UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo successfully defended his title last night against veteran fighter Kenny Florian. Though Florian put up a good performance and even arguably won a couple of rounds, the fight never really seemed like it was slipping away from the champion.
Aldo has now made it five championship victories, though his actual winning streak extends 13 fights, all the way back to May 2006. The unbelievable streak has included victories over most of the top 145-pound fighters in the world, including previous WEC featherweight champions Urijah Faber and Mike Brown.
Some believe that Aldo has cleared out the 145-pound division so much that he should really consider making the move up to 155 pounds to give himself a bigger challenge. But on the contrary, there are still numerous exciting contenders remaining for Jose Aldo at 145 pounds. Here are the top five challengers remaining for Aldo right now in the UFC featherweight division.
MMA Record: 15-5
Last fight: Defeated Manny Gamburyan at UFC: Kongo vs. Barry
Tyson Griffin came close to losing his UFC job in 2010 when he lost three fights in the year, all three of which came in the lightweight division. His saving grace may very well have been that two of the losses came by way of judges' decisions—both of which were split decisions—which almost always means some controversy.
Griffin dropped back to featherweight in his last fight, though, which is the weight class he competed in early in his MMA career before he joined the UFC. When he came to the big dance, though, there wasn’t a 145-pound division. Now that there is, it just makes sense for him to go back.
He defeated Manny Gamburyan in his return to 145 and could be a real player in the division in 2012.
MMA Record: 20-9
Last fight: Lost to Jose Aldo at UFC 129
Sure, he lost in his most recent fight to Jose Aldo at UFC 129, but Mark Hominick looked about as good in that fight as anyone has against the dominant featherweight champion... Okay, maybe he didn’t look good after the fight with the giant hematoma over his eye, but he fought well.
Aldo destroyed him early in the fight, but Hominick’s conditioning was evident as he took over in the later rounds, nearly stealing the fight from the champion in what would have been one of the most amazing comebacks in UFC history.
He’s likely still a couple fights away from another shot at the title, but Mark Hominick should not be forgotten when talking about the top contenders at 145.
MMA Record: 14-1-1
Last fight: Defeated Gray Maynard at UFC 136
I know what you’re thinking—Frankie Edgar isn’t even a featherweight.
Well you’re right. You’re also wrong.
See, he fights at lightweight and he’s even the reigning the UFC lightweight champion, but make no mistake about it—Frankie Edgar is a lightweight in a featherweight’s body.
There’s no reason to believe that he’s going to drop down to 145 pounds anytime soon, but if Frankie Edgar is able to win one or maybe two fights as the champion at 155, there may be a real opportunity for him to become the very first ever simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history.
MMA Record: 24-4-2
Last fight: Defeated Donald Sanchez at Shooto Tradition 2011
Long-time Shooto veteran Hatsu Hioki has not yet made his UFC debut, but may very well find himself competing for a championship as early as his second fight for the organization. A winner of eight of his past nine fights, Hioki has only lost four fights in his entire career, three of which came in split decisions.
We’ve seen Japanese fighters struggle in their transition to American mixed martial arts in the past, but Hioki absolutely has the talent to break that mold and be a real challenger in the UFC.
MMA Record: 11-0
Last fight: Defeated Rani Yahya at UFC 133
In what might be the thinnest division in the UFC, Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes stands out as the fighter who is most likely to have a chance at dethroning the seemingly unstoppable Jose Aldo.
Mendes might not possess the finishing technique that some other fighters in the division do, but his wrestling is top-notch and may actually be the best in the class. He is a former two-time NCAA All-American and was the runner-up for the national championship in his senior year at California Polytechnic State University.
Undefeated in 11 career fights, Mendes is the owner of wins over top-level opponents such as Erik Koch, Javier Vazquez, Cub Swanson and Michihiro Omigawa. He also trains with fellow top-level 145 and 135-pound fighters at Team Alpha Male including Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Bryan Caraway, among others.
It hasn’t been officially announced, but it is believed that Mendes will be given the next shot at Jose Aldo’s title, and he may very well have the best chance of anyone at having his hand raised at the end of a fight with the dominant Brazilian champion.