Patience Is Key: Anthony Pettis and Jose Aldo Should Just Defend The Belts in Their Own Divisions

Following Anthony Pettis’ epic Lightweight title victory over Ben Henderson at UFC 164 this weekend, a veritable cornucopia of attractive fights became available for “Showtime.” The obvious choice, of course, is a bout with UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo, whom Pettis was already scheduled to fight at UFC 163.

That’s an awesome fight, a true test for both warriors who are arguably two of the top three most dynamic strikers in the UFC. It’s unknown which belt would be contested in this superfight, as Aldo has long been rumored to move up to Lightweight. However, their proposed main event at UFC 163 was set for the Featherweight title, so I think that a future bout would probably be as well.

Aldo is out until early 2014 with a broken foot that he suffered against Chan Sung Jung, and Pettis injured his knee against Henderson. It’s unknown just how long “Showtime” will be on the shelf, so there’s a lot of red tape to be bypassed before either fighter gets a fight booked.

While a Pettis-Aldo showdown is without a doubt one of the most exciting bouts the UFC could set up for next year, is it truly the right move to make at this point in time? With both fighters injured, waiting for them to heal and then putting them in the Octagon against each other is going to tie up their respective divisions for the better part of a year. That may not be the best course of action for the promotion.

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With so many worthy contenders at both 145 and, to a lesser extent, 155, it’d be a shame to forego some of the other potentially huge bouts just to have one blowout spectacle in Pettis vs. Aldo. After Chad Mendes became the first man to finish Clay Guida via strikes on Saturday, he took to twitter to stake his claim at a rematch with Aldo. That may be a tough sell, as Aldo convincingly destroyed Mendes with a highlight reel knee their first meeting. Apparently, Mendes would take a fight against Lamas in the meantime.

Ricardo Lamas is a Featherweight with momentum, but he’s going to lose that surge if he doesn’t get a fight scheduled quick. He’s been waiting since his January win over Erik Koch, and was scheduled to face The Korean Zombie at UFC 162 before Pettis got injured. Lamas feels he’s earned the shot at Aldo, but would be willing to fight Mendes. Another surging contender is Cub Swanson, the winner of five straight in an increasingly tough division. He had to get his two cents in about Lamas and Mendes, proposing a Featherweight tournament and challenging Lamas to stop talking and start fighting.

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Add in Frankie Edgar to the mix, and you have a legitimate logjam at Featherweight in the UFC. That’s not good for the UFC, because a situation like this could take a long time to figure out. And that’s why Aldo should stay put at Featherweight and put his belt on the lone against the fighters who’ve have worked hard to earn it. He’s beaten Mendes, Swanson, and Edgar, so I think Lamas should get the next shot at Aldo. He’ll have to be willing to probably spend over a year riding the pine in order to get this shot, but if Lamas ends up winning the title, it’ll obviously all be worth it.

At Lightweight, Pettis could do the “right thing” and give TJ Grant the next shot. Grant was of course set to meet Henderson until a concussion suffered in training gave Pettis his long-awaited opportunity of a lifetime. Grant’s hard-nosed style could pose problems for Pettis, and we’ll have to wait and see how “Showtime” responds to whatever knee injury he acquired on Saturday night. But Grant’s a deserving contender, so it’d be nice to see him have his chance at the belt.

There are two Lightweights inching up the rankings that are going to be clamoring for a title shot with another win, and those men are Josh “Punk” Thomson and Rafael dos Anjos. Thomson famously put Nate Diaz away with a headkick at UFC on Fox 7, while dos Anjos showed a vastly improved striking game to dispatch Donald Cerrone at last week’s UFC Fight Night 27 from Indianapolis. Gilbert Melendez won’t be far behind should he get past Diego Sanchez convincingly this fall.

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Because of this deep pool of talent, it makes much more sense for Pettis and Aldo to defend their belts in their respective divisions. Yes, a fight between them would be beyond exciting, and it’s one that will almost certainly happen one day. But that time should not be in the very near future. There are just too many worthy contenders in both the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions right now that booking this superfight after both Pettis and Aldo heal is a losing proposition in the long run.

Instead, book them in a succession of potentially great title fights in their own divisions. If they emerge with the strap still around their waists, then there will be no doubt that the superfight is the only direction to take.

For now, it’s time for Pettis and Aldo to go to work against the laundry list of hungry fighters. 

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