A new contender in the featherweight division emerged from the wreckage of UFC 237 as Alexander Volkanovski defeated Jose Aldo via unanimous decision in main card action Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.
The fight got off to a rather uneventful fight. Aldo claimed the center of the cage early while Volkanovski's approach featured a lot of feints and low kicks.
However, the Brazilian did show strong defense early on, but Volkanovski's pressure and ability to eventually push Aldo to the cage was enough to give him the round in pundit's eyes.
As the fight progressed to the second round the difference in volume became more pronounced. Volkanovski's pressure game continued to cause problems for the former champion. He smothered him against the fence and swarmed him with knees and punches.
Getting Aldo to the cage and smothering all offense continued to be Volkanovski's gameplan. The Australian protected the lead on the cards by keeping his opponent against the fence and neutralizing the power he's come to be known for.
Ultimately, it was an impressive, tactical performance for Volkanovski and a disappointing performance for Aldo as the new contender coasted to an easy decision win.
This is a huge win for Volkanovski, as it officially launches him into title-contender status. The Australian has been stockpiling wins since he joined the UFC in 2016, but none have come against someone with Aldo's credentials.
That's because very few have those credentials.
Aldo was champion of the division from the days of WEC in November 2009 to December 2015 when Conor McGregor famously took the belt from him. Two losses to Max Holloway made it appear that his best days were behind him. However, he worked his way back to No. 1 contender status with back-to-back wins.
Now Volkanovski may be the one who takes that title.
The 30-year-old came into this bout ranked No. 4 in the division, and one of the men in front of him—Brian Ortega—has already come up short against the champion, Holloway. The other, Frankie Edgar, lost to Ortega. Volkanovski believes a matchup only makes sense.
"I definitely want that belt," said Volkanovski, per Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. "That would look very good on my shoulder, and very good on the wall at the gym, too. This is definitely a No. 1 contender fight. A title match is exactly what's next for me. When I go out there and do what I plan on doing in Aldo's home country, then it becomes a no-brainer."
Volkanovski has done what he's set out to do in the UFC. Now it'll come down to whether he can make Holloway his next victim on the heels of taking out a great former champion in Aldo.