UFC featherweight Ricardo Lamas will finally have his long-awaited title shot when he faces off with Jose Aldo in the co-main event of UFC 169. Airing live on February 1 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the blockbuster event is Lamas’ chance to prove that he is the true ruler of the stacked 145-pound division.
But he had better deliver, because Lamas sat out for over year waiting for his shot at Aldo. There’s no arguing with his featherweight resume, which includes four straight wins over Erick Koch, Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki, and Matt Grice. But “The Bully” hasn’t fought since beating Koch at UFC on FOX 6 last January, and a lot has happened in the 145-pound division since then.
What transpired definitely wasn’t Lamas’ fault, as he thought he might get a shot at Aldo last summer before Anthony Pettis decided to make a move to featherweight to challenge for the belt at UFC 163 last August. When that fight was booked, Lamas took a fight with Chan Sung Jung at July’s UFC 162, but ultimately that bout fell apart when Pettis injured his knee, forcing Jung to move into his spot opposite Aldo.
Lamas isn’t worried about that, however. He’s only focused on his opportunity of a lifetime against Aldo, an extremely talented champion who sits with an incredible 16-fight win streak under his belt. Lamas recently told Bleacher Report that he plans on being the fighter who finally exposes “Junior” noting that while he may have few weaknesses, everybody makes mistakes:
“Every king's reign has to come to an end. All champions have to fall. It's going to happen sooner or later, and I want to be the one to do it. This is a huge opportunity. Not a lot of people know who I am right now, but after this fight a lot of people are going to be talking about me. I don't see any really big holes in his game. He's a very technical and solid fighter. But he makes mistakes just like anyone else, and I'm going to be looking to expose them and capitalize on them. I always come into my fights in shape and fight until the very last second. If I see he's gassing out or getting tired in there, I'm going to look to push the pace.”
Aldo has appeared to tire in the later rounds of some of his UFC bouts, most notably against Mark Hominick. His drastic weight cut down to 145 pounds the most likely culprit for this. Aldo has long been rumored to be moving up to lightweight in the near future, something that he even has confirmed recently. The UFC featherweight division is quickly becoming one of the most talented in all of mixed martial arts, but if Aldo does get by Lamas, he’ll own wins over the top five contenders at 145 pounds.
Should that transpire there’s not a champion in MMA who has a better case for having cleaned out his division. Lamas said he is going to stick to what got him here in order to avoid being the man that gave Aldo that dubious distinction:
"Wrestling is what got me to this point. It's what got me to the WEC, then to the UFC, and has put me in a position to fight for the featherweight title. It is what has made me successful, and I'm never going to forget where my roots are and what aspect of the game I'm the strongest in. Wrestling is always going to be there for me, and if anything, I'm just going to continue to mix it up. I'm going to keep mixing my wrestling with my striking to make me a more dangerous fighter."
His substantial wrestling skill is going to be put to the full test come February 1. Aldo has exhibited some of the sharpest takedown defense in the game. It’s a big part of the reason why he sits atop the high perch he enjoys right now. Can Lamas come back from his long layoff to lay waste to one of the most dominant champions MMA has ever seen?
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