Aldo vs. Pettis: The Good, Bad and Ugly
USA Today/MMA Junkie announced the matchup between the Brazilian phenom and lightweight contender which is slated for August 3, with the location still to be determined.
The bout features two of the MMA's most talented young fighters, both of of whom are coming off huge wins in their most recent outings.
While the fight between "Junior" and "Showtime" undoubtedly has the potential to set the Octagon ablaze, the announcement comes with a fair share of controversy over the divisional pictures the fight affects.
Pettis, who was recently named next in line for a lightweight title shot by UFC President Dana White, is putting his 155-pound championship aspirations on hold to drop down for a shot at the pound-for-pound great.
With champion Benson Henderson slated to square off with former Strikeforce lightweight titleholder Gilbert Melendez in April, the Milwaukee native decided to capitalize on his surging status and requested a bout with the 145-pound king.
As for Aldo, who scored the biggest win of his career over former 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar this past weekend at UFC 156, the showdown with Pettis is exactly the caliber of high-profile fight the 26-year-old is looking for.
The bout will certainly be one of the biggest fights of the year, but it could potentially come at a cost for both the lightweight and featherweight divisions.
The Greatest Show on Earth
Before we get into breaking down the trouble this fight may hypothetically create, let's first take a second to bask in the glory of Aldo vs. Pettis.
With the exception of all-time great Anderson Silva, there are no fighters who posses the violent brilliance in the striking department of Aldo and Pettis. Both have the power to end a fight in a blink of an eye, and their unorthodox styles keep the opposition constantly guessing.
Unfortunately for those fighters who have shared the cage with Aldo and Pettis, hesitation spells the beginning of the end. And it's typically a brutal end at that.
In the matchup between the featherweight champion and former WEC lightweight titleholder, fans will see two masters of their craft handling business.
Aldo has found victory in 15 consecutive bouts, working behind a unique blend of power, speed and accuracy. The talented young Brazilian is beginning to carve out his legacy in the sport by earning wins over a collection of former champions and contenders. A victory over Pettis would only serve to accelerate the process and ultimately add more fuel to an eventual move up to the lightweight division.
It is a similar situation for Pettis. You would be hard-pressed to find another fighter who has generated more buzz on the current landscape than the 26-year-old Duke Roufus product. After smashing Donald Cerrone at UFC on Fox 6, Pettis has battled his way back to the top of the food chain in the lightweight division.
But after a year on the sidelines, and with the lightweight title fight between Henderson and Melendez still several months away, Pettis has decided to stay active. Not only does a matchup with Aldo keep the spotlight locked on him, but a victory over the Nova Uniao product would launch Pettis' stock into the stratosphere.
The fight between Aldo and Pettis promises to be a cage-jumping, face-kicking, leather-trading spectacle and has Fight of the Year written all over it. That being said, the bout certainly causes some problems, and timing has everything to do with it.
The Path to a Title Shot is Complicated
In a perfect world, there would be a clear-cut path to title contention. A surging fighter would battle his way up the ladder, defeating other top-level talent at every turn, then eventually earn his right to compete for championship gold.
It certainly sounds like the way things "should" be, but as we've seen in recent months, this is hardly the way things are.
With the announcement of Aldo vs. Pettis, one of the UFC's top featherweights, Ricardo Lamas, once again watches the brakes lock up on his title hopes. "The Bully" has collected three consecutive victories over tough opposition, with his most recent win coming via obliteration of former No. 1 contender Erik Koch.
After besting Koch in Chicago, the 30-year-old has not been silent about his place in the divisional picture. Lamas believes he deserves a title shot, and that opinion is popular in the MMA community.
Nevertheless, Lamas's profile pales in comparison to the one Pettis boasts, and the Chicago native will now take a seat next to welterweight Johny Hendricks with the fighters bumped for big-money fights.
Two Divisions Locked Up
Two years ago, the lightweight division's upper tier was brought to a standstill as the Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard trilogy played out.
Those issues have since faded away, as Benson Henderson's title reign has flourished and the battle for contention reignited.
The upcoming title bout between Henderson and Melendez at UFC on Fox 7 makes sense in the natural order of things, but what comes next could be a problem. With Pettis vacating his position as the next man in line for the time being, there becomes a void to fill.
Henderson and Melendez throw down in April, and with Pettis now fighting in August, there is no contender at the ready.
The matter becomes even more complicated when looking at the positions below Pettis in the lightweight pecking order.
Diaz was routed in a lopsided loss to Henderson, and even if he defeats Josh Thomson in April, it would be difficult to justify another title opportunity. Former No. 1 contender Gray Maynard is out with injury until June and stuck in limbo until a high-ranking opponent emerges.
Perhaps the biggest winner in Pettis's decision to drop down could be Jim Miller. The New Jersey native is set to tangle with Pat Healy at UFC 159, and a victory over "Bam Bam" could move him into the vacant position.
The featherweight division could suffer a similar fate. With Lamas now on the shelf, it will be several months before another potential contender is ready to go. "The Korean Zombie" appears to be out for the long haul, and this makes upcoming fights for Chad Mendes and Cub Swanson all the more important.
Pettis dropping down to 145-pounds and getting an immediate title shot stunts a growing division. This matter becomes all the more complicated if Pettis doesn't plan to stay in the 145-pound weight class.
Should he defeat Aldo to become the featherweight champion, then jump back up to lightweight, it will turn one of the UFC's most thriving divisions on its ear. A champion needs to defend his title, and if Pettis is successful against Aldo, immediately leaving the division would make the fight pointless.
That being said, Pettis's teammate and close friend Erik Koch also competes in the 145-pound weight class, which would seem to make an immediate exit all the more likely.
Then again, perhaps the UFC is looking to set up a true "super fight" between the winner of Aldo vs. Pettis and Henderson vs. Melendez?
It is a crazy possibility but certainly one that could happen.
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