The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Thoughts On Jose Aldo

A few musings after a second watch of Aldo vs. Faber:

– While he’s been criticized here and there for not finishing Faber, I was actually in some ways more impressed by Aldo taking Faber to a decision than I would have been by an early KO. Early KOs are awesome, don’t get me wrong; they’re impressive and a great promotional tool if used correctly, powerful enough to turn a relatively colorless and quiet fighter like Shane Carwin into a star and strong B-side, and to turn someone with charisma like a Mike Tyson into a gigantic star. They get fans talking, and are the raw fuel which fills video packages and powers the hype train. And yet, early KOs also leave behind sporting questions; there’s things we simply don’t and can’t know about a fighter so long as he or she keeps winning quickly, and the entire history of fighting sports is a testament to the truth that eventually, those questions will have to be answered. While we definitely can’t say we got all the answers about Aldo on Saturday, we have a lot more now than we did previously.

– Most obviously, it’s safe to say now that while Aldo’s cardio is not unimpeachable, it is good enough to go 5 rounds at a good clip. Prior to Faber, no Aldo opponent in the WEC had taken him deeper than 45 seconds into the third round (Jonathan Brookins) and three of his previous four bouts had ended in the first. It should be noted, however, that Aldo completely controlled the pace and level of his fight with Faber, and it remains unknown how his gas tank will fare against someone who will push the pace and can make him change levels frequently. I don’t think that guy exists below lightweight, but if Aldo is in with UFC’s 155 pounders in 2 or 3 years it’s something to watch for.

– We also learned that Aldo can be a patient and disciplined fighter who can stick to a game plan. It’s easy to look spectacular when you KO a guy on a flying knee in 8 seconds; it’s much harder to continue to look so when you’re isolating a body part on the second best guy in your weight class and destroying it with strikes by the third round. That suggests that Aldo is an intelligent fighter who is not wholly dependent on being more athletic than his opponent or staging a devastating early assault to dominate.

– In general, we also got to see the full breadth of Aldo’s skills working in concert for the first time in a while. We saw his kickboxing have to take account of takedown defense, his finishing attempts against a wounded but still dangerous opponent, his grappling for the first time in a while, his defensive footwork and so forth. After he totally dominated Urijah Faber for 25 minutes it’s fair to say that he’s clearly proven that his skills are in total and in specific dramatically superior to Faber’s, which says a lot. I find that more impressive than I would another quick KO against a guy whose chin has been cracked before.

– There are also some new questions raised about Aldo and some old ones remaining. He hurt Faber, but did not finish him; a sign of respect, or is his raw power not as impressive against world class opponents? Having cleaned out the division of top names, how will his mental discipline fare between fights in the future? Will he take a smaller name lightly? How’s his chin? How good is his grappling against a guy with two working legs? When he’s pushed into adversity, how does he respond? There are still many unknowns about the 23 year old superstar.

– As a technical matter, Aldo’s striking was outstanding. Two things stood out to me. First, Aldo mixed up his strikes beautifully- the leg kick was obviously his key weapon and he threw it with different timings, sometimes as a naked lead and sometimes as a counter, and frequently as the second or third strike in a combination. He seemed in particular to like to freeze Faber with a jab upstairs and then come with the leg kick, which was part of the second standout dimension- the man changes levels on his strikes beautifully and has tremendous variety to call on. He’s capable of throwing either kicks or punches at three levels in standup, which is truly exceptional as so few MMA fighters are really quality body punchers, but Aldo doubled over Faber at times with left hooks downstairs. His jab is very good though more of a set up tool than a punishing BJ Penn-style punch. His use of the knees speaks for itself, and it was obvious that after he landed a couple to the body early as defensive counters to Faber’s rushes that he knocked a lot of the desire for an in-close battle out of the California Kid. He also showed, particularly when trying to finish Faber, some excellent uppercuts. This was one of the most impressive small details to me, as that is absolutely the perfect punch to throw against an opponent throwing earmuffs up when hurt; hooks and crosses will clatter off gloves and forearms, but an uppercut goes straight to the point of the jaw.

– Which brings us, by round-about paths, to the Anderson Silva comparisons. Aldo’s use of the uppercuts- thrown in combinations, at the perfect distance- to me seemed to be an example of a very well-trained fighter thinking on his feet and selecting what he knew to be the best tool for the job. That points to Aldo sharing one of Silva’s defining features as a fighter- his eerie calmness in the cage, the sense that to him everything seems to be moving slower than it is for the rest of us. Aldo has hinted at having that quality before, but to show it deep into a fight against the second best guy in the world at his weight convinced me that he’s got it to the same degree that Silva does. It showed in those uppercuts and his awesome accuracy, it showed in his patient gameplan, it showed in his footwork and the way he was able to counter every one of the ultra-quick Faber’s rushes even before the leg kicks did their work. It’s a quality that only the highest of high-level strikers have.

– Speaking of quickness, a side theory: I believe that there’s only so quick a fighter can be, and at this point in time with the quality of athletes in MMA, Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo are at about the same maximal level of quickness. Neither is prime Roy Jones, but both are outrageously sudden and far above the general run of fighters in this regard. And yet, in Aldo’s case it’s somewhat hidden since the general run of fighters is not a constant. Silva is equally quick more or less, but your average middleweight (and even more so, your average light heavyweight) is much less quick than your average featherweight; thus Aldo has maybe a 10-20% advantage over the #2 guy in the world at 145, while Silva has probably a 50+% advantage over most guys at 185 and looks like he’s using cheat codes at 205. Again, on some level Aldo is actually more impressive in this respect- he’s just as dominant as Silva is with less of a relative advantage. On the bright side for fans as well, his relatively smaller advantage will help mitigate against any Silva-style lunatic showboating as well. He’s got far less room to get sloppy.

– One major point of comparison between Aldo and Silva as well is their defensive games. Both are exceptionally flat-footed in the cage, and rely on inordinate quickness both to slip strikes with upper body movement and allow them to scamper away when they have to despite not being up on their toes. It’s a difficult style to employ, fit only for exceptional athletes. Aldo’s version of it seems to be slightly different however. Silva relies on great swings of the head and upper body to slip strikes and at times remains motionless if not forced to move, seeming, I think by design, to be far more hittable than he is. Aldo has a bit more head movement, a bit more foot movement, and seems to rely on the threat of counters more than Silva does. Silva has power that Aldo does not, I think, and thus can afford to slip, dodge, slip, dodge, and then crush a Forrest Griffin or a James Irvin with one massive shot; Aldo looks to land counters to more of an opponent’s strikes both for the value of the damage done and for the deterrence factor. Put another way, Aldo wants to hurt you so you don’t feel so comfortable striking at him; Silva wants you to strike at him so he can kill you with one big counterstrike. This is the root of why Silva can be passive at times (when the root isn’t just that he’s being mental) while Aldo is not. Watch their body postures and footwork some time- Silva, when serious, comes in hands low and always places himself at a distance where he seems to be hittable, pressuring opponents into throwing; Aldo lingers back with his weight more balanced and takes his time coming in, often behind a strike. He’s more, to borrow a phrase, of a boxer-puncher to Silva’s stalking pressure-fighter.

Anyway, more on this later, probably. Aldo fascinates me both for what he is now, and what he might be in 5 years considering how young he is. If he’s truly serious about moving down to 135 and up to 155, we may be looking at MMA’s Homicide Hank Armstrong. The odds are against that of course, but Aldo’s the sort of ridiculously talented guy who makes you wonder- well, why not?

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April 27, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

5 Comments »

  1. Hey Brendan, any chance you still got the WEC card on DVR and can convert it to VHS or DVD? Ours didn’t record while we were away. I got to see the Spike TV prelims, but that’s all (even though Korean Zombie-Garcia was Amazing!) If you can, that would be amazing if you could bring it by for the Mosley-May fight (assuming you guys are coming over). If not, no problem at all, I’ll dig it up online.

    Comment by Tony M | April 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. I wish… we actually just deleted it yesterday. Sorry!

    Comment by theshipbesinking | April 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. Now worries. I just got a press release saying that they are replaying the WEC card on PPV. Which also tells me that it didn’t hit the numbers it was hoping for.

    Comment by Tony M | April 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. Early projections are 150,000-200,000.

    Comment by theshipbesinking | April 27, 2010 | Reply

  5. wow amazing story bro.

    Comment by limewire | April 30, 2010 | Reply


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