UFC

Aldo seeks new domains to conquer

Inside Fights Scott Sawitz
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"When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."

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When Jose Aldo looks at the boundaries of his kingdom at featherweight, he must be seeing a number of things. The biggest, of course, is that the edge of his empire is about to come complete.

After knocking out Chad Mendes in his native Brazil more than a year ago, the task for the UFC has been to find someone who would be believable as a threat to “Scarface.” Aldo has been on such a dominant tear since he destroyed Mike Brown for the featherweight title in the WEC that finding someone who could give him a tough go has been difficult.

Aldo has finished nearly everyone that matters.

Urijah Faber was chased from the division he once ruled as Aldo leg-kicked him into oblivion. The Mendes fight is best known for its conclusion, with the elite wrestler knocked out in brutal fashion and Aldo celebrating in the crowd. Kenny Florian came down after being an elite lightweight and was summarily dominated. Manny Gamburyan’s final fight in the WEC was also Aldo’s final WEC title defense, and that ended badly for the judoka.

Throw in a fairly one-sided victory over Mark Hominick and Aldo’s reign has made him the king of a division that seems shallow because of just how good he’s been. And now the former UFC lightweight champion drops down to chase after Aldo’s title, giving us the first of what promises to be a handful of super-fights. A win over Frankie Edgar leaves him in only one place that would seem reasonable: done with the featherweight division.

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And he should move to lightweight immediately after a win over Edgar.

Right now, Edgar is someone you could argue should still be considered the UFC lightweight champion. Most would argue that Edgar won his second fight with Benson Henderson. A smaller amount would argue that he won both fights against the former WEC lightweight champion.

Both fights were exceptionally close, and if Edgar wins a handful of close rounds the judges decided he lost, he never ventures down to featherweight to challenge Aldo. In an alternate universe Edgar could be en route to defending his title against Gilbert Melendez on this spring’s UFC on FOX card. If Benson Henderson is the clear No. 1 lightweight in the world, than Edgar has to be considered "1B" at best and perhaps the third, at worst.

Edgar’s elite in the lightweight division regardless of the minutia behind where you want to rank him.

If Jose Aldo can defeat Frankie Edgar, something that only Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard can officially claim the distinction of having done in his entire career, he’ll have done everything he can do in the division. Ricardo Lamas is a great fighter, but he doesn’t present any new stylistic challenge Aldo hasn’t seen before. Neither does Clay Guida. Mendes would remain an interesting rematch, but it’s one that he’s conquered already. Most important, Aldo would know his place in the lightweight division immediately with a win over Edgar.

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Beating Edgar, a difficult proposition in its own right, gives Aldo de facto ranking in the elite of the lightweight division. Considering he has a remarkably difficult weight cut to hit 145 already, the transition to lightweight is inevitable. He won’t be able to make 145 for much longer. In boxing it’s natural for many fighters to move up weight classes as they get older. At this point, the featherweight champion is roughly the same size as most of the lightweight division already.

Crazy as it sounds, he’ll be walking into the Octagon this Saturday a much bigger fighter than Edgar.

Aldo looked a weight class bigger than Edgar (easily) when the UFC had the then-seven UFC champions assembled in one place for UFC 129. By all accounts, he’s had a rough time making 145 in his past couple fights, and there’ll come a time when he can’t do it anymore. Scarier yet, Aldo could look better at 155 because he wouldn’t be draining himself to make the weight.

One can only salivate over a matchup between him and Anthony Pettis, for starters, as the most creative striker in the lightweight division would take on the best striker from a weight class below. There’s intrigue with nearly a dozen fighters in that division against Aldo, something that only Edgar does at 145 for him.

The time is right and with a win Saturday he should exit the division for the opportunity to rule another.

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