Brown, Aldo Both Looking for A Definitive Finish In Title Bout

Frank sent this in:

It’s a mega-fight, so why is Mike Brown calling No. 1 challenger Jose Aldo, an explosive knockout artist and past world champ in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, “just another top, well-rounded fighter?” It’s a mega-fight, so why is Aldo trying to mentally ignore that the WEC featherweight title will be on the line?

The last thing either combatant seems to want headed into Wednesday’s WEC 44 main event is added pressure to perform. That may explain why each man has repeatedly downplayed the magnitude of their clash, which in actuality ranks among the premier matchups in MMA for all of 2009.

“(Jose) is a great fighter but I’ve had other guys that I was just as concerned about,” said Brown, whose resume includes wins over Urijah Faber (twice), Leonard Garcia and Yves Edwards. “Aldo’s one of the best fighters I’ve fought. I’ve fought a bunch of them, but he’s up there.”

Asked to compare Aldo to another fighter, Brown invoked the name Thiago Alves, the UFC welterweight wrecking ball who is Brown’s teammate at American Top Team in Florida. While Alves is quite an accomplished fighter, he is not yet at the level of an Anderson Silva, whom occupies the lofty stratosphere where Aldo believes his skills place him. With arguably the fastest set of hands and feet in all of MMA, Aldo (15-1) has steamrolled all five of his WEC foes with sensational TKO’s. He has even dared to call himself the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, and beating Brown would go along toward backing up such a bold claim. As for the comparisons to Alves, Aldo didn’t seem to take it as much of a compliment.

“Thiago is a good fighter but I’m not scared of who he (Brown) trained with or didn’t train with,” Aldo, speaking in Portuguese, said through a translator. “I’m not impressed.”

Neither Brown nor Aldo, who both have not lost in nearly four years, has gone overboard to publicly praise the other guy’s game. Yet there is plenty to praise about their respective skill sets. The heavy-handed Brown is sort of like a lighter weight version of Brock Lesnar — but with much more polished striking, a much more dynamic and dangerous ground game, and significantly more experience in the cage. That is to say, Brown, skill-wise, is what Lesnar could be if the UFC heavyweight champ continues to develop over the next several years. What makes Brown-Aldo so compelling and intriguing are the litany of difficult questions that surround the bout. There are subplots galore: It’s the classical battle of incredible speed versus tremendous strength and youth versus experience. Other variables deepen the intrigue.

“His ground game, that’s the question mark,” said Brown, a former Division III wrestler who has 12 submissions and four TKO’s on his record. “He’s had five fights in the WEC and he got taken down one time and got up in three seconds. So I haven’t really seen him on the ground at all. But I don’t think he’s ever fought someone with my punching ability and takedown ability.”

The lone blemish on Aldo’s record was via rear naked choke to a Brazilian named Luciano Azevedo. But Aldo is a past world champ and a black belt under renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor Andre Pederneiras, so Brown is giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“He’s probably a world-class grappler and so am I,” said Brown, a BJJ brown belt under Ricardo Liborio. “But in MMA, when you have two world-class grapplers it’s the guy on top who is going to win because he can punch and elbow. I’m guessing it’s going to be hard for him to get on top of me.”

Aldo is aware of the rampant speculation about his ground game given that he prefers to knock out opponents rather than submit them. But while some believe Brown’s blueprint for victory will include takedowns and a smothering top game, Aldo didn’t seem particularly concerned about the prospects of being bullied by Brown.

“I’m not worried about him taking me down,” Aldo said. “I’m not worried about his size or strength. I’ve fought people much bigger people than him too. I’ve fought at lightweight before too. I train everything just so I won’t have to worry, so I’ll be able to deal with whatever happens. I’m skillful on the ground. On Mike’s jiu-jitsu, I don’t believe he is at my level on the ground. If Mike Brown takes me to the ground, I’ll survive.”

Aldo, who has never fought past three rounds, will be fighting in a five-rounder for the first time in his career, while Brown proved he could go 25 hard minutes in his rematch with Faber. But the duration of the title bout could prove to be a moot point. With so much firepower inside of the cage on Wednesday night – only 19 percent of Aldo’s fights and 23 percent of Brown’s have gone the distance – what are the odds this one goes the full five rounds?

“Ten percent,” Brown estimated. “We both have the ability to finish guys so well, I think somebody is going to go down.”

On this much, the champion and challenger agree.

“The same way Mike Brown thinks he’s going to knock me out,” Aldo said, “I think I’m going to knock him out.”

Aldo, only 23, said he feels blessed to be given the opportunity of a lifetime at such a young age. To keep his emotions in check, on what could be one of the greatest days of his life, he is playing mind tricks on himself.

“In my head I try to forget it’s for the title,” he said. “I’m going to treat it as my next fight. I try to forget all of the attention and the media and everything.”

It is a strategy Mike Brown learned years ago and still uses today. The 33-year-old Brown, who will be making his third title defense, said he gets quite nervous in the days leading up to fights, no matter how talented or underwhelming the opponent. But on fight night he has always been a gamer, and said he will guard against Aldo’s ultra-quick strikes by keeping his “chin down, hands up.” Beating Aldo might signal to the rest of the world and fellow featherweights that this Mike Brown guy’s reign could last a long time. At least, that is Brown’s way of thinking.

“It would be another notch on the belt and it would pull me further away from the pack,” Brown said. “I’m on the top of the heap right now and this win will just pull me further away from the pack. This would really lengthen that gap quite a bit, because who would be next?”

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