José Aldo - Chan Sung Jung
José Aldo [22-1] has not lost a fight since 2005. That’s a very long time. Also with the defeat of Anderson Silva behind us, he has all the time in the world to cement his place as the best Brazilian fighter operating today. On Saturday, at UFC 163, the featherweight king will square off against the “Korean Zombie” at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro. It will be his chance to cement his credentials further for pound-for-pound supremacy.
On the face of it, the matchup with Chan Sung Jung has the potential to be either a barnstormer with flying limbs akimbo, or a sedate affair, a procession if you will. Either way, Aldo is favored unanimously in both scenarios and rightly so.
For starters, while Jung [13-3] is renowned for providing offense-minded, crowd-pleasing fights, he is far from ready to face the likes of Aldo. Jung may have a victory over Dustin Poirier on the books, but that was also his last fight, which took place in May of last year. So when taking on the best featherweight on the planet, ring rust isn’t very helpful.
The Zombie’s other problem is that he knows only one way to fight — fifth gear. Some have tried to argue that Aldo has a tendency to fade in the later rounds. But how likely is it that one of the most accurate strikers in the sport won’t take advantage of an opponent swinging with abandon in the later stanzas, where he’s more susceptible to be gassed? Pretty likely. Also, how much more likely is that to happen to a fighter who lost to George Roop by knockout performing the exact same strategy?
Aldo is a clear favorite, and in Jung he’s fighting someone not even close to being a number one contender for the title. Surely the likes of Cub Swanson are more worthy. The fight may turn out to be great fun but the outcome is all but clear-cut already.
Lyoto Machida - Phil Davis
It must be hard being Lyoto Machida [19-3]. You go around and consistently beat top ten fighters hoping to get a shot at the light-heavyweight jackpot, and then Jon Jones makes noises about moving up to heavyweight. Add in the fact that Machida is 35 years old and you realize that time is not necessarily on his side.
So on Saturday when Machida faces Phil Davis [11-1] there is a lot at stake — or possibly not. A victory could get him a shot at Jones. But then again, who isn't to say Jones may face Daniel Cormier, or perhaps even more unlikely he loses in September in his title showdown with Alexander Gustafsson.
Phil Davis, or “Mr. Wonderful” as his moniker goes, has rebounded from defeat against Rashad Evans with victories over relatively average contenders Wagner Prado and Vinny Magalhaes. Neither are of the quality of Machida or presented the upside rewards that this matchup does. Davis is athletic, has range and a stellar wrestling game, while Machida is one of the most awkward puzzles to solve when faced. A tossup fight for two fighters with so much to gain.
Cezar Ferreira - Thiago Santos
While the above matchups are full of promise, it’s fights like these that are a slight testament to the lack of depth in this card. Ferreira [5-2] is a former winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Doesn’t exactly take your breath away, does it?
Ferreira has decent power in his hands, decent speed and can basically be characterized by one word — decent. In a matchup with Santos [8-1], who has won half of the fights of his in short career by knockout, he should be able to outwork and out-land with relative ease. A protege of Vitor Belfort, Ferreira should have the noose to end the fight early and shine a bit of light on a matchup that might go ignored otherwise.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.