Jose Aldo’s motorcycle accident put him on the shelf for a little over a year, but I, for one, am ready to see him back in the Octagon.After his scheduled bout with Eric Koch fell through (and thankfully – Koch isn’t nearly ready yet), he now draws former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in what should be an early candidate for 2013 Fight of the Year.
Now with Aldo’s inactivity and Edgar’s possibly permanent drop to 145, the featherweight division is stacked with talent.
Note to the bantamweight division: this is how you carry on during a champion’s absence.
Champion: Jose Aldo
He’s one of the best P4P fighters in mixed martial arts and he has a huge test coming on Super Bowl weekend. We finally got a glimpse of just how dangerous the Brazilian can be in the Octagon with his knockout of Chad Mendes just before the bell back at UFC 142. Hopefully the long layoff hasn’t slowed Aldo down too much.
Contenders: Frankie Edgar, Eric Koch, Ricardo Lamas
Dana White had promised Frankie Edgar an immediate title shot should he drop down from lightweight and with Koch’s injuries, Edgar finally seized on the opportunity. Edgar performed so well against the bigger guys of 155, I can only imagine what he’ll do against fighters his size.
A former WEC import, Eric Koch is 2-0 in the UFC. While it may be enough to put him into contention, he hasn’t fought since September 2011. The only reason that he’s a contender as opposed to just being “in the discussion” is because of his scheduled title fight with Aldo late last year. He needs to fight more, so a tilt with Ricardo Lamas later this month makes a ton of sense.
Lamas is 3-0 since coming to the UFC and scored a nice win over Hatsu Hioki last June. With his Eric Koch fight coming a week before Aldo-Edgar, the winner could find themselves fighting for the title later this year.
In The Discussion: Chad Mendes, Dennis Siver, Chan Sung Jung
Chad Mendes hasn’t fought anyone of consequence since losing to Aldo, but he’s blasted through everyone that the UFC’s placed in front of him in the first round. Hopefully after he punishes Manny Gamburyan in February, he can get more high-profile fights in the division.
Since dropping down to featherweight, Dennis Siver has handily defeated Diego Nunes and Nam Phan. He draws Cub Swanson next, in a fight that could really vault him into title contention.
“The Korean Zombie” is still riding the fumes of his “Fight of the Year” win over Dustin Poirier back at UFC on Fuel TV 3. He was expected to fight in Macau last November, but decided to have shoulder surgery in July. There’s still no timetable for his return, but I expect Chan Sung Jung to have a fight scheduled within the next month or so.
On The Rise: Max Holloway, Rony Mariano Bazerra, Robbie Peralta
Max Holloway is on a three fight win streak, after a split decision over Leonard Garcia last weekend. And with Robbie Peralta’s 23-second knockout over Jason Young in September, he’s another fighter to watch out for in 2013.
TUF Brazil featherweight tournament winner Rony “Jason” Bazerra followed up his reality show-winning bout with a knockout of Sam Sicilia at UFC 153. I’m not sure how many Americans watched TUF Brazil, but Bazerra is a hit in Brazile. If he can keep adding wins, he could find himself amongst the division’s best in 2013.
Eric Koch vs. Ricardo Lamas – UFC on Fox 6 (January 26)
Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar – UFC 156 (February 2)
Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver – UFC on FX 7 (February 16)
Chad Mendes vs. Manny Gamburyan – UFC 157 (February 23)