MMA Ratings Podcast

January 18, 2020

Backdoor Shots: Coming Off Two Straight Defeats, Romero and Aldo's Title Opportunities Generate Controversy

By Adam Martin

It's incredibly rare for a UFC fighter to get a shot at a championship fight coming off of a loss, but that will happen twice in early 2020, as both Yoel Romero and Jose Aldo have been granted title shots at 185 lbs and 135 lbs, respectively. Not only are both men coming off losses, but they have both lost their last two fights. The decision to award each man the title shot, therefore, is incredibly controversial in a sport that generally prides itself on pitting the best against the best.

Romero and Aldo are not the first fighters in UFC history to have been given title shots coming off of losses. Nick Diaz got a welterweight title shot against Georges St. Pierre coming off of a loss to Carlos Condit. Chael Sonnen got a light heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones coming off of a loss to Anderson Silva. Ronda Rousey got a women's bantamweight title shot against Amanda Nunes coming off of a loss to Holly Holm. But to lose two straight fights and then get a title shot, that just doesn't happen. (Ed. note: unless you're Frankie Edgar, who lost two straight lightweight title fights to Benson Henderson before dropping down to featherweight and facing Aldo at UFC 156.)

In Romero's case, he was not supposed to be next for UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. When Paulo Costa, the man who defeated him to become the #1 contender, had to get surgery on his arm, Romero emerged as a candidate to fight Adesanya. He's the highest-ranked fighter currently available without another fight booked, and he is coming off of two close decision losses, to Costa and to the former champion, Robert Whittaker. Adesanya also expressed interest in fighting Romero, as many consider him a difficult style matchup for the champ, and the UFC agreed, awarding Romero a title shot at UFC 248 despite his two-fight losing skid.

I'm not generally a fan of giving a title shot to a fighter who is coming off one loss, let alone two, but in Romero's case, I'm totally fine with the UFC's decision. Romero truly is the top contender outside of Whittaker (who lost to Adesanya in his last fight) and Costa (who is hurt), so he made sense to step in. With his combination of wrestling and one-shot knockout power, he also represents a style matchup that Adesanya hasn't yet faced. If you put records aside, it's just a great fight and I'm excited for it to happen this March.

On the other hand, as I wrote about last month, I'm not so sure about Aldo deserving the title shot against UFC Bantamweight Champion Henry Cejudo at UFC 250 this May. Like Romero, Aldo is also coming off of two straight losses. One of those was a unanimous decision loss against the recently-crowned UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski back at UFC 237. The other was a controversial split decision loss at UFC 245 to Marlon Moraes. But Moraes lost in convincing fashion to the champion in his previous fight. So despite Aldo officially losing the bout on paper, the UFC decided to overlook the judges' decision and give him the title shot anyway.

Aldo and Cejudo both wanted each other, and yes, it is a great fight. But the difference between Aldo's and Romero's situations is that there are legitimate title contenders at 135 who should be fighting Cejudo instead. Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Cory Sandhagen all have much better arguments for getting the fight against Cejudo. Yet they were all passed up in favor of Aldo, despite all three being on win streaks. Ultimately the UFC believes that Aldo will sell more pay-per-views, and that's why he is getting the title shot instead.

Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero and Henry Cejudo vs. Jose Aldo are both very fun fights, but due to both challengers coming off of two straight losses, the decisions to award both men title shots are controversial. In both cases, the UFC decided that business supersedes merit when it awarded the title shots despite their respective losing streaks, even though one of those cases is more excusable than the other. These decisions show that in 2020, it's still all about making money for the UFC. The promotion put together the fights it wanted to, once again showing it's not always just about winning streaks in this sport, but more about who the UFC can sell the most.

UFC 248
Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero (UFC Middleweight Championship)

UFC 250
Henry Cejudo vs. Jose Aldo (UFC Bantamweight Championship)

UFC 248 takes place March 7, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 248 Pre-Fight Analysis

UFC 250 takes place May 9, 2020 at Ginásio do Ibirapuera in São Paulo, Brazil.

Click HERE for more UFC 250 Pre-Fight Analysis

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