In the world of mixed martial arts, terms like “pound for pound” and “legend” are constantly misused when describing a fighter’s skills or achievements. But in the case of Jose Aldo, there couldn’t be more perfect descriptors for a true pound-for-pound legend.
Aldo, who recently requested out of his UFC contract citing his retirement, held claim to one of the most impressive unbeaten streaks that this sport has ever seen when he won eighteen consecutive fights from 2005 to 2015, defending his featherweight title nine times in a row across WEC and UFC. In addition to the Brazilian’s impressive title reign, Aldo also helped elevate the game of MMA as a whole through ferocious technical superiority and a dedication to defense that few can hold a candle to.
Below, I do my best to highlight some of the technical evolutions that Aldo brought to the table as I revisit and rank his greatest wins in the WEC and UFC.
Jose Aldo def. Rolando Perez at WEC 38 – Jan. 25, 2009
Although Rolando Perez was outmatched from the onset, the American made a decent account for himself early when he attempted to jab with Aldo and counter off of his leg kicks.
Unfortunately for Perez, Aldo, despite being just 23 years old, was already showing the ability to make reads and counter jabs (which eventually became a staple of the Brazilian’s game).
WEC 38, January 25th 2009
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) November 29, 2021
Aldo was also much more active with his knees through this stretch of his career, as knees – both to the body and head – would contribute to his next three stoppage wins following this appearance at WEC 38.
Jose Aldo def. Pedro Munhoz at UFC 265 – Aug. 7, 2021
Well over a hundred UFC pay-per-views since his promotional debut at UFC 129, Aldo still found himself in relevant co-main event matchups against hungry contenders like Pedro Munhoz.
Aldo had dropped down to bantamweight by this point of his career, which was a move that was highly questioned by many through his initial foray at 135 pounds. However, in spite of all the challenges and shaky moments he had in his first three bantamweight affairs, Aldo was able to put it all together against Munhoz in what was a masterclass of leg checks and lead-hand savvy.
In fact, if you really want to understand my frustration with misleading statistics in this sport, then I suggest you compare all the times Aldo checks or evades leg kicks to the number of leg lands that UFCstats.com credits Munhoz with (as they grossly credit Munhoz with 37 of his 42 attempts).
Aldo’s calf kick defense is on point pic.twitter.com/F1Ivtus7V7
— Frank (@IamFrankJr123) November 22, 2021
Aldo was still able to wash out Munhoz’s perceived lands by setting his own personal best in the significant strike department, landing a career-best 114 strikes at an accuracy of 51 percent.
Jose Aldo def. Cub Swanson at WEC 41 – June 7, 2009
Although this is a matchup that I badly wanted to see run back at multiple times throughout their careers, I’d be remiss if I left out Aldo’s eight-second win over Cub Swanson.
An OG in the Southern California scene, Swanson was a perfect fit to test a fast-rising Aldo when they first met back in June of 2009. Unfortunately for Swanson, the then-25-year-old ducked into a flying knee that broke his orbital and ended his night just eight seconds into the bout.
7 June 2009
Aldo TKOs Cub Swanson with a flying knee
in 8 seconds. pic.twitter.com/DwBV4c8RhM
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) September 19, 2022
It may have been quick, but it was more than enough to earn Aldo a shot at WEC gold.
Jose Aldo def. Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 – July 9, 2016
Although this rematch took place during a strange time in both the division and their respective careers, I felt that Aldo’s second fight with Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 deserved some love on this list.
MMA might inherently be an offensive sport, but great defense is often a key ingredient in masterclasses as Aldo’s defensive swagger is absolutely undeniable.
“Aldo has no takedown defense” ok explain this
— King Malokai (@kingmalokai) June 17, 2021
Whether he’s pushing down on the head to limp-leg out of singles or separating grips while switching his hips, Aldo’s takedown defense is something that all young mixed martial artists should be studying.
Jose Aldo def. Uriah Faber at WEC 48 – April 24, 2010
Though you could easily argue for this fight to be higher on the list, Aldo’s memorable victory over Uriah Faber makes for a solid No. 7 spot with me.
That being noted, this was a huge event at the time.
WEC 48 would go down as the only pay-per-view event in the promotion’s history, which featured notables like Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg calling the action.
Rogan was a bit hyper-critical of Aldo for not finishing Faber in the final round (something that would be a theme in Rogan’s commentary for Aldo’s early UFC career), but the Brazilian put on an MMA masterclass in the art of leg kicks that none of us would soon forget.
Here’s a Jose Aldo leg kick compilation vs Urijah Faber
I need this version of Aldo vs Pedro Munhoz 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/HHHeFUE7uM
— 𝘼𝙡𝙚𝙭 🔰 (@Ataman_MMA) August 7, 2021
Jose Aldo def. Mike Brown at WEC 44 – Nov. 18, 2009
Mike Brown’s brief WEC title reign never gets the love it deserves, which is probably why I have this fight so high on the list.
But my love for Brown aside, this was truly a complete performance by Aldo that doesn’t get brought up enough.
Not only do we get a great glimpse of Aldo’s takedown defense and striking, but the Brazilian uses his quiet theme of bodywork to break down Brown en route to polishing off the former featherweight champion with superb jiu-jitsu on the floor.
18 November 2009
Aldo defeats Mike Brown via TKO in Rd 2
Becomes the WEC Featherweight Champion pic.twitter.com/bec6OaaRSA
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) August 16, 2022
Jose Aldo def. Jeremy Stephens at UFC on FOX 31 – July 28, 2018
Despite this being the first non-title fight in Aldo’s UFC career, his victory over Jeremy Stephens carries a lot of weight considering the context of the time.
Coming off of two crushing stoppages to Max Holloway, it was unclear whether or not Aldo would be able to return to form at this stage of the game.
Stephens may have been a .500 UFC fighter on paper, but the promotion’s junkyard dog was seemingly learning how to work his own chain at this time in his career, steadily stringing together an impressive three-fight winning streak.
Aldo appeared to get stung by Stephens early on in the fight, which only encouraged the American to walk harder into the former champ’s counters.
After gaining some respect, Aldo fired off a combo that finished with a left hook to the body that ended up shutting Stephens down. Aldo’s emotions afterward show just how much pressure and self-doubt he was carrying into the bout, which is what makes it resonate so much with me.
Jose Aldo did this to Jeremy Stephens 4 years ago today. That body shot was a thing of beauty
— Jason Williams (@jasoneg33) July 29, 2022
Jose Aldo def. Frankie Edgar at UFC 156 – Feb. 2, 2013
In what was one of my favorite jabbing performances from Aldo, I’d be hard-pressed to leave his first fight with Edgar off this list.
There was a ton of excitement for Edgar to make his long-awaited debut at 145 pounds ahead of UFC 156, priming this to be an instant classic.
Aldo always had solid feints and footwork, but his emphasis on the jab – particularly in a defensive manner – allowed for the featherweight great to safely manage pace and limit Edgar’s targets. If you’re looking for solid examples of jabs in MMA, this fight is definitely worth revisiting.
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) May 26, 2021
Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes at UFC 142 – Jan. 14, 2012
In what was Zuffa’s return to the Brazilian market post-UFC 134, Aldo was set to headline opposite undefeated American wrestler Chad Mendes.
Mendes, a Team Alpha Male product, was tearing his way through the rankings at 145 pounds and was thought to be Aldo’s stiffest stylistic test at this point of his career.
However, shortly after the fight started, it became clear that Mendes needed to get things into the grappling realm. Pressing the then-champion against the fence, Mendes diligently worked for takedowns while Aldo desperately tried to defend (getting away with a cage grab at a certain point).
But after some warnings from the referee, Aldo was able to separate Mendes’ grips before turning into him to deliver a perfectly placed counter-knee. And, of course, who could forget the iconic celebration after?
14 January 2012
Aldo KOs Chad Mendes with a knee in Rd 1
He shows off his all-time takedown defence and punctuates it violently.
Embraces the crowd afterwards. King of Rio pic.twitter.com/xZPTpa6Rt7
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) August 16, 2022
Jose Aldo def. Rob Font at UFC on ESPN 31 – Dec. 4, 2021
Perhaps it’s because I’m such a big fan of Roberto Duran’s late-career win over Iran Barkley, but Aldo’s post-prime performance opposite Rob Font ranks this high on my list.
Font was a big and dangerous bantamweight who was riding a four-fight winning streak at the time, while Aldo was an aging veteran tasked with yet another five-round affair.
Aldo’s pacing and stamina had already been brought into question in previous bouts, making Font’s striking volume a real threat. However, despite technically being outstruck 149 to 86, according to the stats, Aldo clearly landed the more impactful strikes in every round (proving how silly significant strike stats can be in the grand scheme of things).
Akin to the previously mentioned Duran, Aldo’s experience and fight IQ helped him pull out power shots and counter Font’s lead hand throughout the fight. As Ocelot MMA perfectly puts it below, this is one of the best post-prime wins in MMA.
4 December 2021
Aldo defeats Rob Font via UD over five rounds.
Font fought very well, but he could not stop or handle the power of Aldo.
One of the best post-prime wins in MMA. pic.twitter.com/9YyfVIC99E
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) August 16, 2022
Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes at UFC 179 – Oct. 25, 2014
In what is easily the best featherweight fight of all time, Aldo’s rematch with Mendes back at UFC 179 should be atop any list it finds itself in.
Whether you’re a casual fight fan or a hipster analyst of the highest order, there’s no way you can re-watch this five-round war and not come away impressed. Not only do you get insanely paced action for 25 minutes, but Aldo-Mendes 2 is also loaded with a slew of technical adjustments and high-level tactics that are worth studying whether you’re a fighter or a fan.
Similar to the Duran-Barkley example in the prior selection, Aldo is also forced to adjust to a left hook that seemingly has his name on it early and often. But as color commentator Brian Stann states in his call of the bout,
“you want to make the champion work; this is how he works.”
Happy retirement to Jose Aldo. One of the fighters that made me become a fan of MMA. Here’s highlights of my favourite fights of all time, Aldo vs Mendes 2. Long live the King Of Rio..#MMA #JoseAldo #UFC pic.twitter.com/51a9lcbvPk
— Sweet Pugilsm (@DreamsR4Real999) September 19, 2022
Honorable mentions (not from UFC or WEC)
Jose Aldo def. Aritano Barbosa (May 12, 2005) and Jose Aldo def. Anderson Silverio (July 9, 2005) for those who are fans of soccer kicks.
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