UFC 212: Clarity Coming to Featherweight Division; Farewell to a Legend
A preview of UFC 212, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.
Updated: May 31, 2017 • 10:17 AM ET
Jose Aldo has a lot to prove since his shocking loss at UFC 194.
The real UFC featherweight champion will be crowned at UFC 212 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, where champion Jose Aldo will face interim champion Max Holloway for the undisputed title. Both men have a mountain of expectations to climb on their way to possibly claiming a victory in the bout.
Aldo has to prove that he deserves to be called the true champion, while still trying to erase every fan’s memory of the 13 seconds he was in the Octagon with Conor McGregor. Since being flattened by McGregor at UFC 194 in December 2015, Aldo has had just one fight, a unanimous decision victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.
Since defeating Edgar, Aldo has flirted with the idea of leaving the UFC for soccer and made demands of the company for the fights he thinks he deserves, threatening not to fight at all. The move wasn’t wise, as the UFC president Dana White told UFC Tonight that Aldo was “being a little ridiculous” about his stance.
Aldo was among the first of many fighters to jump in on an alarming trend in the UFC, saying he would only fight on his terms, including when and who he wanted to fight. The UFC promptly reminded Aldo, and the rest of the band of fearless fighters, that they’re under contract and contracts just don’t work that way.
Aldo’s win over Edgar earned him the interim featherweight title, which was later upgraded to the actual title after the UFC stripped McGregor of the featherweight belt he took from the Brazilian. According to FOX Sports, the UFC stripped McGregor of his belt in November out of necessity to find a last-minute main event for UFC 206, which wound up being Holloway versus Anthony Pettis for the interim featherweight title.
Aldo’s only loss in the UFC was to McGregor, racking up 15 consecutive victories from June 2008 through October 2014. The 15 consecutive wins is a mark only a few fighters will come close to in their careers. After the streak came crashing to a halt at UFC 194, Aldo has to remind everyone of the great champion he was. Nevertheless, he’ll have his hands full with a young lion that has put together a winning streak of his own.
Holloway, just 25 years old, made his UFC debut at the age of 20. His last loss came in August 2013 to none other than McGregor. Since the loss, Holloway has won 10 fights in a row, including the interim title at UFC 206 over Pettis. Despite the win streak, the Hawaiian hasn’t garnered the type of hype you would expect out of a phenom; which begs the question, why not?
Holloway is more of a silent assassin and prefers his skill to do the talking instead of his mouth. His humble, yet devastating approach, has won over some, but a finish of Aldo would cultivate the attention of many fans worldwide. Let’s not forget that he has to go to Aldo’s native Brazil to capture the victory.
Aldo is a hero in Brazil, so Holloway will also be at the mercy of a hostile crowd in Rio, a place where many American fighters have come up short. Holloway’s strengths are his cardio, endurance and crisp striking. For a fighter his size, Aldo has incredible stamina and knockout power, not to mention the edge on the ground, which is where fans might see him take the fight as it progresses into the later rounds.
Despite being four inches shorter than Holloway, Aldo will have a slight reach advantage, which should make things interesting if Holloway tries to pick him apart from the outside with jabs and combinations.
Aldo is 3-0 in the UFC when fighting in Brazil, including a first-round knockout of Chad Mendes, after which he jumped into the crowd and was hoisted to the top of Brazilian fans’ shoulders. It was a memorable moment for Aldo and the UFC, and if he can defeat Holloway in dramatic fashion on Saturday, fans may see it again.
Should Holloway win convincingly, does he follow the current champions trend and call for a “money” fight? Well, the obvious money fight for Holloway is a rematch with McGregor, either for the 145-pound title or Holloway moving up to 155. This would have to happen in the distant future, as McGregor is still trying to lock down a super-crossover fight with boxer Floyd Mayweather.
So, in the meantime, who would be the next fighter to challenge for the featherweight title? After his dominating performance over the division’s next rising star, Yair Rodriguez at UFC 211, it will likely be Edgar.
The co-main event of the evening is between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked strawweight women in the world. Brazilian Claudia Gadelha will battle Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Both women have fought for the women’s strawweight title within the past year, and both lost via unanimous decision to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The winner of this fight will likely get another crack at Jedrzejczyk. For Gadelha, it would be her third attempt at defeating the champion, while another shot at Jedrzejczyk would be Kowalkiewicz’s second opportunity to take her down.
It will take strong mental endurance and a versatile attack for Kowalkiewicz to avoid Gadelha’s dangerous Jiu-Jitsu, and fans should expect a grueling three round fight.
Farewell to a legend
The UFC will also bid farewell to the legendary Vitor Belfort, as the Brazilian will fight for the last time with the promotion at UFC 212. The 40-year-old made his first appearance in the UFC at 19 years old, winning the heavyweight tournament at UFC 12.
Although he said he’ll continue to fight outside of the UFC, Belfort leaves behind a legacy that cannot be denied. He has victories over Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson, Luke Rockhold and current middleweight champion Michael Bisping, to name a few. Belfort is coming off two knockout losses and a no contest, in which he was also KO’d. To end his career gloriously, he’ll need to defeat heavy-handed veteran Nate Marquardt. Win or lose, the UFC will be retiring a legend on Saturday.