FeatherweightsJose Aldo (27-4) vs. Renato Carneiro (13-1-1)
ODDS: Moicano (-135), Aldo (+115)
Few wins in 2018 were as cathartic as Aldo’s first-round knockout of Jeremy Stephens, as it silenced thoughts that Max Holloway had knocked the consensus featherweight G.O.A.T. from the ranks of the elite. Aldo had built a dominant resume as strong as anyone’s before Conor McGregor shockingly knocked him out in 13 seconds, but he rebounded in short order with a one-sided win over Frankie Edgar to earn back what would eventually become the UFC’s undisputed featherweight title. Then Aldo ran into Holloway, who made the Brazilian legend look like a relic. Over the course of his title reign, Aldo had developed a style built around maintaining a slow pace. He has traditionally been one of the best defensive fighters of all-time, and as his opponents would try to figure him out, Aldo would slowly disincentivize every weapon in their arsenal, eventually leaving his challengers to get picked apart by his powerful strikes and vicious leg kicks. However, Holloway presented just the right combination of skill, pace and insanity to solve the puzzle. In both of their fights, Holloway relied on his durability to force Aldo to throw more power and volume, each time tiring the Brazilian on his way to a third-round finish. While that still might be the right game plan to beat Aldo going forward, the win over Stephens proved that it is still a dangerous road to travel. Stephens did a good enough job of forcing Aldo into one of those high-paced brawls, but he eventually ate a vicious body punch that crumpled him and left him beaten. Even though Aldo stopped the bleeding from his two-fight losing streak, his job does not get any easier from here on out. Now, he tries to turn back a rising contender in Carneiro.
Thanks to his combination of strong striking and venomous grappling, Carneiro debuted with a ton of hype at the tail end of 2014; and while he earned a one-sided win over Tom Niinimaki, it took about two and a half years for the Brazilian to gain any kind of momentum. Injuries limited “Moicano” to only one fight -- a narrow win over Zubaira Tukhugov -- over the following 28 months, but once he got healthy, he hit the ground running. First came a win over Stephens that showed a surprising amount of growth, as “Moicano” fought entirely against his usual type, favoring an outside striking game to frustrate the American and force him into a chase. Over his next three fights, Carneiro has shown off an intelligent, well-rounded approach. He was winning a striking match with Brian Ortega before becoming one of Ortega’s many submission victims, then picked apart Calvin Kattar before leaning back on his submission skills to beat Cub Swanson. “Moicano” served as the backup fighter for the featherweight title fight at UFC 231, so he is obviously close to a crack at the championship. A win here likely puts him over the top.
This is another excellently made fight. Carneiro can probably avoid getting into the kind of war with Aldo that took down Stephens, but it is also unclear if he can put on the type of pace that Holloway used to exhaust the former champion, particularly with only three rounds to operate. Despite his occasional need to adjust to his opponent and Aldo’s deep veteran toolbox, he probably has enough to get the nod here. Carneiro has done an excellent job of gathering information and adjusting past the first round, and even though Aldo has a rightful reputation as one of the best leg kickers in the game, “Moicano” should be able to work a solid if tedious game from range to pick apart his stockier, slower opponent. This probably is not a fight where Aldo gets worn out or even finds himself in much trouble, but this also feels like the bout where he just finds himself against a younger, faster fighter who shows that the game -- at least at the elite levels -- has passed him by. Aldo probably wins a round early, but the pick is for “Moicano” to slowly take over the fight and win a close but clear decision.
Next Fight » Maia vs. Good