In terms of skill, few people would argue placing UFC 169's Jose Aldo near the top of the promotion's heap of stars. The featherweight champion is gifted with vicious leg kicks and forceful boxing, to say nothing of his wrestling and jiu-jitsu—among the most unheralded of any great in the sport.
But from the time he walked through the proverbial door to the UFC, championship belt already in hand, he's left fans wanting more. He's 5-0 in the UFC, 13-0 as a Zuffa commodity and hasn't lost in eight years, but he's been as unspectacularly spectacular as a man with his decoration can be.
Sure he finished Chad Mendes explosively in Brazil, but what else has he done in the UFC? Three decisions and a TKO win involving an injury isn't the resume people expect from a pound-for-pound great. The competition is stiff, but he hasn't been a world-beater in its face.
Other greats in the pound-for-pound discussion have all faced stiff competition and have all earned more convincing victories during their championship runs. Aldo wins, but given the talent that the world knows he has, it's hard not to want more from him.
Saturday night in Newark, Ricardo Lamas presents the opportunity to give more.
Lamas, for all the respect he garners as a quiet workhorse, is not on Aldo's level in terms of technique and skill. He's a gritty, tireless worker with a far more varied skill set than people are perhaps crediting, but he simply is not Jose Aldo.
With that in mind, Aldo should use this opportunity to remind the world why it loved him so much to begin with. For the second straight year he's serving as a big name on Super Saturday, one of the premiere events on the UFC calendar, and a big performance would serve that purpose.
He can't head to the cage to win three rounds before gassing or coasting his way to hearing Bruce Buffer call his name. He can't be content to rack up points with leg kicks and stuffed takedowns, throwing in the occasional jab to keep Lamas honest.
He has to approach the fight the way he did when rolling through seven stoppages in eight WEC appearances; with a focused ruthlessness that sees him exploit a weakness and prove how great he can be.
Lamas is the first guy Aldo has faced in quite some time that isn't considered a big name at 145 pounds. He's talented and he gets more out of what he has than anyone in the division, but the majority of people who will watch him at UFC 169 have seen him once, or not at all.
Talk of him winning the fight is tempered with conceptual discussion of what could happen, or how he might pull off the upset. Very few people are seeing him as the threat that Mendes, Frankie Edgar, or even Chan Sung Jung were (regardless of how accurate that sentiment may be).
Aldo needs to take that and run with it. Hit the cage and roll over Lamas in a way that reminds people how good he can be when he wants to be.
At a time when he might be leaving featherweight for a superfight with Anthony Pettis, he could use some hype beyond appearing in North America once a year to win a listless decision for himself.
UFC 169 is a chance to earn that hype. He just has to go out and do it.
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