UFC 237: Alexander Volkanovski the Penultimate Challenge for José Aldo?

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UFC 212 Jose Aldo UFC 218
Credit: Joao Baptista/Sherdog.com

Featherweight legend José Aldo is in the final two fights of his MMA career. Alexander Volkanovski is looking to be the next challenge for current champion Max Holloway. Who will be victorious at UFC 237?

If he is to be believed, the legendary José Aldo will have only one more fight after Saturday night. Whether he wins his last two fights in stunning fashion or loses them in the same manner, nothing can change the legacy he has built. But the fight game has never cared about legacy. It cares about what comes next. Alexander Volkanovski knows the path to Max Holloway opens up for him with a victory at UFC 237 and only the legend stands in his way.

What’s left to be said about José Aldo? He was a world champion at the young age of 23 and set the standard for excellence in the lighter weight classes for nearly a decade in the WEC and UFC. He has said that this is the end for his fight career, with one more fight later this year if injury does not get in the way. But rather than ride off into the sunset with favorable match-ups, Aldo has been taking on one top contender after another. Going back to 2018, he has stopped surging contenders in Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano. Rather than become a stepping stone for hopeful title challengers, Aldo has instead used the opposition to reassert his own greatness in the featherweight landscape.

He has said that he sees himself pursuing boxing when his UFC career is over, and even mentioned the possibility of staying with the company if they permitted him to pursue the endeavor. Unfortunately, many doubt that such a deal will come to fruition. He is the second best featherweight in the world with plenty of fight left in him. His coach would prefer he fights for the title in his final outing. In a recent interview with Fernanda Prates of MMAJunkie, Aldo addressed the future: “It will all depend on this year. I think I’m giving it my all this year so I can get the new title shot and who knows. I don’t know about 2020, because I want to take one year to not do anything. Like a sabbatical, so I can just enjoy life a bit and maybe return. So I don’t know about 2020, but 2021, it could be.”

If Aldo’s time has passed, then Alexander Volkanovski believes his time is now. The 30-year-old Australian is on an impressive 16-fight win streak that includes six victories in the UFC. He debuted with the promotion in 2016, and flew relatively under the radar until his breakout performance against three-time title challenger Chad Mendes last December. On a night that saw Amanda Nunes shock the world and the return of Jon Jones, Volkanovski managed to stop Mendes in an exciting contest that took Fight of the Night honors. The victory elevated him to fourth in the rankings and pegged him as a potential title challenger.

The Aldo fight comes at a critical time in the featherweight division. Max Holloway is expected to defend his title after losing to Dustin Poirier last month. Currently, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar stands out as the fighter who could be next on the strength of his resume. However, Edgar has been inactive for over a year due to a bicep injury. Should Volkanovski upset the former champion in emphatic fashion, it could be enough to jump over Edgar for an early Fall meeting with Holloway for the title.

The path to an upset for Volkanovski is to be the aggressor. He gives up height and reach to Aldo so he must be willing to use multiple feints to close the distance and get his hands on the former champion. Furthermore, he should be prepared to check kicks as they will be a huge part of Aldo’s offense and the way to hamper Volkanovski’s mobility. Against an explosive technician like Aldo, Volkanovski most be prepared to eat a couple shots as he tries to get inside. However, pushing forward will be his best chance to get within range to do major damage with a punch.

Aldo has multiple weapons and the key to victory is to utilize all of them to great effect. In recent fights, he has shown an excellent ability to move and land accurate shots against powerful opponents and should look to do more of the same to Volkanovski. To use his most vaunted weapon, his leg kicks, he should set them up with punches as to bring up the guard of “The Great” and minimize the threat of them being caught and reversed into a takedown.

A win for Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 237 would continue his great win streak and should arguably put him ahead of Frankie Edgar for the next shot against Max Holloway for the featherweight title later this year. For José Aldo, the options are numerous with names from Brian Ortega to Conor McGregor having been thrown out for fights that would be befitting the Brazilian legend in his final appearance.

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