In a weird sort of way, Jose Aldo expressed his greatness yet again on Saturday.
Oh, the UFC featherweight champion left us wanting more after his fourth-round stoppage of Chan Sung Jung, the "Korean Zombie," in the main event of UFC 163 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He might have even left some people wanting a lot more.
Even the most dominant athletes in their sports – the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the Miami Heat's LeBron James – have off-games every now and then.
Aldo had an off-night against Jung but still was barely threatened and made almost every significant move in the fight. It was hardly the dynamic battle that was expected, but it is telling that Aldo was able to win so handily on a night when he didn't have his A-game.
The great ones win even when they're not at their best, and there is little doubt that Aldo is one of the best in the world.
UFC president Dana White, who didn't travel to Brazil and watched on television, had mixed emotions.
White, who said Aldo would remain at featherweight, didn't see the pizzazz from the champion he was hoping to see.
"He won, but it was nothing spectacular," White said. "The Zombie is a tough guy, but it was nothing crazy or spectacular [from Aldo]. It was a win. He was being careful."
Aldo was clearly ahead when the fight entered the fourth round. He was fighting cautiously in the fourth – "I didn't want to expose myself [to unnecessary risk]," he said – when Jung injured himself.
The Zombie threw a right hand that Aldo ducked. The punch hit Aldo on his back and, on television replays, it was clear that the Zombie's right shoulder popped out of the socket. He grabbed it and tried to push it in, but Aldo saw that as well.
Aldo kicked him several times in the shoulder to force the Zombie down, from where Aldo fired away before referee Herb Dean stopped it at 2:00 in the fourth.
"Yes, I did see that he had separated his shoulder," Aldo said through an interpreter at the post-fight press conference. "So I kicked him and I tried to put him down on the ground to get some ground and pound."
Aldo (23-1) went on to say that his lackluster outing was the product of a foot injury suffered very early in the fight: "When the fight started the first thing I did, I kicked him, and he put his knees out the first time I kicked him. I don't know if I broke my foot I know it's very swollen."
Aldo has now beaten four of the UFC's Top 10 featherweights. He stopped Chad Mendes and Cub Swanson in the first round, Jung in the fourth and won a decision over Frankie Edgar.
Ricardo Lamas would seem to be the next man up, given that he's No. 2 and hasn't had a shot, but Aldo said he'd be open to a move to lightweight if given the opportunity.
White told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday that a move in weight is unlikely. White despises talking about future matches shortly after a card ends, so he wouldn't speculate other than to suggest that lightweight isn't in Aldo's immediate future.
"I think he stays at 145," White said. "He's a featherweight."
Aldo caught something of a break Saturday when Jung wasn't the wild, attacking fighter he had been in his first five UFC/World Extreme Cagefighting bouts when he became a cult hero within the business.
He fought far more cautiously and didn't attack or go all-out as he had in other fights.
"No doubt, he was [far more cautious than normal]," White said. "You really didn't see him moving forward or going crazy, like he has done."
To be fair to Jung, it was his first fight in 14 months. He had rotator cuff surgery shortly after a May 15, 2012, win over Dustin Poirier.
But Aldo's varied skills had to have played a big part in Jung's uncharacteristic tentativeness. Aldo's stand-up game is among the best in the UFC, and his kicks are devastatingly powerful. He's not easy to take down, and when takedowns are attempted, on average he stuffs a little better than nine of every 10 of them.
He did a lot of great things on Saturday. How many other fighters could avoid a flying knee, catch the guy, fling him to the ground and then come up on top in punching position as Aldo did?
He's so talented and expectations are so high that when he doesn't batter and bloody his opponent and win in some spectacular way, it's a bad night for him.
The truth is, though, that Aldo's bad nights are dream nights for most fighters.
He's clearly on the same level as the best of the best, men such as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, ex-middleweight champion Anderson Silva and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Jose Aldo takes a backseat to no one, even on a bad night.
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