The death of the king. The end of an era. A devastating loss. These are just some of the descriptions you’ll find when looking for fallout from the UFC 212 main event between Max Holloway and José Aldo. While most pundits seem to conclude this is the end of the road for Aldo as a championship-level fighter, perhaps we should take a seat at the king’s throne once more.
The loss to Holloway was just Aldo’s third defeat throughout his MMA career. However, it does push his recent UFC record to 1-2. Included in that is a 13-second knockout loss that any Conor McGregor fan will be quick to point out anytime you mention Aldo’s legacy. While the loss to McGregor can be attributed to Aldo simply rushing in on a fighter that had waged a new level of mental warfare leading up to the bout, the Holloway loss featured Aldo on the receiving end of a brutal beatdown.
However, for as bad as the final moments were for Aldo, there’s no reason to believe the former UFC champ will simply fade to irrelevancy. For starters, Aldo was up on the scorecards heading into the third round. He also noticeably staggered Holloway in the opening minutes, but Holloway was able to avoid the fatal blow as Aldo rushed in. This is with Aldo doing virtually nothing more than using his boxing skills against his adversary. Andre Pederneiras, Aldo’s coach, also explained following the fight that Aldo didn’t do some of the things they had trained for.
Aldo could hang his hat on the fact that he was going blow-for-blow with the (new) best 145-pound fighter on the planet while just boxing for the better part of their fight. However, it’s not what happened during the fight that is the most telling of Aldo’s prospects moving forward.
The mental toughness of Aldo cannot be questioned. It is perhaps the one thing that’ll propel the former champion into the next step of his career. McGregor toyed with Aldo’s mind for months. The Irishman’s continual taunts made Aldo come into UFC 194 an emotional ball of rage which eventually lead to the knockout loss. It would’ve been easy for Aldo to fold up shop after this crushing defeat. The questions of his ability to compete were cropping up across the internet as a slew of new fans got their first glimpse of the pound-for-pound great.
Yet, Aldo returned. And on the UFC’s biggest stage no less. The Brazilian faced a familiar foe in Frankie Edgar at UFC 200. Heading into the bout, the primary question focused on where Aldo’s head was at. Was he on the way out of the sport? Could he recover from the McGregor loss? Would Edgar’s pace be too much for Aldo’s shaken confidence?
These questions would be answered in emphatic fashion by Aldo with perhaps his most technical masterpiece. With his former adversary watching, Aldo put on a clinic against one of the best fighters in UFC history. No, it wasn’t an eight-second destruction like his win over Cub Swanson or a brutal display of violence like his victory against Urijah Faber. Instead, Aldo used all of his skill to take home a unanimous decision win. The victory announced to everyone that Aldo, king of the featherweights, was back.
Although he can no longer claim that title, Aldo’s mental toughness is already on display. Just a few days removed from perhaps the biggest loss of his career, the Brazilian star released a statement through social media. Via MMAFighting:
‘Be content to act, and leave the talking to others’ – Baltasar Gracian
I only have to thank my ‘dad’ Andre Pederneiras, the best team in the world, Nova Uniao, because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be the people’s champion, and (thank) all my trainers, who did a super well done job and got me ready, and all my fans who are always with me, here’s my love and my thank you. I’m speechless with all the love I’ve received until today, and every word you send to me. Thank you.
The rest, fuck it, because I’ll come back, because we go down so we can get back up!! That’s it!! We’ll be back!!
Will fans be clamoring for an Aldo/Holloway rematch? Highly unlikely. Can Aldo compete and win against some of the featherweight elite? I’d be inclined to say yes. He looked to be in the best shape of his life and showed the same intensity we’ve seen in the past. A loss to an elite talent on a 10-fight winning streak is far from the end of the world. There are plenty of exciting match-ups waiting for him outside the title picture and also at lightweight. For years, Aldo’s weight cuts were one of the major talking points in his title bouts. Moving up to 155 pounds would eliminate those concerns and provide the Brazilian with a fresh start.
Aldo may not be the king, but don’t be surprised to see him to the side of the throne, anxiously awaiting the chance to strike.