport that can’t be overlooked. These young guns waiting in the rafters will get their shot when the time is appropriate. They are in the sweet spot of their careers and will be fighting for years to come. Years that Jose Aldo does not have left. Giving “Scarface” the chance to become champ-champ is more powerful than a slight slip in meritocracy that this fight possesses. Let Aljo fight Corey Sandhagen, let Petr Yan fight Marlon Moraes. Let’s let these prospects figure out a new pecking order. And please, let Jose Aldo fight Henry Cejudo at UFC 250, he deserves it.
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