Rankings. Just the mere mention of the term around mixed martial arts' fans can produce a collective sigh of frustration. Why are we so adamant to rank fighters? The UFC doesn't seem to care, nor should they since their business model revolves around entertainment. I can, however, see some relevance in divisional rankings, if not simply to give a fan a snapshot of where fighters stand among their counterparts.
Pound-for-pound rankings, on the other hand, have no significance. Whether or not Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is a matter of opinion, and there aren't any guidelines in determining who's better. We can't make Frankie Edgar a 265 lb. heavyweight and pit him in a fantasy fight with Cain Velasquez. We have no idea, if weight weren't an issue, who is the better fighter or how the added weight would affect a fighter. Shockingly, some people hold that as the definition. Others simply compare accomplishments.
For many fans and media, Jose Aldo belongs on that list, usually in the top five, maybe even in the top three. The combination of his blazing speed, knockout power, touted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, and solid takedown defense make him one of the most complete fighters in the world, regardless of weight. While I think pound-for-pound rankings are irrelevant, they do serve one purpose. They are a list of the current greats fighting in the sport today.
I'm not ready to claim that Jose Aldo belongs high on that list as many suggest. His dominant victory over Kenny Florian at UFC 136 this past weekend seems to have vaulted his stock even higher among fans. The win was undoubtedly a piece of evidence to prove the theory that Aldo is "one of the greats", but his track record, or as I alluded to in the headline... his resume, doesn't cut it.
Mike Brown, Urijah Faber, Manvel Gamburyan, Mark Hominick, and most recently Kenny Florian are the fighters Aldo has ran through during his title reign. It's debatable how many of these names contribute to the legacy of Aldo. The wins over Urijah Faber and Kenny Florian stand out the most, and perhaps a showdown between Mark Hominick and Urijah Faber could settle whether the Canadian striker deserves the consideration. He's undoubtedly a great fighter, but is he an elite level fighter who has the skills to maintain that status?
I won't attempt to answer that question. The problem here isn't the level of talent Aldo has defeated. It's the fact that the division is relatively young in its progression. There still isn't a tremendous amount of confidence that fighters ranked highly in the division will maintain their standings. There isn't a barometer for us to say... yes, this guy is a legit talent. If you beat him, you are obviously elite. All we have to go on at this point is winning streaks and title defenses.
This isn't a critique of Jose Aldo by any means. He's an elite talent, but Mike Brown, Urijah Faber, Manvel Gamburyan, Mark Hominick, and Kenny Florian don't possess all the tools to make me believe Aldo is one of the very best champions in the UFC. Urijah Faber is a great win, but he doesn't possess the wrestling acumen that his teammate Chad Mendes brings to the table.
Mendes, who is a two-time NCAA All-American who was once ranked #1 nationally, will likely step up to face Aldo next. That is, unless, UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar decides to move down to featherweight, a more natural fit for him. He provides the ultimate challenge. A well-rounded, speedy wrestler who can box well. If Jose Aldo can beat both Mendes and Edgar, I'll be convinced that he's one of the best, if not the best champion in the UFC.