Unquestionably, UFC featherweight champion Jose "Scarface" Aldo stands in a class by himself as far as current UFC champions go. Unbeaten since 2005, he has laid a path of destruction with emphatic wins over Mark Hominick, Mike Brown, Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber, Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar and Chan Sung Jung.
When the Nova Uniao camp unleashes him into hostile territory, Aldo takes his game to a different level against the men in his division.
UFC 169 will either mark the sixth successful defense of his crown against "The Bully" Ricardo Lamas, or it will ignite the flame that brings a brand-new heat to the 145-lb division in what some might immediately coin the Lamas era.
Incidentally enough, despite a time in the sport when the downfall of MMA legends and all-time greats still get classified as upsets, some could actually foresee the changing of the featherweight guard on Saturday night.
While Lamas' aggressive style, punishing ground-and-pound attack and determination to win will factor into a potential victory, we must point out Aldo's weight cut as a factor as well.
While he has made weight for every fight in the UFC and has looked good in a majority of his performances, the weight cut took its toll on him, causing him to look sluggish against Edgar and Florian. As a result, he was more careful in his approach and won decisions in both fights rather than finishing them definitively.
No MMA rule forbids a fighter to go to a decision, and when the UFC absorbed the WEC, fans knew that Aldo's streak of KOs and TKOs would not continue forever. However, when weight cutting starts to take its toll and fans recall those cuts more than injuries suffered during the bout or after it, maybe going up a weight class would benefit the fighter more than people think.
When people hear about a fight with Anthony Pettis, who originally planned to fight Aldo for his featherweight belt at UFC 163 before injuries shelved the lightweight champ, they think that the prospect of Scarface moving up in weight indicates that the 145-lb division is devoid of challengers. The idea also seems like a cheap excuse to see two reigning champs pull off this superfight thing that the UFC has pushed for years.
Still, at what point do we wake up and observe that Aldo, only 27 years old, has slowed down noticeably in fights, even more so than the usual pacing that most fighters do to conserve energy? Sooner or later, the toll of trying to make the 145-lb limit will tax him far worse than any damage he physically absorbs inside the cage, and then what?
Do we all pretend to be surprised if the stress of weight cutting forces him into an early retirement?
The prospect of having a long MMA career should make Aldo at least reconsider his decision to finish his career at 145, even if he does not wish to fight at 155 full time without getting Pettis right off the bat. And that's regardless of whether or not he leaves Newark, N.J. with his title on Saturday.
If he decides to go up to 155 permanently and work his way toward Pettis, even with the lack of real contenders for the lightweight belt, fans will get to enjoy Aldo for a considerably longer period of time. If he doesn't move up in weight, the time may come when he'll have to end his career earlier than anticipated.