It took just 13 seconds for Jose Aldo’s decade of dominance to be shattered into a million pieces by one left cross. Forget what went before in the reign of the greatest featherweight fighter in mixed martial arts history, Conor McGregor’s one-punch knockout in December 2015 eclipsed all that went before.
WEC champion to UFC kingpin, packing in 18 straight wins against a who’s who of the sport’s finest smaller weight stars. Cub Swanson, Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber through to Kenny Florian, Chan Sung Jung and Frankie Edgar, Aldo obliterated them all with his outrageous Muay Thai infused striking skillset, hardly dropping a round along the way.
At one point, the man they call ‘Scarface’ appeared almost untouchable. Named ‘Fighter of the Year’ in 2010, Aldo was in the pound-for-pound conversation long before he made his Octagon debut. Undoubtedly, top 20 greatest mixed martial artists of all time, it’s almost painful to admit his legacy can now actually be summed up in 13 seconds.
Running into McGregor’s fist in their highly anticipated super-fight almost 18 months ago has now, however harshly, defined Aldo’s career. They say, time heals all wounds, but aged 30 Aldo’s not got much time left to overshadow the night his empire imploded.
With Conor now busy changing nappies while awaiting the chance to earn mega-millions in an ill-fated boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, Aldo has the chance to legitimately be crowned featherweight champion of the world once more. But it’s going to take much more than another one-sided beatdown against a familiar foe to reverse his fortunes in the eyes of fans.
The Brazilian’s faultless destruction of Edgar at UFC 200 last summer did little to glaze over that night at the MGM Grand. When McGregor, with one punch, joined MMA’s elite and by consequence crushed Aldo’s Hall of Fame career achievements.
Yet, perhaps, all is not yet lost. What Aldo needs is the opportunity to add a final chapter to his story by dominating once more in a new era against fresh challengers, and this weekend at UFC 212 he gets just that opportunity.
Max Holloway is the shining light of a new generation of featherweight talent. Unbeaten in 10 straight since his own defeat to McGregor, the Hawaiian sensation has had to run through a killer’s row to earn the right to fight for the full 145lb belt.
Make no mistake, with Conor long gone from this weight class and possibly even the Octagon altogether, whoever claims 145lb gold in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night will be the undisputed featherweight champion of the world.
And by defeating Holloway on home turf Aldo may just be able to start closing the chapter on the McGregor KO and remind us all once more that he’s truly the greatest featherweight the sport has ever seen.
Whether he can rub out a single punch with a stellar performance against a young, rising star like Holloway is unlikely. But a win this weekend would at least set Jose up on a path to a second era of domination.
* Hear our UFC 212 preview show here – Episode 106: Beat down in Brazil