Watching Jose Aldo dismantling Manny Gamburyan last night at WEC 51 I got a funny feeling of deja vu.
The ease with which Aldo picked apart the Armenian reminded me a lot of the UFC’s most dominant champion Anderson Silva. Like his fellow Brazilian, Aldo seems to barely stepping into second gear at times, and yet still manages to make his opponents look foolish and out of their depth.
Now unbeaten in all eight of his WEC appearances, and having finished all but one of his fights inside the distance you can’t help but wonder who can offer a serious challenge to the 24 year-old at 145lbs?
WEC general manager Reed Harris insists that there’s plenty of worthy opponents left for him at featherweight but honestly I just don’t see it.
Josh Grispi is certainly one I could agree to. 14-1, on a 10 fight winning streak with just one opponent making it out of the first round with him, he’s another young, exciting talent. If he can get past Erik Koch at WEC 52 in November then he should be next on the Brazilian’s horizon.
Beyond that I don’t see who’s going to provide a serious test that the likes of former champions Faber and Mike Brown haven’t already offered.
Yet Harris stated last night that he believes Aldo has, “a year or two left” at 145lbs before moving to a different division.
I understand the motive behind his stance. Once Aldo starts division hopping, it’s surely only a matter of time before he finds himself being moved up to the UFC’s lightweight division – assuming he keeps winning of course. The WEC are short on emerging stars to take up the mantle from fan favorites like Faber, and so naturally they want to hold on to him for as long as possible.
The reality is that the UFC also need new stars as well though. Many of the big name fighters that drive their pay-per-view numbers are in their 30’s now, and potential future superstars like Jon ‘Bones’ Jones are few and far between.
This can clearly be seen at lightweight where the division is suddenly lacking a real PPV punch since BJ Penn lost his title. Emerging forces like Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard haven’t yet captured the fans attention in the same way, and lack the killer instinct and spectacular highlight reel that someone like Aldo can provide.
I don’t think it has to happen right away, but realistically the gameplan has to be to migrate Aldo to the UFC within the next 18 months to two years.
That still leaves time for the WEC to take advantage of his rising star power though. I’d like to see him to take one, or a maximum of two more title defenses at featherweight and then move up to 155lbs.
There, fights with the likes of Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Jamie Varnier and Anthony Pettis would all be easily marketable for the promotion and would serve as the perfect testing ground to see whether Aldo can make the leap to the big stage in the UFC’s ultra-competitive lightweight division.
If all goes well then the WEC will have been able to put on some great headline fights, made the best of their time with Aldo and helped build a buzz for the next stage of his career. Alternatively if he comes unstuck then he can still head back down to featherweight and will still have the option of the bantamweight division left to explore as well.
The timetable doesn’t have to be exact, but if Aldo is still fighting the Gamburyan’s of the featherweight division in the next 12-18 months then I think it will be a waste of one of the most talented fighters in the sport today.