After the first extended rough patch of his legendary career from 2015-17, former featherweight world champion Jose Aldo (28-4) rides a two-fight TKO win-streak into Saturday’s UFC 237 in his native Brazil where he will face top prospect Alexander Volkanovski (19-1). The longtime 145-pound king is one of the most accomplished MMA fighters in history and may be building toward one final title run before retirement.
As he attempts to do just that, we take a look at five of the human highlight reel’s most dramatic knockouts, ever:
5. Crushing the “Manvel” – WEC 51, Sep. 30, 2010, KO at 2:32 of Rd. 2 over Manny Gamburyan
In his second world title defense Aldo faced a serious punching power and takedown threat from the Armenian-American. In the second round, Gamburyan came out aggressively shooting for takedowns. Less than a minute-and-a-half into the period, however, Aldo got his challenger’s rhythm down and timed a right uppercut to the head perfectly as “Manvel” changed levels for another takedown attempt. Gamburyan dropped to the mat and Aldo seamlessly followed him there, took his back, controlled the far-side up with one hand and punched to the head with the other until the knockout came.
4. Killing a Zombie – UFC 163, Aug. 3, 2013, TKO at 2:00 of Rd. 4 over Chan Sun Jung
The fan-favorite “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung hung tough against Aldo for three rounds, mounting his own offense consistently heading into the championship periods. In the midst of an exchange on the feet Sung Jung separated his shoulder. Aldo immediately perceived weakness and advantage for himself and fired off three-straight left kicks to the body. Heading into the round, Aldo’s corner told him to avoid takedown attempts but the champion adjusted to the moment and then shot in and scored a double-leg takedown on Jung and fired away with punches with one fist while controlling Sung Jung with his other hand until the referee stepped in.
3. Flying out of the gate – WEC 41, June 7, 2009, TKO at :08 of Rd. 1 over Cub Swanson
The skilled and dangerous Cub Swanson headed into his fight against Aldo after having won his last two bouts, and 13 out of his previous 14. As soon as the referee said, “Go,” Aldo charged in, leapt into the air, throwing a double-knee strike that dropped Swanson to the mat, and then followed up with ground punches to end the contest just eight seconds after it had begun.
2. The Comeback – UFC on Fox 30, July 28, 2018, TKO at 4:19 of Rd. 1 over Jeremy Stephens
The former champ Aldo walked into this fight against fellow KO artist Jeremy Stephens after having lost his last two fights by TKO, both to Max Holloway. If Aldo’s career was to continue, he needed to switch gears here and now. Over the course of a back-and-forth round of big strikes, Aldo absorbed considerable damage from Stephens before landing a left hook to the body with a minute left in the stanza. Stephens froze, dropped to the ground and Aldo finished him with ground strikes, suddenly changing the tide of the fight as well as his career.
1. Last-second homecoming drama – UFC 142, Jan. 14, 2012, KO at 4:59 of Rd. 1 over Chad Mendes
This stunning bout between the two greats took place during both of their respective primes and its ending remains one of the most dramatic in the sport’s history.
Aldo deftly defended takedown attempts from Mendes throughout the opening round of their Brazil main event. As the period drew to a close, however, Mendes managed to close the distance and achieve a body lock on Aldo from behind against the cage. Mendes lifted Aldo up and away from the cage but an illegal cage-grab from Aldo helped prevent Mendes from finishing the move. Aldo was chastised by the referee but not penalized as Mendes held onto his body-lock. With the seconds ticking away in the round Mendes dragged Aldo down but the champ quickly popped back up to his feet and then worked on Mendes’ grip around his waist. Eventually, with mere moments left, Aldo separated Mendes’ hands, spun around to face him and, as Mendes changed levels for another takedown attempt, unleashed a left knee strike to the head of the challenger that knocked him out, cold, with one second left on the round clock.
Before his name could even be announced as winner, a jubilant Aldo scaled the Octagon cage wall and jumped deep into the crowd and celebrated with his home nation crowd. The UFC broadcast cameras eventually found Aldo amongst his fans celebrating in an unrestrained moment that cumulatively stands out as one of the most surprising and earnestly joyous celebrations we’ve yet to see.
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