Jose Aldo will enter the cage on a 16-fight winning streak. | Photo: Gleidson Venga /Sherdog.com
UFC Featherweight ChampionshipJose Aldo (23-1, 5-0 UFC) vs. Ricardo Lamas (13-2, 4-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Aldo adhered to a different strategy than usual in his last bout, a fourth-round technical knockout of Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163. After breaking his right foot early in the fight, the Brazilian’s preferred leg kicks were all but eliminated from his arsenal. Instead, the champion resorted to a more methodical approach that relied heavily on takedowns and top control.
It was effective, but battling the “Korean Zombie” for takedowns also meant that Aldo expended his fair share of energy. Just as Jung appeared to be finding some confidence, he dislocated his shoulder, and Aldo displayed a savage killer instinct to finish the fight in the fourth round.
Aldo has not shown many weaknesses in his career, but his tendency to fade over the course of a five-round fight cannot be overlooked. It has happened in bouts against Mark Hominick, Frankie Edgar and, to a lesser degree, against Jung. However, none of those opponents were able to prevent Aldo from racing out to an early lead on the scorecards. If one is to survive a full 25 minutes against the Nova Uniao standout, he must also look to impose his will early if winning is truly the goal.
Lamas will enter this fight after more than a year-long layoff. The Chicagoan has compiled an impressive resume in the UFC that includes wins over Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch, but politics kept him from a title shot that probably should have come sooner. A versatile skill set will benefit “The Bully” against Aldo. Lamas is equal parts brawler, wrestler and submission grappler, and while he might not be dominant in any one of those areas, his ability to blend together all three at least gives him a fighting chance.
While Lamas is aggressive as a striker, he is not necessarily careless. He throws punching combinations and, more importantly, mixes high and low kicks into his attack. Against someone like Aldo, this could be key in helping him maintain a safe distance until he decides the time is right to move into takedown or clinch range. Of course, trying to beat Aldo -- his speed, power and technique is unmatched in the division -- exclusively on the feet is a recipe for disaster.
A Div. III All-American wrestler, it is important for Lamas to use combinations and feints to set up his takedowns. Aldo is adept at using his jab to bait foes into a shot, where he can then counter with knees or uppercuts. Should Lamas avoid making any fatal mistakes, he can attempt to wear down Aldo against the fence, where he lands punches and elbows and also chains together takedown attempts using various techniques. Once on top, Lamas is not afraid to posture up and throw purposeful ground-and-pound.
Aldo is a huge featherweight, however, and it may take time before Lamas can threaten with takedowns. In the interim, a healthy foot means the Brazilian will attempt to slow Lamas’ movement by battering him with leg kicks. All of the above becomes moot if Lamas is already gimpy by the second or third round. Aldo has an explosive shot himself, although he must be wary of leaving his neck exposed on takedowns, as Lamas has a dangerous guillotine choke.
It is critical that Lamas not become paralyzed with indecision and simply stand in front of the champion. Constant pressure and reliance on all phases of his game represents the best route to an upset.
The Pick: While undoubtedly persistent, Lamas is not as effective a wrestler as Edgar or Chad Mendes. Additionally, closing the distance with striking, especially kicks, sounds good in theory but is much more difficult to execute. Aldo wins by third-round KO or TKO.
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