With another decisive victory under his belt it appears UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo is running out of legitimate threats to his title, taking out undefeated Chad Mendes at UFC 142 with a first round knockout after picking apart Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian in his previous defenses of his belt. In fact, the situation is such UFC President Dana White has come out to say he’s completely open to the idea of Aldo abandoning his strap and moving up to 155 pounds. However, as dominant as the 25-year old Brazilian has been over the past few years since coming to the forefront of fans’ attention, it’s foolish to think there aren’t a handful of challengers left at 145 who could potentially give Aldo a run for his money.
Who are they you ask? Read ahead for three solid options potentially keeping “Scarface” busy for another year before he dips his toes in the lightweight division’s deeper waters.
While Hioki has been targeted for a future title-shot already he has to get by Palaszewski at UFC 144 before rumor can turn into reality and doing so is far from a given, especially when considering how sharp Palaszewski looked in his divisional debut against Tyson Griffin. He would be bigger/stronger than Aldo if they were to meet and he has a polished attack making him a threat to stop an opponent via TKO or submission. Back to Hioki, the 28-year old grappler is seasoned and has beaten a number of quality featherweights in the past like Hominick, George Roop, Ronnie Mann, and Marlon Sandro. He’s smart enough to avoid playing Aldo’s stand-up game and savvy enough on the mat to make things interesting in that department.
Poirier is still unproven against “Top 5” competition but has beaten Pablo Garza and Josh Grispi among a handful of other respected adversaries. He is one of the few 145ers on the UFC’s roster who can strike with Aldo while also possessing above-average BJJ/wrestling. Assuming he beats newcomer Max Holloway at UFC 143 he may very well see Aldo in 2012 with a 4-0 record inside the Octagon and a good deal of hype to boot.
The 27-3 Alcantara has made a name for himself with consecutive victories at UFC shows in Brazil including last weekend’s win over Michihiro Omigawa. He’s finished 23 opponents with a nice split between submissions/TKOs, plus the 28-year old has won thirteen fights in a row (and nineteen of his last twenty). He may not have a lot of name value but all he needs is another win over a notable foe like Omigawa and he’ll easily have enough momentum to step in as a top contender.
Honorable Mentions: Erik Koch / Jimy Hettes
Koch’s only loss was a decision to Mendes while on WEC’s roster and he’s since won four in a row with back-to-back success against Raphael Assuncao and most recently TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins. He’s a finisher who comes from a great camp and he’s not even close to having reached his potential yet at only 23 years old.
Hettes is far too raw to face Aldo just yet but he looked fantastic against veteran Nam Phan at UFC 141 and his out-of-this-world submission game could be the answer to ending Aldo’s reign.
So there you have it – multiple potential opponents for Aldo who all bring high-level skills with them into the cage and have come away with hands raised against equally dangerous opponents. While none may have what it take to beat Aldo, all would at least fare as well as Mendes and likely better.
What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!