Examining The Contenders In The Wake Of UFC 136

UFC 136 Weigh Ins-21FEATHERWEIGHTS

Jose Aldo faced what many considered to be his toughest challenge to date when he opposite Kenny Florian in Houston.

After a promising first round for Florian, the champion did what champions do — he adjusted his approach. For the remaining four rounds, Aldo punished Florian coming in and out of the clinch en route to his 13th consecutive victory. Whereas his counterpart in the lightweight division has numerous suitors, Aldo faces different issues in the featherweight ranks.

Chad Mendes
Most indicators point to Mendes getting the next shot at Aldo’s title.

The Team Alpha Male fighter has steamrolled every opponent he has faced, and shown improvement every step of the way. Mendes has used a blend of power and wrestling to overwhelm the opposition, and despite being in the relatively early stages of his career, he’s yet to see the loss column. The biggest knock on Mendes thus far is his pension for going to the scorecards, but wins are wins, and his wrestling could be the key to solving the Jose Aldo puzzle.

Hatsu Hioki
When the news broke the UFC had signed the Japanese star, Hioki was immediately pushed to the top of the list of contenders.

He makes his organizational debut against George Roop at UFC 137, and a win in Las Vegas validates his position amongst the top competitors in the division. In fact, an impressive performance for the Shooto champion could vault him passed Mendes and into a title bout opposite Aldo.

Erik Koch
Talent and potential seem to be a common thing around Duke Roufus’ gym these days. In addition to the attention garnered by Pettis, his teammate and best friend Koch has also been making waves. “New Breed” has been a force inside of the cage, earning back-to-back Knockout of the Night bonuses for his victories over Francisco Rivera and Raphael Assuncao.

His most recent outing resulted in a unanimous decision victory over TUF winner Jonathan Brookins, giving Koch four-fight winning streak heading towards the holiday season. The only blemish on his record came against Mendes, and at 23-years-old, making the necessary adjustments shouldn’t be a problem.

Dustin Poirier
Poirier is most likely sitting on the outer fringes of contention, having put together a nice win streak since suffering the lone loss of his career to Danny Castillo back in August of 2010.

In all honesty, his victory over Josh Grispi doesn’t hold the same clout as it did at the time, seeing as Grispi has since drop another bout and been bitten by the injury bug once again. But three consecutive wins between the WEC and UFC is nothing to blink at. Up next for Poirier is the always unpredictable Pablo Garza in November’s UFC on Fox debut, and should he emerge from his battle with “The Scarecrow” victorious, a shot at the featherweight title should be visible on the horizon.

Frankie Edgar
These days, all people want to talk about are Super Fights; Georges St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva, or Silva vs. light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. While the possibilities are limited and the likelihood is slim, a champion vs. champion battle between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar could be tangible.

Edgar is one of the smallest fighters in the division he currently rules, and a drop to featherweight wouldn’t take much work for the Toms River, New Jersey native. The match-up is a dream come true stylistically speaking; Edgar’s movement and boxing versus Aldo’s speed and pin-point striking would guarantee excitement.

While the current congestion at the top of the list of lightweight contenders is a hurdle that would need to be clear, the potential pairing would be an easy sell and a sure-fire hit.

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