To many fans and observers, the performance of Jose Aldo was a little bittersweet. Sweet because of his in-cage brilliance. And for a variety of reasons: avoiding the takedown with an effortless limp leg and immaculate balance, displaying no fear in throwing leg kicks against an elite wrestler, and the last sequence which ended the fight deserves its own emphasis.
Aldo's back is facing Chad Mendes with five seconds left in the first round. When Aldo breaks free, with his back still turned to Mendes, he grips Chad's right wrist with his right hand (hindering his ability to defend what was to come), swivels, and unleashes a knee that flatlines Mendes. It was the type of sequence that only the world's best could accomplish: an illustration of how MMA brilliance is defined by that momentary shift from one martial art to the next.
For most fighters MMA is a metaphysical struggle: the battle between revelation and reservation. 'To what degree can I keep my flaws to myself, and to what extent can I disclose the skills with which other men should fear?'
Aldo is different than his P4P contemporaries. He's not more accomplished. So let's clear that up. But his striking is not raw like Jon Jones, and his wrestling isn't lacking like Anderson Silva. If I were to focus on a word that describes Aldo, I can think of none better than 'ethereal'. Aldo isn't rattled by the sudden alterations of context inside the octagon.
If you can forgive this pretentious gushing, I'd ask that you forgive me once more because I think Aldo's post fight celebration was also important. If Aldo is to become a star in his homeland, what better gesture than to allow the Rio de Janeiro crowd to share in that victory by holding Aldo himself up above their shoulders? That moment will define him for the people of Brazil for years.
If there's a 'bitter' to all this, it's in thinking about Aldo's future at 145. 'What's the point?', I hear everyone saying. I agree to an extent. Right now the list of contenders are Hatsu Hioki, Dustin Poirier, Bart Palaszewski, Erik Koch, Chan Sung Jung, Jim Hettes, and perhaps the TUF star Diego Brandao will get his opportunity to be sacrificed in a year or two if he hits a nice winning streak. This is not exactly a murderer's row.
For guys like Hettes, and Poirier, it's simply too soon. For others like Jung, and Hioki, it's too life-threatening. But is a move to 155 really the solution?
For as interesting as the move might be, Aldo is only 25. Let him establish a real legacy while the division is still young. The problem with this line of thinking, that once a division has run out of contenders its champion needs to pack up his fists and leave, is that it can stagnate a division, leaving it without stars and history while giving it all to a division that already has it (well, minus the presence of 'stars').
The importance of being a star is that once you lose, it allows you to create new ones. Let Aldo be that star in the FW division. You're risking too much by having him move to LW. Not because he might lose, but because you'll have robbed a division of its only compelling fighter. You'll have robbed the division of the only question worth asking when watching a prospect, or contender make his own mark at 145: 'who can challenge Jose Aldo?'