José Aldo is the current UFC featherweight champion and ranked #4 in the UFC’s ‘pound-for-pound’ rankings, but it can be argued that he has lost his aura of invincibility and is now ignored in debates regarding the best fighters in the world. This is mainly due to the tsunami Conor McGregor imposed on the featherweight division.
After ruling the WEC featherweight division and receiving promotion to the UFC featherweight title, Aldo stepped inside the octagon for his debut against Mark Hominick and won by a unanimous decision, solidifying himself as the king of the new UFC featherweight division. He then went on to win seven fights in a row, slaying contender after contender and cleaning out the division. The conviction in which he picked off the best featherweights in the world was captivating and despite several bouts that went the distance, this is a fighter that goes out to finish and inflict as much damage as possible. Combining his devastating Muay Thai and effective takedown means we’ve hardly been able to witness his skills as a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar, two of the best featherweights of all-time, got two shots each at taking on the Brazilian but were still unable to enforce any of their strengths. Aldo simply made a talent-enriched division look average, but this all changed when a not-so shy and understated Irishman stepped onto the scene.
Brutal – Left hook against Mendes Spectacular – Superman punch off the cage against Edgar
It took McGregor just over two years to storm into the UFC and walk away with Aldo’s belt, setting out his intentions from the very beginning. Aldo had never come across any opponent like McGregor before. He was cocky, brash, invasive, and he was determined to unsettle Aldo mentally and get personal before they met in the cage. After an injury setback pulling him out of the UFC 189 card against McGregor and a tiring world promotional tour leading up to UFC 194, they eventually met in December 2015.
Punished – McGregor’s title-winning counter
This was by far the most emotional Aldo had ever been going into a fight, which may have been his downfall as the fight only lasted 13 seconds. McGregor countered Aldo’s early attack with a left hand that landed clean on the jaw. The Aldo-McGregor chapter was over, and the McGregor hype train sped up and many wrote off the Brazilian. The fight could not have ended more convincingly but this was 13 seconds, one mistake and a mistake he will learn from. Every fighter makes mistakes but due to the stage, the timing and the build-up, Aldo received the greatest punishment.
At the lowest point of his career with the doubters and critics in full force, he bounced back in his next fight, outclassing the future ‘Hall of Famer’ Frankie Edgar in their rematch, proving his championship calibre. He showed he is still at the top of his game, and this was arguably the most impressive performance of his career. To back this up, we have gathered the stats to illustrate his superiority. Firstly, we have compared his numbers with the top eight ranked fighters of the featherweight division, to provide a current analysis:
With only two losses in 28 fights, Aldo’s win percentage is unmatched, but what makes this more impressive is the fact that the majority of his opponents were all top contenders, with an even higher percentage in the WEC/UFC. He has several wins against top 10 ranked opponents, and due to his success he has remained in the top five for nearly eight years. It is also important to mention the amount of title fights, as it is much harder to defend a belt than win one, and to do it repetitively for six years is a remarkable achievement that has rarely been matched in UFC history.
Now let’s compare these stats to the UFC’s top ranked fighters:
Although the fighters with a higher win percentage - Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14), Cody Garbrandt (11) and Daniel Cormier (20) - have had less fights, they boast an incredible percentage and if they maintain it with more title defences, they will be worthy greats of the sport. However, the only fighter with as many title fights as Aldo is Demetrious Johnson, who has a lower win percentage of 90%. Johnson matches Aldo for number of wins against top 10 opponents, with Dominick Cruz the only fighter to spend more time ranked in the top five of his division.
So these stats are very flattering for Aldo, even when compared to the ‘pound-for-pound’ best fighters in the UFC. Now let’s take a look at how Aldo has fared inside the octagon in terms of the key striking and grappling stats:
Fight stats obtained via FightMetric.
Fighters have different strengths with a varied number of fights for the UFC so we cannot read too much into the specific numbers, but it is still a great insight into how Aldo compares with the best fighters. For example, Aldo relies heavily on his stand up, so his ‘takedowns defended’ percentage is a great indicator of his skill level. On the other hand, he rarely initiates a takedown so his ‘takedown accuracy’ is not an important part of his game.
Nevertheless, Aldo consistently comes out at the top of the rankings, proving that nobody should be sleeping on him. The next step for him is another tremendously difficult title defence against another hungry fighter in his prime, Max Holloway, and if he comes through with a win, don’t be surprised if he moves up to lightweight on a quest of vengeance to meet McGregor.
Hometown hero: Aldo celebrating a win over Mendes