The manner in which Jose Aldo successfully defended his featherweight title on Aug. 3 at UFC 163 against Chan Sung Jung wasn’t memorable. There were a few slightly tense moments, but Aldo was never in any serious danger.
Folks were expecting an action-packed bout, but that never materialized. The usually aggressive Jung was passive for much of the night, while Aldo’s fight plan was altered when he injured his right foot in the opening round. It was later learned that Aldo broke the foot, and is likely to be sidelined for the remainder of this year.
Aldo is a devastating kicker, but with that option unavailable he was forced to rely almost exclusively on his boxing skills. Using straight left jabs, superior hand speed and advanced standup skills, Aldo was able to limit Jung’s offensive options. Aldo’s textbook boxing wasn’t fun to watch, but it was effective -- leading to a fourth-round TKO after Jung suffered a dislocated right shoulder.
This brings us to featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas. The former lightweight has been dominant since dropping to 145 pounds in 2011. He’s 4-0 in his new fighting home and is ranked fifth among featherweights by ESPN.com.
When Aldo is healthy enough to return to action Lamas wants to face him -- and he deserves the fight. It's his turn. Actually, Lamas should have gotten the nod over Jung. He was ranked higher and Jung hadn’t fought in more than a year due to injury.
But UFC officials went with Jung, who was originally slated to face Lamas on July 6 in Las Vegas. It was the second time in a row that Lamas had been passed over -- in February, lightweight contender Anthony Pettis asked for and received a shot at Aldo. But an injury forced Pettis to pull out of the fight, opening the door for Jung.
Despite it all Lamas never complained. It’s not his nature to do so. But that is changing; he is no longer sitting quietly on the sideline waiting for UFC officials to do right by him. Lamas is now speaking publicly -- he wants a title shot. And he won't accept anything less than being the next featherweight contender to face Aldo.
“The people in UFC told me the reason Jung was picked over me was because they had promised him a title shot a year ago before he got hurt,” Lamas told ESPN.com.
“That's a once in a lifetime opportunity, you never know when you will get it again. So if they offer me the [title shot] I’m going to jump all over it. That’s actually what I am hoping for.”
There isn’t a featherweight contender more deserving of a title shot at this moment than Lamas. But being most-deserving isn’t enough to guarantee he will get his wish.
If there is a knock on Lamas it’s that he lacks the name recognition of several other contenders. When talk of who will likely get the call to fight Aldo next, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes immediately get mentioned. And lately Cub Swanson has been tossed in the mix.
But Lamas has a strong counter-argument. Edgar and Mendes, who ESPN.com ranks third and fourth, respectively, among featherweights, have each lost to Aldo not too long ago. And Lamas’ second-round submission of Swanson in November 2011 still gives him the edge in the pecking order.
Lamas told ESPN.com, before Aldo-Jung, that he’d be willing to fight Edgar or the Mendes-Clay Guida winner -- those two are set to meet Aug. 31 at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. But that would be Lamas' Plan B, in the event Aldo isn’t able to return to action by early 2014.
Another factor that could work against Lamas is inactivity. Lamas hasn’t fought since Jan. 26 when he knocked out Erik Koch in the second round. That’s a long time be outside the cage, especially when trying to make a convincing case for a fight with Aldo.
It’s possible that Lamas might have to turn to Plan B. He might agree to implement it, but only if UFC officials guarantee him a title shot with a victory. Lamas deserves that much; he’s earned it. And he won't sit quietly while another fighter cuts in front of him.
It’s his turn; UFC needs to do right by Lamas and give him the next shot at Aldo.