Regardless of who wins the upcoming fight for the UFC’s featherweight division at UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, between current king of the weight class, José Aldo, and Erik “New Breed” Koch on July 21, the UFC would be wise avoid immediately placing the winners of either the Hatsu Hioki vs. Ricardo Lamas or Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier in a title bout.
Save the final round of the current champ’s title scrap with Canadian Mark Hominick, Aldo has overwhelmingly dictated the pace and location of each of his 3 UFC title defenses.
In fact, apart from dominate five-round beat-downs of Urijah Faber at WEC 48, Hominick at UFC 129, and the Ultimate Fighter alumnus Kenny Florian, all of the Nova União fighter’s WEC and UFC fights have ended in vicious knockouts.
In a division where Aldo has virtually looked like a world-beater, it makes little sense to throw a contender at the current champ just for the sake of making a fight.
As it currently stands, the UFC’s featherweight division lacks in legitimate contenders, as only ten of the 46 fighters (excluding Aldo) at 145 lbs. with WEC or UFC experience have been able to amass two-fight winning streaks as of late– with 3 wins in a row under the Zuffa banner an ever rarer occurrence (Dustin Poirier and Aldo).
Given the limited amount of contenders in the young UFC featherweight division, a fight between the respective winners of Hioki vs. Lamas and “The Korean Zombie” vs. Poirier makes the most sense to determine the next 145 lb. challenger.
This potential matchup makes sense for a couple of reasons. The first of which is timing.
After tonight’s UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier event, fans will only have to wait about a month for the reported Hioki and Lamas collision on June 22. This tight grouping naturally places the respective victors on similar schedules, facilitating scheduling a future contender bout.
Additionally, José Aldo is scheduled to face Erik Koch in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on July 21 at UFC 149, less than a month after the Hioki and Lamas clash at UFC on FX: Maynard vs. Guida.
In an organization where the champions of the respective weight divisions are given plenty of time to heal and prepare for their title defenses, a six-month wait for the next featherweight belt is not only possible, it is plausible.
Current champ José Aldo suffered injuries after title defenses at WEC 51 and UFC 129 that set back future defenses considerably, and Erik Koch has fought about once every five months in his last three fights. The possibility of a long layoff for the featherweight champ, regardless of whom after UFC 149, is likely and should be taken into consideration.
Another reason not to rush into handing the featherweight belt holder another fight is rooted in the youth of the division. Ruled by the dominant José Aldo, there should be no rush to have young talents such as Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung fed to the wolves. In the case of a victory for Erik Koch at UFC 149, why risk immediately knocking off another contender where very few legitimate threats to the 145 lb. belt exist to begin with?
Fighters such as Hatsu Hioki (who failed to impress many with his split-decision victory against George Roop) and Ricardo Lamas, though both owners of two-fight win streaks, have a bit more to prove before they vie for a title shot— say a victory over the winner of tonight’s UFC on Fuel TV main event.
While in the following weeks fights between Darren Elkins and Diego Brandão, as well as Yuri Alcantara and Hacran Dias might add a new pair of possible contenders to the list at 145 lbs., a number one contender matchup for the featherweight strap between the victor of tonight’s main event and Hioki vs. Lamas makes the most sense.