Those of you who follow my blog know that I think Jose Aldo is the pound for pound best fighter on the planet today. Better than Silva, GSP, Jones, and the rest of the MMA world. Recently Anthony Pettis won the UFC Lightweight Championship and called out Jose Aldo to a fight for the 145 lb belt. Although Dana White and many fight fans around the world want to see that fight, the time is not now. Although it is a gamble to see if both Aldo and Pettis can keep winning, I think that fight generates more interest down the road.
As for the lightweight division, I think TJ Grant absolutely deserves the title shot he earned with a 1st round KO of Gray Maynard. Following that fight, Grant/Pettis winner has another contender to fight. Gilbert Melendez is fighting Diego Sanchez. I am actually dismissing Sanchez as a real threat to Melendez and assuming Gil will win that fight. Gilbert Melendez should take on the winner of Nurmagomedov vs Pat Healy in a top contender fight. Melendez vs Healy (or Nurmagomedov) winner should fight the winner of Grant vs Pettis. As you can see, Pettis is busy enough with legit contenders at 155. Don’t forget that Henderson, Thompson, or someone else could rise to prominence by then as well.
As for Jose Aldo, the list of contenders at featherweight continues to grow. He recently defended his belt against Chan Sung Jung and Frankie Edgar. Even with those two big wins, there are still 3 very relevant contenders. Chad Mendes is coming off of a huge KO of Clay Guida to follow up a streak of 3 consecutive first round knockouts. He lost to Aldo once but is an entirely different fighter now. Duane Ludwig has turned Mendes and all the other Team Alpha Male guys into animals. The case for Chad Mendes to get the next title shot is very strong after his win over Guida, but is he the best case?
I would argue that Ricardo Lamas should have received the UFC 163 title shot over Chan Sung Jung. They were originally scheduled to be in a top contender battle before Pettis fell off the card. Jung, not Lamas got the call for the title shot. Lamas has a 4 fight win streak at featherweight and has a 4-0 UFC record. He has wins over Matt Grice, Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki, and Erik Koch. His finishes of Koch and Grice were violent finishes. His submission of Swanson was crafty, considering that he is a BJJ black belt. He is also a stylistic challenge to Jose Aldo with his powerful wrestling and dangerous ground and pound. He is the 2nd of 3 worthy featherweight candidates to fight Aldo next.
Lastly, is Cub Swanson. He last lost to Ricardo Lamas by submission in late 2011. Since that fight he is 5-0 with 4 finishes, all in the UFC’s featherweight division. He is a perfect match with Gregg Jackson and has been a machine since his loss to Lamas. It could be argued that Cub has jumped in front of Lamas in line for a title shot because Lamas only has 2 wins since the Swanson fight, and Swanson has 5 wins since that loss. Being inactive could cost Lamas since Cub Swanson and Chad Mendes are two of the most active guys in the UFC. Swanson vs Aldo would be a rematch of a WEC match that lasted only 8 seconds.
So who is the winner? The inactive guy on a 4 fight winning streak that has never faced Aldo? Or the two guys on 4 and 5 fight winning streaks that show no signs of slowing down, but have lost to Aldo in the past? Or is Pettis the right man to get the next title shot at 145?
My answer is clear. As I said, Anthony Pettis is busy at 155. If he keeps winning and Aldo also keeps winning, the Pettis/Aldo superfight would generate as much interest as a Silva vs GSP or Silva vs Jones. If they keep winning it could mean the Pettis/Aldo fight would set PPV records. Save that fight for down the road, it is worth the gamble.
Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas are on 4 fight winning streaks. Cub has won 5 straight. Cub Swanson recently defeated the incredibly talented Dustin Poirier and finished the German superstar Dennis Siver. Cub Swanson should get the next title shot at 145. Mendes and Lamas should fight in a “Fight Night” main event to determine the next top contender. The winner of Mendes/Lamas should take on the winner of Swanson/Aldo. In the meantime, look for superstars like Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, Dennis Siver, Dustin Poirier, Erik Koch, or even Conor McGregor to rise to prominence and get their deserved chance to fight for the title. 145 is now one of the deepest divisions in the sport, let the best man win.
On a side note, if Aldo does defeat at least 2 of the 4 possible matchups (Lamas, Swanson, Mendes, or Pettis), then he is without a doubt the pound for pound king. Regardless of who GSP, Jones, Silva, or even Weidman beat.