The moment Ricardo Lamas has been waiting for will finally materialize at UFC 169.
The surging powerhouse will get his opportunity to face reigning featherweight king and pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo when the two square off in the co-main event at the Prudential Center on Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J.
The title shot comes on the strength of an impressive four-fight winning streak "The Bully" has built since dropping down from the lightweight division in 2011—a run where he has knocked off a list of potential contenders in Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.
Following his destruction of Koch at UFC on Fox 6 last year in Chicago, a title shot appeared to be his for the taking. Yet in a surprise move, then-newly minted No. 1 lightweight contender Anthony Pettis decided he wanted to drop down to featherweight to face the longstanding divisional king, Aldo.
The 31-year-old Lamas was forced to watch the title shot pass him by, and while it was undoubtedly frustrating for the Chicagoland native, he decided to keep things moving by accepting a bout with Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162 in July.
The hits kept coming for Lamas; an injury forced Pettis out of his fight with Aldo, and the UFC tapped the "Korean Zombie" to step in as the replacement. There wasn't enough time for the promotion to find a suitable replacement, and once again Lamas was forced to the sidelines to wait.
Over this stretch, the upper tier of the featherweight division caught fire, and with a batch of potential contenders emerging, it seemed possible Lamas would get passed by once again. The waiting game finally paid off when the UFC called to offer him the fight he had been waiting for: a shot against the 27-year-old Brazilian phenom Aldo.
With the fight rapidly approaching, the time for preparation has almost come to an end. Lamas has his focus locked on championship gold and ending Aldo's reign atop the featherweight division.
"Ever king's reign has to come to an end," Lamas told Bleacher Report. "All champions have to fall. It's going to happen sooner or later, and I want to be the one to do it. This is a huge opportunity. Not a lot of people know who I am right now, but after this fight a lot of people are going to be talking about me."
When Lamas steps into the cage to face Aldo, he'll be attempting to accomplish a feat that has eluded the previous 16 men who have tried. There is no doubt the Nova Uniao standout has a complete skill set, but his unique blend of speed, power and accuracy has at times appeared to be otherworldly. He's cut through every challenge he's faced under the Zuffa banner.
Nevertheless, Lamas brings an impressive arsenal of his own into UFC 169.
His power-wrestling game and a never-ending gas tank have the potential to give the champion fits. In fact, Lamas is counting on his ability to take the fight to Aldo in those areas. He believes those elements will factor into him being the first man to defeat Aldo in over eight years.
"I don't see any really big holes in his game," Lamas said. "He's a very technical and solid fighter. But he makes mistakes just like anyone else, and I'm going to be looking to expose them and capitalize on them. I always come into my fights in shape and fight until the very last second. If I see he's gassing out or getting tired in there, I'm going to look to push the pace.
"Wrestling is what got me to this point. It's what got me to the WEC, then to the UFC, and has put me in a position to fight for the featherweight title. It is what has made me successful, and I'm never going to forget where my roots are and what aspect of the game I'm the strongest in.
"Wrestling is always going to be there for me, and if anything, I'm just going to continue to mix it up. I'm going to keep mixing my wrestling with my striking to make me a more dangerous fighter."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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