Josh Gross
Thursday November 19th, 2009

From the moment Jose Aldo first stepped into a fight gym, he believed he would find his deliverance.

"It was just a matter of time," Aldo said Wednesday evening.

Five years removed from his professional mixed martial arts debut, the talented 23-year-old made good on his life-changing promise by stopping WEC featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown early in the second round in Las Vegas.

For Aldo (16-1), it was a resounding victory -- one any opponent would have dreamed of in facing a gritty champion eyeing his third title defense in seven months.

A bundle of coiled energy, Aldo remained impressively calm during his six-minute-and-20-second dance with Brown (22-5), who came into the fight positioned in the middle of MMA's pound-for-pound rankings, thanks to an impressive 10-bout win streak, which coincided with his run to the top of the featherweight division.

Aldo needed just a few exchanges to realize he had Brown's number.

"I did feel his strength, but I didn't think he had enough weapons to beat me," Aldo said. "Of course, he's pretty dangerous, but I felt very comfortable. I knew in the beginning, when he tried to take me down and wasn't successful, that I was going to win the fight."

Brown did what he could to make Aldo earn the belt, but he failed to answer the challenger's speed, timing and counter-grappling. Few would have predicted a successful third title defense for Brown had they known he could not -- and would not -- muscle Aldo, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, to the canvas.

"The game plan was to go for the finish every round," said Aldo's cornerman and interpreter Gustavo Dantas. "Some people try to save energy. He just comes to fight."

When Brown made the mistake of going to his back early in Round 2, Aldo stood above the champion for a moment before deciding to engage him on the blue canvas. Why go to the floor when he was having his way with Brown on the feet?

"From previous interviews he said he wanted to test my ground game," Aldo said, "so I did him a favor."

Yeah, right. Aldo moved almost directly into the mount before transitioning to back-control with startling ease. Brown, as powerful as he is, was stuck on his stomach while Aldo rained down punches to the side and back of his head.

The victory was Aldo's sixth (all finishes) since joining the WEC last summer.

"It's a huge change," said Aldo, who also recently fulfilled another dream by purchasing a home for him and his new bride. His parents are next. "My career is going to blow up and I want to work as hard as I can to maintain the title."

Aldo's talent is undeniable. Yet, at such a young age, it will take more than ability for him to successfully negotiate a proper title run. The experience of coming from nothing, the decision to leave his family and childhood home to pursue fighting, the perspective that comes with living, literally, in the gym -- these things should prevent Aldo from "taking for granted anything that he's accomplished," Dantas said.

If Aldo begins touting post-fight parties, you'll know the experience of being champion has changed him. On Wednesday, the dynamic Brazilian, who could have probably played professional soccer had it not been for his size, celebrated simply enough with a post-fight meal and a trip back to his hotel room, where he and members of his stellar camp, Nova Uniao, finished the day like they began: by swapping stories.

The morning of Aldo's championship victory, his teammates recounted the first time "Junior" was paid to fight. At the request of Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras, who accompanied Dantas in support of Aldo against Brown, Aldo's debut came on just four-day's notice. As difficult as it is to believe after watching him Wednesday, Aldo hadn't even bothered to work on his striking. He was purely a jiu-jitsu practitioner, but short notice and absent skills weren't going to keep him from a $200 payday, which was easily the most money he'd seen in his life. For the finish alone against Brown he earned $10,000.

Indeed, life will never be the same for young Jose Aldo.

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