UFC 251 May Be MMA Legend’s Last Chance at Gold

Jose Aldo

Getty Jose Aldo during the UFC 212 press conference.

Brazilian fighting legend and former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr. will step into the Octagon at UFC 251 for another shot at gold. He is scheduled to compete for the vacant bantamweight title on July 11 against Petr Yan. The title was vacated by Henry Cejudo, who retired in May following his victory at UFC 249.

At 33 years old, Aldo has competed 34 times as a professional. The veteran fighter’s match against Yan will only be the second time the Brazilian has fought at bantamweight. He moved down from featherweight in December 2019 when he fought Marlon Moraes at UFC 245. Aldo turned in a strong effort but he lost to Moraes by split decision. He is 0-2 in his last two bouts, and the decision by the UFC to grant Aldo the bantamweight title fight has been ridiculed by many fans and analysts.

UFC 251 takes place July 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern time on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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Many believe that although Aldo performed well in his bantamweight debut, he shouldn’t be getting a title shot coming off of two losses, especially with the surplus of world-class talent in the division. The other end of the argument, however, is that Aldo has a storied MMA career, and he is viewed by many as the greatest featherweight fighter of all time in that division. By legacy alone, some say Aldo has earned a shot at a title in the division south of the one he ruled for so long.

Aldo may find that UFC 251 is his last chance at gold. If the Brazilian is unable to get the job done on July 11, he will be facing a steep mountain to climb if he hopes to earn another title shot at either bantamweight or featherweight. Aldo would be 0-2 at bantamweight and in the featherweight division, he already has losses to the top two fighters, Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway.

Aldo would likely have to work his way through a gauntlet of elite competition to earn another title shot, and it’s unclear if the nearly 40-fight veteran is willing and able to do that. However, anything is possible in MMA, especially when the fighter standing in the Octagon is Jose Aldo.

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Aldo Ruled the Featherweight Division for Years & Was the Champion of 2 Major Promotions

Aldo was the king of featherweight for years. Before the UFC had a featherweight division, Aldo was ruling the weight class in World Extreme Cage Fighting (WEC). He debuted in the WEC when he was 10-1 in his professional MMA career, and he won five fights in a row before earning a title fight against then-champ Mike Brown.

He took Brown’s featherweight strap by second-round TKO, starting a championship reign that lasted over five years. He defended the WEC belt twice, defeating “The California Kid” Urijah Faber by unanimous decision and Manny Gamburyan by second-round TKO. The WEC was purchased and absorbed by the UFC and Aldo was promoted to the undisputed UFC featherweight champion.

As the promotion’s inaugural featherweight champ, Aldo defended his title a record seven times. He made his UFC debut in April 2011, defending his belt against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 by unanimous decision. The match was an exciting affair, earning the Fight of the Night bonus. Aldo’s next bout came in October 2011 at UFC 136 when he defeated former lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian by unanimous decision.

In his third title defense, Aldo earned his first finish in the promotion by knocking out Chad Mendes in the first round at UFC 142 in January 2012. Aldo took over a year hiatus after his win against Mendes before returning to the ring for a superfight. The Brazilian star took on former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in one of the most anticipated featherweight bouts of all time. The two stars fought in February 2013 at UFC 156 and earned Fight of the Night honors. Aldo defended his belt by unanimous decision, making that his fourth UFC title defense in a row.

Aldo would go on to defend the belt three more times. He defeated “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung by TKO in August 2013 at UFC 163 and Ricardo Lamas by unanimous decision in February 2014 at UFC 169. For his seventh title defense, Aldo fought and defeated Chad Mendes in a rematch in October 2014 at UFC 179. Aldo earned the victory by unanimous decision in what turned out to be one of the greatest featherweight title fights in history.

Aldo’s Streak Was Snapped When He Lost His Title to Conor McGregor at UFC 194

After his victory at UFC 179, Aldo was boasting a legendary professional MMA record of 25-1 and he was on an 18-fight win streak. However, his fortune took a turn. In December 2015 at UFC 194, Aldo lost his featherweight title to Conor McGregor via one of the most iconic knockouts in UFC history.

But he would touch featherweight gold one more time. Due to McGregor’s inactivity in the featherweight division, Aldo competed for the interim featherweight title when he fought Frankie Edgar in July 2016 at UFC 200. Aldo defeated Edgar by unanimous decision for the second time, and after McGregor was stripped of the featherweight title due to inactivity in the division, Aldo was promoted to the undisputed champion.

Aldo was unable to defend his belt, however, as he lost to Max Holloway in his next bout. Holloway defeated Aldo by third-round TKO in June 2017 at UFC 212. Since that loss, Aldo has been unable to touch gold again. The Brazilian was awarded an immediate rematch against Holloway, but he was finished in the fourth round of their December 2017 fight at UFC 218.

Aldo Has Gone 2-2 in His Last 4 Bouts & He Is Currently on a 2-Fight Losing Streak

Aldo competed three more times in the featherweight division before dropping down to bantamweight. He rebounded off his two losses to Holloway by finishing Jeremy Stephens in the first round of their July 2018 fight at UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2 bout, and around seven months later he stopped Renato Moicano in the second round during UFC Fight Night: Assuncao vs. Moraes 2.

His victory over Moicano was the last time Aldo got his hand raised. Aldo lost to current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski by unanimous decision in May 2019 at UFC 237. The defeat to Volkanovski prompted the former featherweight king to head south to bantamweight.

Aldo, who has only fought once at bantamweight, took on former title challenger Marlon Moraes in December 2019 at UFC 245. He turned in an impressive performance against Moraes but lost the bout by split decision. As history has it, however, Aldo was awarded the title shot against Petr Yan at UFC 251 because of his performance against Moraes, as well as the legacy Aldo built throughout the years.

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