Friday, April 29, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
TORONTO — UFC President Dana White’s eyes still widen when talking about Jose Aldo’s performance a year ago against Urijah Faber at WEC 48.
It was the moment White and most others around mixed martial arts started considering the 24-year-old Brazilian one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Aldo dominated the WEC superstar, winning every round en route to a unanimous-decision victory.
The scary part? Aldo, who fights Mark Hominick for the featherweight title in the UFC 129 co-Main Event on Saturday, said he wasn’t anywhere close to his best in that contest and was going through shoulder and neck injuries.
“When the fight starts, everyone will be able to see the difference,” Aldo said through a translator. “I feel great right now. There were a few injuries from the past.”
When officials announced they planned to merge the sister organization WEC into the UFC late last year, many assumed Aldo (18-1) would be the center of attention for his octagon debut. It likely would have turned out that way if Aldo made his scheduled appearance at UFC 125 against Josh Grispi, but he canceled the bout because of the aforementioned injuries.
Instead, Aldo has played more of a spectator role in the media events leading up to UFC 129. That’s what happens when sharing a card with three-time Canadian Athlete of the Year Georges St. Pierre and facing Hominick (20-8), who grew up two hours away from the Rogers Centre in Thamesford, Ontario.
“People know who Aldo is, but everyone is so focused on Hominick, with it being his hometown and everything,” White said. “People didn’t forget about him. If they did, they are going to remember him Saturday night.”
Aldo hasn’t failed to put on a memorable performance since coming to America to compete in the WEC three years ago. He was a perfect 8-0 in the WEC with every fight except for the Faber showdown ending in a knockout or TKO victory.
He captured the 145-pound belt in a win over Mike Brown before the Faber fight and defended it once more via second-round knockout over Manvel Gamburyan. Even if Aldo was hurt in all those affairs, Hominick saw enough.
Hominick said he considered Aldo the best fighter in the world — even better than St. Pierre and Anderson Silva.
“Jose is different from the other top three guys in the world because he can finish in every area,” Hominick said. “He’s not just smashing everybody, he hasn’t lost a fight in years, but he can finish in the clinch, finish on the ground and finish on the feet. That’s what makes him so dangerous.”
Aldo has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he rarely opts to use it. He doesn’t like taking fights to the ground.
Aldo would rather stand and trade strikes, where he’s proven he’s better than anyone.
“This kid’s kicks are lethal,” White said. “When he kicks you in the leg or anywhere else, you are in big trouble.”
Aldo said he didn’t think this fight would be any different. He made no attempt to hide his game plan: He’ll spend most of the bout standing up.
Hominick is known for his Muay Thai, and Aldo sounded excited to finally be facing off against another striker. Each of Aldo’s last three opponents — Gamburyan, Faber and Brown — are known primarily as wrestlers.
Cub Swanson, the man he faced before that, was a kickboxer, but Aldo didn’t have the opportunity to get into a striking war with him. He knocked Swanson out in eight seconds with a double flying knee.
In Hominick, Aldo may finally be meeting his preferred match stylistically.
“We both like to come forward and attack,” Aldo said through a translator. “I can’t give any chances to my opponent. You can never do that.”
Aldo said he understood why he had received less attention than the other main card fighters at UFC 129. He spent seven months away from the cage, recovering and preparing to steal it back.
“The time off was actually beneficial for me,” Aldo said through a translator. “I’ve been fighting all the time for the past two years, and my body was just asking for a little time off. I feel I’m better than ever.”