The acquisition of Jose Aldo and the rest of the WEC talent was an extremely exciting development in 2010. The question of how lightweight talent like champions Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis would fare against the UFC's elite was immediately posed. On top of that, WEC fans were excited to see guys like Jose Aldo get attention through the biggest platform in the sport.
Aldo made his name as a fan favorite in the WEC by being one of the most devastating fighters the sport has ever seen. He absolutely tore through the featherweight division with six consecutive finishes including his TKO of Mike Brown where he claimed the title. Throughout his 2+ year and eight fight term in the WEC, he went to decision only once. That was against former champion Urijah Faber who took an absolute beating in the five round fight.
Since transitioning to the UFC, Aldo appeared as an entirely different fighter. Saturday night he secured his sixth title defense with four of those being decision wins. Of the two finishes he's scored inside the Octagon, both have come under peculiar circumstances. His first round KO of Chad Mendes was widely criticized as he grabbed the fence to avoid a takedown just seconds prior to the fight-ending knee. Likewise, he targeted the dislocated shoulder of Chan Sung Jung to score the TKO in the fourth round of their fight at UFC 163.
Considering that record and those qualifications, Aldo has simply not been impressive as a UFC champion and his performance against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169 was another perfect example. From the opening bell it was more than clear that Lamas had nothing for Aldo on the feet. He couldn't even land a clean leg kick through the first three rounds of the fight. Instead of capitalizing on his opponent's definitive inferiority, Aldo was happy to stand back and win the fight on points. He landed hard when openings were obvious, but did not force the action or try to create openings for the finish. It was equally unsurprising when he gave up the final round to be controlled on the ground as it was when he was awarded the unanimous decision. He made it more than clear over the 25 minute fight that he was happy to take the UD.
It has to be mentioned that one of the UFC's biggest stars made a career out of the same actions that Aldo exhibited tonight. Throughout the second half of his career former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre was consistently criticized for his lack of finishes. While there's an angle for defense of GSP's record, the criticism is legitimate. The big difference here is that St-Pierre made his name and his fanbase by destroying the best on the biggest stage of the sport. He finished Hughes twice in the UFC, made B.J. Penn quit, and demolished Matt Serra before going on his decision streak.
Jose Aldo does not have that same benefit. His incredibly impressive and violent victories took place on a platform with a fraction of the audience. Most UFC fans never saw him KO Cub Swanson in just six seconds with a double flying knee. They're left to judge him on his performances on UFC PPV's where he's either been forced out due to injury or delivered a methodical decision victory.
I'm more than happy to admit it's unfair that Aldo is judged solely upon the UFC portion of his career, but that's a reality of the sport. He had an opportunity tonight to deliver a highlight reel performance and he failed. Instead he chose to pick apart Ricardo Lamas en route to a safe decision victory. He may not have lost a step in most fans eyes, but he didn't move up either in situation where he had nothing but opportunity.