Leading up to last night’s WEC featherweight title bout between champion Jose Aldo (18-1) and Manny Gamburyan (13-6) at WEC 51, onlookers were already questioning whether another dominant win by Aldo could force him to move to a different weight class to find a viable challenger.
WEC General Manager Reed Harris recently stated that there are enough potential matchups at 145 to keep Aldo busy for a least one year, maybe two. But with Aldo needing only six-and-a-half minutes to knockout Gamburyan, a look at the WEC’s current featherweight roster shows a slim list of options.
At the top of that list is Josh Grispi, a hard-hitting prospect with good submissions. Grispi is several inches taller than Aldo’s previous three opponents — Gamburyan, Urijah Faber, and Mike Brown — and possesses great athleticism. That combination alone could give Aldo a lot more to think about in a striking battle.
If he gets by a tough Erik Koch at WEC 52, a fight between Aldo and Grispi should create plenty of interest and intrigue. However, after Grispi the featherweight picture gets a bit fuzzy.
UFC veteran Mark Hominick (19-8) picked up his fourth win in a row at WEC 51, calmly and confidently out-striking Leonard Garcia over three rounds. But that only improved his WEC mark to 3-2, with losses to Grispi and Rani Yahya also on his resume. Admittedly, Hominick was clobbering Yahya on the feet before succumbing to Yahya’s desperate takedown attempt and submission, but the Canadian would likely need at least one more solid win before getting a title shot.
Once you look past Hominick, you have almost nothing to choose from. Brown held the title for a time and just picked up a win over Cole Province, but both Aldo and Gamburyan knocked him out in short order prior to that. And the other former champion, Urijah Faber, has moved down to 135, not that his fight against Aldo was all that competitive anyway.
Diego Nunes (15-1) looks promising and improved to 4-1 in the WEC last night by out-pointing Tyler Toner … but he and Aldo are teammates. It’s hard to argue that the WEC needs to bring in new talent to keep Aldo busy at featherweight beyond a potential Grispi fight.
Of course, Sengoku champion Marlon Sandro (17-1) — also a teammate of Aldo — is out of the question. The Japanese promotions have some other options, including Hatsu Hioki, DREAM titleholder Bibiano Fernandes, and Michihiro Omigawa, and then there’s Bellator’s Joe Warren. Whether any of them can provide a stiff test for Aldo or would even choose to move to the WEC remains to be seen.