As always, when considering one of the biggest areas of contention in a fight, the past cannot be ignored.
On paper, Aldo has won more fights via KO/TKO and at a higher percentage.
With that out of the way, we can dig a little deeper and in doing so discover that this is much closer than many may think.
Both men are excellent strikers who don’t need to “force” anything. Their strikes come naturally, based upon openings that most don’t recognize. Aldo and Pettis know how to seize those moments.
Both fighters utilize a lot of movement and can glide out of trouble with minimal effort—not to mention their skills at cutting off the ring are high.
They also seem about as comfortable as a fighter can when their back is against the cage. They keep their eyes open and their defense tight, slipping through the smallest of cracks to get back to the center.
Also, they are very accurate. When they see even the smallest opening, they can nail the coffin shut with a single shot.
Aldo is a striker who is fueled by his physical gifts: speed, power and balance. He has acceptable boxing skills that are framed within a semi-classic muay thai stronghold. It is from here that he utilizes his greatest strengths: punishing leg kicks and powerful knees.
His leg kicks are brutal, and he doesn’t always need a set up to land them; he can fire that right leg nearly out of the blue, minus the lead-up that comes with his running leg kicks.
Of course, he is also excellent with a certain number of combinations that attack the body with punches and the legs with kicks. In addition, from the jab he can land a hard right uppercut or a high left knee to the chin with shocking success.
Pettis, for his part, is dynamic in unconventional ways; be it a running kick or knee off the fence or capoeira-style attacks, he is unpredictable. He’s also excellent at getting his man against the cage, where space is limited.
He’s patient when you’d least expect it, has very good hands and knows how to set a fighter up for a hard shot—especially with kicks to the body or head.
Where the fight becomes interesting is in their weaknesses.
One of Aldo’s only shortcomings is his boxing. He has a tendency to lean forward while overcommitting to jabs or right hands, or he doesn’t throw them with enough conviction, leaving him open on both counts to hard straights.
This could spell disaster for him against Pettis, who has excellent hands and can counter very well. In addition, the lightweight champ is not apt to be caught unaware by the uppercut or high knee that follows Aldo’s jabs, which gives him opportunity to counter again.
For Pettis, his area of concern is that given his style of movement, he leaves a leg behind to be kicked more often than not.
Henderson was surprisingly successful at kicking the legs of Pettis in their first fight. Pettis’ tendency to back up from punches leaves him open to leg kicks; given that Aldo is just about the best in the business at chopping a fighter's legs out from under him, this could spell trouble for Pettis.
Each man is strong where the other is weak, both men are strong over all, and neither man is really going to get caught standing still.
Can Aldo blast the legs of Pettis early and often enough to make the fight easy? Can Pettis use his cage generalship to box Aldo in and counter his lesser boxing for the knockout? Will either man catch the other unaware and thread that split-second needle with a KO shot?
With fighters this good, it’s so hard to say, but I think the leg kicks of Aldo will be the difference.
Edge: Aldo (slight)