The numbers are beginning to pile up for featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
The reigning 145-pound king has defeated the last 16 men who have stood across from him inside the cage, and the majority of them have been disposed of in brutal fashion. The 27-year-old is notorious for making highlight-reel material out of his competition and has used a complex blend of speed, power and accuracy to get the job done.
Surging contender Cub Swanson met his end via double flying knee.
Team Alpha Male standout Chad Mendes made the slightest of mistakes as he shot in for a takedown and woke up to see Aldo crowd surfing through the frenzied masses in Rio de Janeiro.
Most recently it was Chan Sung Jung who fell victim as his body literally gave out, and with his right shoulder dangling, Aldo unleashed a vicious flurry of kicks to the the injured area until the "Korean Zombie" curled up in a defensive shell.
What Aldo brings to the table is rare, and he's continued to evolve at a pace that is undoubtedly frightening to the opposition. That said, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the Nova Uniao fighter. There have been a handful of fighters who have taken the Brazilian phenom to the distance, but none have exposed any glaring weaknesses in his game.
This is due in large part to Aldo's refusal to rest on past successes and his drive to become the best fighter to ever step inside the cage.
"I am in the gym training every day to be the best," Aldo told Bleacher Report. "My opponents change, but that doesn't change my work ethic or my drive to be the best fighter I can be. I want to be the best fighter I possibly can be and that requires working everyday inside the gym. I want to keep breaking records and become the best fighter in the world. I want to keep putting on exciting fights for the fans and help bring mixed martial arts to a new level."
The next fighter to oppose his featherweight throne will be Ricardo Lamas this Saturday night at UFC 169. "The Bully" has been a ready-made contender for the past two years but has been forced to watch the promotion tip several of his peers to get the title shot he's been seeking for so long.
Since dropping to featherweight in 2011, the Chicago native has picked up four consecutive victories over a crop of top-level competition. In his most recent outing against former No. 1 contender Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6, Lamas obliterated the Duke Roufus product with a brutal display of ground-and-pound that left Koch a battered and bloody mess on the canvas.
Immediately following his win in Chicago, it appeared as if Lamas would receive the next shot at Aldo's title, but that is not how things played out, and his wait continued. That said, while he was sitting on the sidelines watching other fighters pass him up for title opportunities, that didn't stop him from endlessly campaigning for a shot of his own.
Nevertheless, the call to face Aldo eventually came, and he'll finally get the chance he's been waiting for this Saturday night.
"I don't care how Lamas got here," Aldo said. "He spoke up a lot and did what he had to do to get the fight. Basically his job is to promote himself, and he did a good job because he got the fight he wanted. It doesn't really matter to me how he got here. But he is a good fighter, though, and I'm definitely prepared to handle what he brings to the cage."
While Aldo and Lamas are prepared to square off in the co-main event at UFC 169, there has been plenty of talk hovering of a potential "Super Fight" in the near future. The long-time featherweight title holder was originally slated to mix it up with then-No. 1 lightweight contender Anthony Pettis in a highly anticipated showdown this past summer, until an injury forced "Showtime" off the card entirely.
The Milwaukee native eventually healed up and defeated Benson Henderson to take the lightweight strap at UFC 164 back in August, but talk of a matchup between two of the elite strikers in the game has never died down. Yet, while fans are still clamoring to see Aldo and Pettis step into the Octagon to do battle, the featherweight champion refuses to break focus on the tough task ahead in Lamas.
"I don't really care about what people say right now," Aldo said. "My focus is on the fight on Saturday. I have to win that fight first then we'll talk about what comes next after this fight is over. So people can talk a lot about which fight they would like to see or who they would like to see me fight, but the only fight that matters to me right now is Ricardo Lamas on Saturday. It doesn't really matter to me. My focus is on Lamas and the fight I have on Saturday night."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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