The biggest main event in featherweight history, maybe even in the history of the UFC is set to take place this Saturday, December 12th from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pound for pound best fighter on the planet in Jose Aldo is set to make his 8th title defense against Irish contender, Conor McGregor.
Breaking Down the Takedown: Aldo vs McGregor
The brash Irish superstar has had his eyes set on the featherweight championship since he set foot inside the famed Octagon and this Saturday, the two meet to unify the featherweight championship in a match that has been over a year in the making.
As always, I’m going to be breaking down both fighters in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and hopefully make this fight a little more clearly cut for the casual watcher. After all is said and done, only one man will be the undisputed featherweight champion in what is sure to be, the biggest event of the year.
Jose “Scarface” Aldo Jr.
• 29 years old, 25-1 MMA Record
• Last WEC Featherweight Champion
• Current and Only UFC Featherweight Champion (7x defenses)
Jose Aldo may not have the flashiest punches or the most knockout power in every punch, but one thing that separates him from the pack is his picture perfect and crisp technique. No punch thrown by the champ is without reason and every combo landed is a textbook example of how to throw it. During his exchanges in his Fight of the Year match with Chad Mendes, his technique was always tighter and faster than Mendes could match and thus enabled him to get the better of the exchanges. His lightening quick jab helped him on his way to a victory over contender Frankie Edgar and has been the reason he has been such a successful champion. Don’t expect a lazy Jose Aldo anytime soon and expect his very best form to take on Conor McGregor.
What Jose Aldo fan does not know about his famous leg kicks? Aldo literally kicked the leg out from under Faber back in their WEC meeting in 2010 and they have become a signature technique in the Brazilian’s arsenal. From being a former soccer player, it is no mystery that his massive power, coupled together with his perfect technique, make for a dangerous strike and one of the most powerful attacks in all of MMA. What gives Aldo such an extreme advantage in this bout, is the stance McGregor takes. He stands wide, always wanting to be on the outside of his opponent and it is the biggest invitation to Aldo for his famous kicks. If Conor takes Aldo’s kicks lightly, it inevitably will come as a huge mistake to the Irishmen, as Aldo can throw his leg kicks for the entire night.
Patient and calm to lightening quick and seeking the finish, Jose Aldo’s killer instinct seems to switch on and off very naturally and at any moment. From testing his reach with his jab, to throwing flying knees and superman punches off the cage, Aldo can always switch it up without warning. McGregor seems to always push a fast and constant pace and while it may work against most fighters, expect Aldo to easily match McGregor’s pace and switch it up without hesitation. With Aldo bringing his unpredictability to the table, it should always be a worry while Conor trades with him and can definitely be a fighter ender.
-Stillness while Trading
While there are few weaknesses in the game of Jose Aldo, one that comes to mind is how still the champ remains while trading shots. In his rematch with Chad Mendes, during exchanges, he would stand completely still and have small openings in his guard. When he threw an uppercut to the body, he kept his head right on the center line, allowing a small hook counter to drop him for a split second. A great counter that is easily accessible to McGregor is an uppercut counter while Aldo looks for a lead hook. If McGregor has his timing right, he can duck under the hook and counter with a fast uppercut to consistently land to the champion.
-Fighting while moving backwards
Another very small weakness in the game of ‘Scarface’, is his ability to strike while being on the backpedal. Chad Mendes landed his arguably best shots whenever Jose Aldo was moving backwards as he was lowering his hands due to the constant pressure. McGregor is a heavy pressure fighter, and if Aldo shows the same tendencies from the Mendes fight, Conor may have his answer in front of him with his natural fighting style.
Every challenger has talked about how they were the one, the one to end the reign of featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo and go down in history as the only one to do so. Their confidence seems so undoubtable leading up to the fight until the moment the opening bell rings. There is something that changes in every fighter the moment of Aldo is allowed to step forward and let his hands do the talking and that is the realization that this fighter is much more than they believe until it is too late. The entire character that is Jose Aldo is never fully realized until the first punch is thrown and makes his opponents rethink their confidence. McGregor may be “Mystic Mac” and the biggest superstar to date, but make no mistake about it that he will realize he may have underestimated Jose Aldo when this two superstars collide.
In every UFC fight to date, Conor McGregor has showcased his elite striking talent and just how dangerous he is with his accuracy and power. His debut against Marcus Brimage showed how his unorthodox uppercuts could land with such force; the powerful 1-2 combination spelled the end for Dennis Siver and Chad Mendes, and his left hook setting his putting away of Dustin Poirier. Time and time again, McGregor’s impeccable timing and striking have led to the Irishmen gaining important wins along the way to capturing UFC gold in such a short amount of time and is his biggest weapon in his fight with the longtime featherweight champion in Jose Aldo.
Along with his striking ability, Conor also is a huge pressure fighter. He imposes his will on his opponents and makes them back up so that he is able to use his range and various attacks. In his last fight, McGregor constantly walked Mendes down while on the feet, throwing body kicks, front kicks and hard left hands to keep at just the right distance while making ‘Money’ back up to find breathing room. A noticeable constant in McGregor’s fight plan is opening with a spinning kick, or normal high kick from the get go. He wants to establish Octagon dominance early so that the rest of the fight is fought according to his spacing, as well as timing.
-Power Left Hand
As most McGregor critics have announced before, ‘The Notorious’ has been known to rely on his wins being set up using his left hand. Being a southpaw, McGregor constantly baits his opponents with fast combinations, looking for the opening in which to unload his powerful left hand that would normally spell the end of the fight. In his wins against Brandao, Siver and Mendes, his constant pressure, as well as body strikes tend to force his opponents to lean on the cage for support; with this key moment, McGregor unleashes his 1-2 combination which leads to a few more strikes before gaining a stoppage win.
While this fight may not ever see the mat as being an option, it is very crucial to see that McGregor does possess flaws in his ground game. During the time Mendes was in control of the fight, he remained heavy from the top, not allowing an inch of breathing room for the Irishmen to try and sweep or transition to a better position. If Aldo were to take this fight to the ground, his best bet is to constantly smother Conor as it does not appear ‘The Notorious’ is very explosive from his back.
As mentioned before with Aldo’s strengths, McGregor uses a wide stance for his fighting style as he wishes to remain on the outside of his opponent during exchanges. This leaves his lead leg out in the open, calling for Aldo’s massive leg kicks to find a home. If McGregor does in fact see Aldo’s striking as weak as he claims, it may just be the beginning of the end once the kicks start to find their mark.
Dennis Siver may have arguably done the most in terms of finding a weakness in the seemingly invincible Irish superstar. When Conor would go for kicks, knees, and spinning attacks, he drops his hands for what I assume is the threat of a takedown from his opponent. Siver was able to dodge most of this spinning attacks and come back right away with short counter punches. A resemblance of both Siver and Aldo is their tight technique with Aldo having much more of a speed advantage. These small openings may not have been very much for Siver to pick up the win, but make no mistake that this will not be the case for Jose Aldo. Aldo will take full advantage of any sign of drop in the defense of Conor and answer with his speed and knockout power.
From spinning hook kicks, to wheel kicks, jumping knees, and the wind up uppercuts, McGregor’s striking repertoire is one of the most diverse we have been able to see. He is a fighter who knows movement and timing in such a combined form that he appears to be able to hit you from any angle. Aldo has fought the best of the best and in no way should be taken lightly, yet all of his challengers have fought his fight, flat footed and technique vs technique in which Aldo has yet to be bested. McGregor’s striking will be a test to just how well Aldo is able to move forward without fear of a spinning kick from out of nowhere.
This matchup is set to be the biggest featherweight fight, as well as the biggest fight in general for the UFC. A brash Irishmen, hell bent on taking everything away from the Brazilian kingpin who has scratched and clawed his way to the top of his kingdom. It is the perfect story for the UFC and both men’s fighting styles add up to arguably the most anticipated fight of the year. With Aldo’s picture perfect technique combined with power and speed it is the best test for McGregor’s unorthodox movement, striking and timing. Two of the very best testing one another in what is sure to be a Fight of the Year contender, the two men will finally put words aside and see just who the better man is on December 12th.
In my honest opinion, I am siding on McGregor to pick up the win. I believe that his movement along with his wide array of strikes will not only be too much for the Brazilian kingpin to handle, but too much to take in. While Aldo is the reigning pound for pound best fighter on the planet, I do not believe he has faced anyone like Conor in terms of creativeness and unorthodox striking and will be unable to answer the Irish superstar’s devastating attacks.
UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor is set to take place live on pay-per-view from inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Nevada, December 12th 2015. The entire fight card is one of the most stacked from top to bottom cards in the history of the UFC and is without a doubt one of the most anticipated nights of the year.