Explosive, decisive and a division that saw potential threats from the upper weights drop down and be sent home puzzled, the featherweight division inside the UFC was strong this year and looks to be the same going into 2012. Dominated buy the Brazilian champ, Jose Aldo, nobody has presented him with any significant trouble or means to see the belt exchange hands in the near future.
Here are the best, worst and who to watch inside the featherweight division of this past year.
Jose Aldo (20-1) – Champion inside the division since they were absorbed from the WEC earlier this year, “Scarface” has never been in trouble in his two title defenses this year. UFC 129 saw him returning from injury and suffering from a harsh weight cut against Mark Hominick, who he was still able to earn a unanimous decision win over. He would then meet former UFC lightweight Kenny Florian at UFC 136 where he outmatched the challenger with speed and skill, sending him back to 155 lbs. for the remainder of his career.
Lined up to defend his belt at home inBrazilnext month, Aldo will be tested with a younger, undefeated opponent in Chad Mendes. Possessing the Muay Thai, jiu jitsu and control inside the octagon as he can, Aldo is favored again to retain the crown and add another name to the victims list.
Jung Chan Sung (12-3) – Fighting and winning twice this year, both of his opponents were men who have fought for the title and “The Korean Zombie” had them both feeling like walking dead when he was finished with them. Displaying a serious and versatile ground game in his rematch with Leonard Garcia, he earned submission of the night honors with a twister body lock; this past weekend in Toronto, he needed only seven seconds to separate Mark Hominick from the living, knocking him out before Sung could get a sweat in.
Awaiting the announcement for his next fight, one should campaign that he be given the loser of Aldo-Mendes and if he can defeat them, a title shot is well deserved for the rising star
Kenny Florian (14-6) – As much as it is painful to type, “KenFlo” looked horrible this year, even in his debut against Diego Nunes. As good as any win can be, it was not a vicious, dominant Florian we have seen in the past, the man who declared “I finish fights!” Fast forward to his third title fight inside the UFC and same result, nada. Dana White told everyone he was done giving him title shots and the loss to Aldo echoes his boss’s thoughts.
Sitting back on a hiatus now, Florian is looking to rebuild his body properly to compete seriously at lightweight and is expected out of action for six months minimum. A fan favorite and around from TUF 1, it may be time to hang up the gloves and stick to the microphone with his broadcast career for MMA.
Leonard Garcia (15-8) – “Bad Boy” may be referring to his style more than an attitude as that’s what was displayed on the mat this past year. His last legitimate win was against Jens Pulver in 2008; since then he has been on both ends of split decisions and those which he won, were hotly contested and nearly a loss.
Once a contender for the belt, now is the time to focus on rebuilding his career which started off well or pursue other facets of the game like training fighters or helping establish a gym of his own. The winning thing he has in his corner is his heart and Dana White likes a guy who is willing to leave it all out there regardless of their record.
WHO TO WATCH
Dustin Poirier (11-1) – “The Diamond” shined beautifully this year, earning him decision wins against Josh Grispi and Jason Young, ending 2011 with a d’arce choke win against Pablo Garza. Looking better and well-rounded in each outing has shown he learned from his loss to Danny Castillo and is ready for whatever comes his way.
Diego Brandao (14-7) – Not in recent years has a contestant so violently and frighteningly gone through the show and finale as Brandao has. Winning his season by submitting (almost ripping off) Dennis Bermudez’ arm, the future is his. Heavy hands, high pace and quick jiu jitsu make him a threat for anyone on the other side of the fence in the next year.
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