Jose Aldo won the WEC featherweight title all the way back in 2009. Here it is in 2021 and the longtime kingpin of 145 is still around, performing at a high level at bantamweight at UFC Vegas 44. In fact, Aldo put on his best performance at 135 in dispatching Rob Font over five rounds, despite his 36th birthday being right around the corner. The man truly is a living legend.
Font entered the fight as a slight favorite, showing signs of improvement throughout his four-fight winning streak entering the contest. While the lanky Bostonian had a few nice moments -- and arguably won a few rounds -- all of the big moments of the fight belonged to Aldo. From hurting Font in the first round, the fourth round, and nearly submitting Font in the final round, Aldo was in control of the contest from bell to bell. Aldo hurting Font wasn’t necessarily a surprise -- he has legendary power for a smaller fighter -- but remaining fresh by the time the fifth round rolled around was a shock given his longstanding stamina issues. If Aldo didn’t already have a loss to Petr Yan, he’d be a shoe-in to get a title shot. Should Aljamain Sterling retain the bantamweight title when he and Yan square off, Aldo will probably get the next shot. Unfortunately for Aldo, few are expecting that outcome.
Barring a miraculous and rapid turnaround, Font’s title dreams are likely over. He doesn’t have the cache Aldo does to suffer multiple losses and he’d need several notable wins to climb back to where he was entering this contest. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue to headline Fight Night cards -- he’s certainly entertaining enough that no one would take issue with that -- but he appears likely to be the hunted as opposed to the hunter for the next little while.
As for the rest of the card....
- There were high expectations for Rafael Fiziev and Brad Riddell. Fortunately for the viewing audience, they lived up to them. Neither bothered to go to the mat, leaving them to trade fisticuffs for the course of two-and-a-half rounds. It appeared Fiziev’s power was making the difference before he pulled out a spinning wheel kick that literally stopped Riddell in his tracks. The win should ensure Fiziev gets a top ten opponent next. Fortunately
- Coming off the first loss of his career, Jamahal Hill’s typically easygoing demeanor was all-business going into his contest with Jimmy Crute. He should maintain that attitude. In 48 seconds, Hill secured two knockdowns and caused Crute’s left eye to swell shut before the referee had deemed enough was enough. If the fight had taken place in front of an audience, it would be a star-making performance.
- I don’t think we can refer to Keith Peterson as “No-Nonsense” anymore. The longtime referee allowed Clay Guida to endure a lot of nonsense at the hands of Leonardo Santos, never giving any indication he was thinking of stopping the fight despite Santos laying on the punishment as thick as possible. Thus, Guida survived and Santos had nothing left in the tank. Guida went right at Santos as soon as he had recovered and was able to find an RNC in the second round. Guida owes Peterson a fruit basket at the very least.
- Can we give Fighter of the Year to Chris Curtis? Securing his second major upset in less than a month, Curtis rocked and finished Brendan Allen in the second round. The win puts him at 6-0 for the year, 2-0 in the UFC. Given he’s had several starts and stops in his career – literally, he’s had several announced retirements – this is one of the most unlikely runs ever. Hats off to Curtis.
- It isn’t good if you still have to learn how to strike by the time you get to the UFC. It’s even worse when you’re still figuring it out five years into your UFC career like Mickey Gall. Though a skilled grappler, Gall hasn’t figured out how to get the fight to the mat either, allowing Alex Morono to pick him apart over three rounds, leading to a clear 30-27 for Morono on all three cards, not to mention his third consecutive win.
- He may have gotten the win – and probably saved his job in the process – but Dusko Todorovic still has a LOT of work to do defensively as he ate a lot of undefended strikes prior to securing his takedown on Maki Pitolo that swung the momentum into his favor permanently. Todorovic escaped the guillotine attempt from Pitolo to pound him out with brutal punches from the top. But man, his defense....
- It’s fair to say only Deiveson Figuieredo can claim to have more power than Manel Kape in the flyweight division. Despite a fast start from Zhalgas Zhumagulov, Kape gradually swung the momentum into his favor before swarming Zhumagulov with a plethora of punches that dropped the tough vet in highlight reel fashion. While I doubt Kape becomes the champion by the end of next year – as he proclaimed – it can’t be denied he has the talent to do it.
- It looked like Bryan Barberena was near the end of his UFC run after lackluster showings in his previous two performances. It looks like all he needed was more separation from a pair of major surgeries as the rugged veteran returned to form against athletic newcomer Darian Weeks. Weeks didn’t back down from Barberena’s pressure, but didn’t have the gas tank down the stretch after taking the fight on short notice. Barberena got the win, but Weeks is the one to watch down the road.
- It’s safe to say the stench that surrounded Cheyanne Vlismas following her UFC debut earlier this year has been washed away. Not only did the youthful prospect look as sharp as ever on the feet, but she stuffed all the takedown attempts from a game Mallory Martin, providing a bit of redemption following her poor wrestling performance in that debut.
- After an exciting first round that saw William Knight come thisclose to finishing Alonzo Menifield, the rest of the fight turned out to be a drag. Both sapped their gas tanks in the first, leading to Menifield to rely on a lot of control against the fence. Judges didn’t appreciate it and awarded Knight the tepid decision based on his efforts to score some actual meaningful offense. Though it should be a learning experience for both, they’ll look to wash the stench of this fight in their next performance.
- It wouldn’t be expected someone of Chris Gruetzemacher’s experience would fall to a kneebar, especially against someone as youthful as Claudio Puelles. Then again, MMA is a sport where what is expected happens the least out of all other sports. Though Puelles was likely to get a decision victory, he still went for the kill and found it with a little over a minute left in the fight for his fourth consecutive win.
- One of the biggest knocks on Vince Morales has been his lack of power. It doesn’t look like people will be harping on that much more as Morales only needed a single right hook on a clinch break to floor a typically durable Louis Smolka, becoming the first to put the Hawaiian away with strikes. After being on the verge of being cut, Morales is starting to put it all together.