For the second time in as many fights, featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his title against a lightweight import. Last time Frankie Edgar, next time Anthony Pettis.
The bout, which features two of the sport's most exciting and dynamic competitors, is set for August 3. Though that's still a long way off the event will be a monumental affair, one worth forecasting nearly six months in advance.
Certainly, there will be plenty of predictions and analyses made between now and fight-night, but let's get the ball rolling right here with a preliminary examination of the matchup.
Simply put, Aldo might be the best striker in all of MMA. At the very least, he's a card-carrying member of the sport's elite pugilists club, and a high ranking member at that.
Aldo packs a great deal of power into both his punches and kicks, but sacrifices nothing in the way of speed or accuracy. He consistently schools good standup fighters on the feet, delivery considerable damage while maintaining a solid defense.
That he wields a very diverse repertoire of strikes only makes him more dangerous. Those leg-kicks are just horrific.
"Showtime" has always been a well-rounded fighter, but it was his striking proficiency that vaulted him into stardom back in 2010. He has seven career knockouts in 18 fights and that rate, though impressive, really doesn't do justice to how good of a standup fighter Pettis has become.
He'll enter his summer showdown with Aldo coming off two straight first-round KOs.
There aren't a lot of fighters that hold a decisive striking advantage over Pettis, but Aldo is simply on another level.
Aldo's edge won't extend as far as it does for most of his fights, but it will still be noticeable when he shares the Octagon with "Showtime."
It's very rare for Aldo to look for a takedown, but he's been successful when he's tried. His 60 percent takedown accuracy attests to that.
The more important part of Aldo's wrestling game is his takedown defense, which opponents are usually pretty eager to tryout after standing with him for a minute or two.
Fortunately, Aldo's ability to stay off of his back is on par with his striking ability. That opponents have only succeeded eight percent of the time when trying to get him down shows just how sharp Aldo is.
What's more is that on the rare occasions Aldo is dragged to the mat he has displayed an uncanny ability to return to his feet.
Pettis' takedown offense is underrated because the focal point of his game is his striking. He's a solid wrestler with a career success rate of 77 percent on shots, something that might prove relevant when he shares the cage with Aldo.
Defensively, Pettis has struggled to remain upright against the tougher wrestlers he's competed against, something evidenced by the pedestrian 65 percent career shutdown mark he sports.
It's unlikely Aldo will hunt for the takedown against Pettis, but stranger things have happened. In fact, Aldo capitalized on an unsuspecting Mark Homminick back in 2011, taking the Canadian down five times in total. Perhaps he'll look to do the same against Pettis.
What really decides the edge though is Aldo's superior takedown defense. Pettis is capable of getting most opponents down, but it's unlikely he'll threaten Aldo too seriously. And if he does, chances are Aldo will pop right back up.
Aldo has two career submissions and one of those came via strikes. Simply put, he's not really one to look for a tap-out.
He has strong takedown defense and his ability to get back up is outstanding. Together these attributes make for a strong submission defense.
Compared to his striking, Aldo's ground game may not be a strong point, but he has shown nothing to suggest that it is at all suspect.
Pettis has become a striker in the eyes of the MMA community, but that persona was only recently thrust upon him. In actuality, Pettis is a very well-rounded competitor just as dangerous on the mat as on the feet.
He owns a nasty guard and has displayed solid ground-and-pound in the past. His favorite technique seems to be the triangle choke, which has led him to victory three times during his career.
Giving the edge to either fighter is contentious because we've seen so little of Aldo's grappling—specifically his grappling offense—but we know Pettis is strong on the floor so he gets the nod.
It seems unlikely that either fighter will dominate the bout by getting the action to the ground and keeping it there, so consider this edge a dull one.
Rarely has Aldo been given a challenge on the feet as tough as what Pettis will bring him, but he should still hold the advantage there. He should also be able to keep the action upright, just like he has against strong wrestlers Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes in the past.
If the bout does see the mat it doesn't look as though Aldo will be at any grave disadvantage, though being on his back is not ideal.
The champ could a little tricky is he so chooses and put Pettis on his back. It would probably work to some extent and could help to preserve his energy for the championship rounds of the match.
Pettis is powerful and dynamic on the feet, but he is fighting Jose Aldo, so he's still in danger. It's possible he could land a big punch or kick and stop the Brazilian, but it's more likely that Pettis is the one who receives his first knockout loss rather than Aldo.
For "Showtime," his best chance in this one is to maintain a torrid pace and do what he can to wear Aldo down. The featherweight champion has a tendency to slow in the fourth and fifth rounds of his fights, so if Pettis can keep the action lively he could get a stoppage or score enough points for the win.
Whether he looks for the takedown often or decides to rely on his standup will be an interesting storyline to follow as the match progresses.
Projected winner: Aldo
Aldo's combination of remarkable striking and stout takedown defense make him a legitimate pound-for-pound player. While Pettis is certainly an excellent fighter, he's not at that level.
Aldo's sprawl and the threat he poses on the feet give him a big edge in the wrestling game, which will likely be of great importance.
A finish for the champ is improbable, though not impossible. A win, on the other hand, is not guaranteed, but it is probable.