Jose Aldo is already arguably the greatest featherweight fighter in MMA history. Over the last two years, he’s shifted his focus towards the UFC bantamweight title. Aldo faces Rob Font in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas. The winner will put himself in position for either a title shot or a title eliminator in the 135-pound division next year.
ESPN ranks Font No. 5 and Aldo No. 6 in the world at bantamweight. The title picture is somewhat messy. Aljamain Sterling is the champion, and Petr Yan, the former champ, holds the interim title. Sterling vs. Yan is likely next, as they look to unify the titles after Sterling took the title from Yan by DQ after an illegal knee. But that fight has already been delayed once, due to Sterling’s injuries. The Font vs. Aldo winner could be next after that bout, especially if former champion TJ Dillashaw is still recovering from knee surgery.
Font (19-4) has won four in a row — most recently a unanimous decision win over former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. Fighting out of Massachusetts, Font has not lost since 2018. Font, 34, sports a 9-3 UFC record and has looked better than ever since returning from knee surgery last year.
Aldo (30-7) held the UFC/WEC featherweight title for parts of six years, including seven title defenses, a record in that division. The Brazilian moved down to bantamweight in 2019. He lost his first two fights at 135, including in a title bout for the vacant belt against Yan. But Aldo, 35, has won two straight and looked good in wins against contenders Pedro Munhoz and Marlon Vera.
In the co-main event, Brad Riddell takes on Rafael Fiziev in a battle of two of the most exciting, up-and-coming lightweights on the UFC roster. Riddell (10-1), a 30-year-old from New Zealand, is 4-0 in his UFC career. Fiziev (10-1), a 28-year-old from Kazakhstan, has won four straight.
Also on the card, stalwart Clay Guida takes on the crafty Leonardo Santos in a lightweight fight, light heavyweight prospects Jimmy Crute and Jamahal Hill face off and prospect Brendan Allen meets veteran Chris Curtis, who is fresh off his first win the in UFC.
Follow live as Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action or watch the fights on ESPN+.
Fight in progress: Lightweight: Claudio Puelles (11-2, 3-1 UFC; -120) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (15-4, 3-3 UFC; +100)
Morales found himself locked in a clinch midway through the first round in the opening bout of the night on Saturday, and while he was pulling away, that did not ease up his attack. The 31-year-old from Oregon unloaded a right hand from in tight and sent Smolka crashing to the canvas.
The end came at 2:02 of the round, giving Morales his second win in a row.
Smolka, a 30-year-old Hawaiian who fights out of Irvine, California, has lost two of his last three.
Still to come:
Men’s bantamweight: Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo
Lightweight: Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
Light heavyweight: Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
Middleweight: Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
Welterweight: Alex Morono vs. Mickey Gall
Light heavyweight: Alonzo Menifield vs. William Knight
Strawweight: Cheyanne Vlismas vs. Mallory Martin
Welterweight: Bryan Barberena vs. Darian Weeks
Men’s flyweight: Manel Kape vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Middleweight: Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic