If after watching Jose Aldo storm through the WEC Featherweight division three years ago, with spectacular knockout after spectacular knockout, you had told me that his fights could be boring, I would have laughed at you. But when rewatching Aldo vs. Urijah Faber for a Judo Chop earlier this week, the dreaded B word came up. And it was spoken by no less than Joe Rogan, who described the end of the fight as boring. And, to be fair, he was right.
Now, we are heading into Aldo's 5th defense of the Featherweight title (or, I guess, 3rd if you insist on only recognizing the UFC fights, but why would you do that?). And I am getting a little nervous. Not that Aldo will lose (though he might), not even that the fight will go the distance (it probably will). No, I am getting nervous that perhaps the whirlwind of destruction version of Aldo was left behind in the WEC, replaced by the new cautious model.
In short, I am nervous that Jose Aldo is becoming a new Georges St. Pierre.
Many fighters would dream of becoming GSP, and rightfully so. He's one of the best in the world, and one of the two truly long-standing dominant champions in the sport. But he's also become boring in recent years, at least in the eyes of many fans. This is not news to anyone who follows the sport. But maybe it is news that Aldo is heading down that same path. And he definitely is.
Consider the statistics: in Aldo's run to the belt, which I consider all of his WEC fights up to and including the title win over Mike Brown, Aldo had a spectacular 100% finishing ratio, closing the show against 6 out of 6 opponents. His ratio since then? 25%, with just 1 finish in the 4 fights since winning the belt. That's a significant drop.
There are possible reasons for this; in particular, perhaps it's the inevitablity of becoming champion. As you face tougher competition, it becomes harder to finish. Fair argument, but if so, we should see a similar drop in finishes from other champions, and we don't. Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz have low finishing ratios in title defenses (33% and none respectively), but they both had low ratios heading in as well (25% and 20%). Anderson Silva and Jon Jones finished a lot of people before winning the belt and, despite Silva's weird Cote/Leites/Maia run, finish a lot of people after (80% for Silva, 100% for Jones). Only one man has seen his finishing ratio drop like Aldo's since winning the belt, and it's no surprise who that is. GSP went from stopping 5 of 8 opponents before winning his current belt (63%) to just 1 of 6 since (17%).
So is the same thing happening to Aldo? Is he becoming a new Georges St. Pierre? In a word, yes. There's no question of "will this happen to Aldo" - it's happened. The question now is, "can he turn this trend around?" Can he become the dynamic fighter he was in the WEC - the man that casual UFC fans have never even had a chance to see?
Maybe. Maybe a move up to 155 where he will be less depleted will help. Maybe a title loss will light a fire under him (though it certainly had the opposite impact on St. Pierre). But Saturday night against Mendes? I don't think so. For this fight, I expect the full 25 minutes. And if at the end Aldo's hand is raised, I expect to see a lot of frustrated fans making the St. Pierre comparison next week.
Maybe Aldo will prove me wrong. As a fan, I certainly hope he does. But I am a realist. And I worry.