When we last left our heroes...whenever there's a discussion about the best fighters in the sport, it always astounds me to hear only whispers of the name Jose Aldo, rather than outright cheers for the man.
I kind of get it I guess. Aldo looks and functions like baddest mixed martial artist on the planet. His speed, power, and flare would appear to make him the perfect mixed martial arts killing machine. But for whatever reason he has yet to have a real iconic, breakthrough performance. I'd argue it already happened.
The Nova Uniao product is undefeated since being signed under Zuffa's umbrella, which takes us as far back as 2008, when he debuted against 'Pequeno' at WEC 34.
Here's Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Reubusch giving their analysis of this fight on the MMA Vivisection:
His last bout wasn't what we've come to expect when he fought Chan Sung Jung. He broke his foot in the first, and that appeared to sap his strength significantly. Aldo was fortunate that Jung blew out his shoulder in the 4th round at UFC 163, as I felt like Jung was "pitching the perfect game" given what I thought was a major talent gap.
Lamas, the NCAA Division III All-American from Elmhurst College, has led a much more unsuspecting journey to the title shot. In the WEC, he didn't really stand out, going 4-2 with no truly big wins. His KO losses to Yuri Alcantara and Danny Castillo overshadowed whatever goodwill he earned in the standings.
His win over Kock in particular still stands out since it's one of the few bouts where you actively fear for a fighter's life. Speaking of...
What both men can do: One of the reasons virtually no one is giving Lamas a chance is because Aldo looks just so much better on paper. He does all the little things right, and the big things he does equally violently. His leg kick is for my money, the best in the business. He can win fights with his right leg alone.
He strings together punches brilliantly, but his violence on the feet is enabled by a quiet grace on the ground. I feel like his performance against Kenny Florian stands out as his biggest statement from a grappling perspective. Florian, who was always one of the better grapplers at LW (and who dummied Joe Lauzon on the ground), got outworked. Even Faber, also known for his grappling prowess, had his guard sliced and diced.
Aldo doesn't get enough credit for being all-star good on the mat. His pedigree is often owed to beating Cobrinha despite no real public tournament experience, but you see that mastery in his bouts.
As for Lamas, he's done well to rise above his wrestle-boxer roots. He's been taking a page out of Alpha Male's book, becoming a fighter more than a mere wrestler; always looking for opportunities on the feet, and on the ground, and capitalizing quickly.
He's got excellent raw power, as displayed metaphysically dispatching Koch, and does an excellent job of using trips, and bodylocks to put opponents on his back. He's frankly been a revelation lately.
What both men can't do: However, the other reason no one is giving Lamas a chance is because his two losses are by KO against men most fans and observers agree are inferior strikers by a wide margin compared to Aldo.
I have to say: I agree. I felt like the first minutes on the feet against Koch were a good example of what to expect, except now you have to crank that volume up to dragonball. Lamas swings with his arms low, and his head an open target. He has little to no head movement, nor does he have a fast shot, which implies leg kicks and right hands will be there for Aldo all night.
Aldo's takedown defense is extraordinary. Lamas may get it to the ground, but not only does Aldo get back to his feet with the quickness, but he's got the grappling chops to avoid the submission. In a five round fight, this is critical obviously. It's difficult to imagine how Lamas wins, or even makes it out of the first two rounds. Oh right...
X-Factor: Aldo looked like he should have destroyed Jung, and Hominick on paper too and he didn't which means injuries and cutting weight could always be factors. It's not like cutting weight gets easier with time. So here's a question: how does a fatigued, or potentially injured Aldo beat a healthy Lamas?
I know that sounds like a question for Manswers, always contemplating man vs. beast scenarios, but I feel like the Aldo we saw against Hominick gets beat by Lamas. Aldo, despite all the praise I heap on his grappling, has skill specific to his ability on top passing guard. He's never shown an aptitude moving his hips for triangles and armbars.
In-Fight Soundtrack: A song for Lamas' consciousness...
Prediction: Jose Aldo via TKO, round 1 (knees, and punches).