March 25, 2012
Aldo's Calgary opponent a mystery
By Neil Springer, Special to QMI Agency
Usually when the UFC announces a title fight, an actual challenger is named.
But when the world’s largest MMA organization revealed its plans to hit Calgary for the first time this summer, all we were given was a champion — UFC featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo.
Of course, July 21 is months away and there are a number of other fight cards to finalize before UFC 149 is put together. Also, UFC president Dana White only dropped Aldo’s name after some light prodding from Sun Media’s Jose Rodriguez.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t survey the featherweight landscape and make a few assumptions here and there, right?
After all, though there are a number of talented 145-pound fighters on the UFC roster, there isn’t exactly a long list of contenders at the moment.
The consensus No. 2 featherweight in the world, Hatsu Hioki got off to a rough start with the UFC when he barely squeaked by George Roop last October. The performance left many fans wondering what all the hype was about.
But then the real Hioki showed up in February, displaying his stellar top game and transitions en route to winning a dominant unanimous decision over Bart Palaszewski in front of his home-country fans.
Whether or not the Japanese sensation has anything for Aldo remains to be seen. When NCAA Division I wrestlers are struggling to get the featherweight champion to the mat, the question remains how Hioki is going to get the job done.
But perhaps style is the key. Aldo’s been working with Gray Maynard and focusing a lot on strong, athletic and explosive wrestlers. A different type of grappler presents a whole new crop of challenges.
If I were a betting man, I’d predict it’s Hioki standing across from Aldo at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
One of the most popular featherweights, Chan Sung Jung has made a statement in each of his UFC appearances. First, he secured the only twister submission victory in promotion history against Leonard Garcia. Then, The Korean Zombie delivered the second-fastest UFC knockout against Mark Hominick last December.
Meanwhile, Dustin Poirier has gone from relative unknown to contender in the span of one year. His last outing saw him slap a stunning mounted triangle-armbar on Max Holloway in February.
It goes without saying the winner of their May scrap will be near the top of the list of featherweight contenders. Assuming the victor walks away injury-free, a date with Aldo could be in the cards.
Since his decision loss to former title challenger Chad Mendes two years ago, Erik Koch has put together a four-fight win streak.
The well-rounded Roufusport prospect is on his way to becoming one of the best in the world, but he’ll need to beat some top guys before facing Aldo.
But considering how many UFC main events had to be switched up on the fly due to injuries, it’s hardly impossible Koch gets a title shot in the near future.
Though Yuri Alcantara is riding a 13-fight win streak, he’s relatively unknown to casual fans. Of his 30 professional fights, only one has taken place on North American soil — a KO victory over Ricardo Lamas on the final WEC card in 2010.
His two UFC appearances were both in his home country of Brazil.
Alcantara is a very skilled fighter and 2012 is looking to be a big year for him, but a fight with Aldo isn’t a very marketable option for the UFC.
You can file this one under “long shot,” but German kickboxer Dennis Siver is set to make his featherweight debut against Diego Nunes next month.
Siver was on an impressive win streak at lightweight before getting submitted by Donald Cerrone. A convincing victory over Aldo’s Nova Uniao teammate could set up a nice little revenge match.
But realistically, Siver will need to put together a few wins at 145 pounds before he can enter the title picture.
A number of fans attending Wednesday’s press conference in Calgary seemed hopeful that former title challenger Mark Hominick could earn a rematch with Aldo at UFC 149.
Though their first bout at UFC 129 in Toronto was one for the ages, Hominick isn’t exactly near title contention at the moment. His last outing saw him suffer a crushing 6.26-second knockout loss to Jung.
Hominick is set to meet Eddie Yagin at UFC 145 in Atlanta April 21. A win here will certainly put him back on the road to the title, but it’s not enough to get another crack at Aldo.
Sure, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is gearing up for a rematch with Benson Henderson, but how awesome would it have been if he took the bait to drop to 145 pounds?
Since he was guaranteed an immediate title shot, the biggest featherweight fight in UFC history could have taken place on Canadian soil.
Maybe there’s still time. If Edgar agrees to fight Aldo in Calgary, I will personally buy him the “Rocky” Blu-ray box set. Your move, Frankie.
A BIZARRE MMA MOMENT
Eric Prindle will go down in the history books for owning perhaps the most bizarre MMA tournament win.
Prindle met Thiago Santos in the finals of Bellator’s most recent heavyweight tourney in November. The bout was waved off after Santos landed a blatantly illegal kick to Prindle’s groin. Though the replay showed an intentional shot to a downed opponent, the bout was ruled a No Contest.
The two were set to meet again at Bellator 61 on Mar. 16, but the bout had to be postponed one week due to Prindle showing “flu-like symptoms” and rumours that Santos couldn’t make weight.
With the fight finally green-lit for Bellator 62, Santos came in 12 pounds overweight on Thursday. As a result, Prindle was awarded the tournament crown and a shot at Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.