by FIGHT! contributor Larry Pepe
The WEC Featherweight title fight between reigning champion Mike Thomas Brown and number one contender, Jose Aldo, was billed as a classic battle of speed vs. power. Brown, an incredibly strong wrestler with a lethal right hand, is the strongest 145-pounder in the game and looked like a dominant champion in the division with two convincing wins over formerly invincible champ, Urijah Faber, and annihilating top contender Leonard Garcia. The common wisdom coming into the fight was that he should have no problem taking Aldo down once he got his hands on him.
Aldo, on the other hand, displayed lightning fast, dynamic striking of every variety…punches, kicks, knees, elbows…en route to five straight knockout or TKO stoppages inside the WEC cage since becoming a Zuffa athlete and an overall MMA record of 15-1. Naturally, when you heard that Aldo defeated Brown by second round TKO on Wednesday night at the Palms to capture the belt, the first thought had to be that speed triumphed over strength and power.
Not so fast…pun intended.
Was Aldo’s blazing velocity on display? Absolutely. He hit Brown with numerous kicks throughout the fight that you might have missed if not for the loud thud they created when connecting on Brown’s body. When Jose started to throw hands, the signature quickness was there, and the 28 punches he hit Mike with after he took his back seconds before ending the fight looked like someone hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. But what Jose Aldo put on display in the cage goes so far beyond the “speed kills” axiom that it misses how frightening of a fighter he may be for anyone who weighs between 136 and 145 pounds. According to Brown, “He wasn’t any faster than I expected him to be.” But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some real surprises in store for Mike, and the rest of us.
Mike Brown is a huge featherweight. I expected him to have a tremendous size advantage over Aldo, who has said in the past that he could make 135. When I saw the two fighters at the weigh in, Aldo looked almost skeletal next to a dehydrated Brown. However, when they met in the center of the cage to touch gloves the size disparity between them had become almost non-existent.
The most impressive aspect of the new champion’s game wasn’t his dynamic striking. We’ve seen it all before and, quite frankly, expected it. The results will show that the end of the fight came at 1:20 of the second round but it may very well have come at 2:20 of the first round when Brown went for his first takedown and couldn’t get it. “He has great hips, great balance. I’m pretty good at ripping guys down when I get them against the cage and I couldn’t take him down” Brown said in the post-fight press conference. If Brown can’t take Aldo down, good luck to the rest of the division. And if you have to stand and trade with the Anderson Silva-like striking of Jose Aldo, you’re in for a long night.
On the biggest night of his fighting life, Aldo had an air of confidence and the calm, collected demeanor of a ten year veteran with ice running through his veins. When the then-best 145 pounder in the world came at him, whether guns blazing or working for those takedowns, Aldo remained poised, taking it all in stride until it was time to floor the gas pedal and go after Brown with a frenetic vengeance as soon as the opportunity presented itself. He looked like a champion from the minute the opening bell rang to the moment WEC General Manager Reed Harris placed the belt around his waist and confirmed his accomplishment.
I’m fighting, believe me I am, not to be a prisoner of the moment. I gave into the urge to prematurely believe in the Machida era before a title defense only to watch the unbeatable one lose to Shogun (in my eyes and the eyes of 90% of the fans and media.) I didn’t give Serra a chance against the invincible GSP and I didn’t see Brian Bowles coming. So I’m not going to say that no one is going to beat the 23-year old Aldo for a long time to come at 145. I’m not going to go on and on about how much he reminds me of Anderson Silva with a better ground game and better takedown defense. I want to, but I just can’t do it yet. But if he beats the one guy in the division that might give him a run for his money, Urijah Faber (if he topples Raphael Assuncao in January), I’m not going to be able to help myself.
But I will channel my inner Joe Rogan and say this right now. Jose Aldo is a scary, scary dude for any featherweight in the world.
Larry Pepe is the host of Pro MMA Radio.