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Rob Font Is Ready to Reach Next Echelon in UFC’s Bantamweight Division

The Weekly Takedown: Font looks to put himself into the bantamweight title picture, what next year has in store for fight fans and picks for this weekend’s fights.

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Rob Font: 'I can make my name off this fight'

This Saturday marks the opportunity Rob Font has been seeking for the past 10 years.

Font (19–4) made his foray into MMA at 24 years old, first stepping into the cage in December 2011. He was victorious in his debut and ever since has become enamored with the lifestyle of a mixed martial artist. Fueled by championship aspirations, Font signed with UFC in '14 and now has a chance to elevate himself into the thick of the bantamweight title picture if he can defeat José Aldo in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN card.

Throughout his decade-long UFC career, Aldo (30–7) has always been ranked in the top 10. He is now fifth in the bantamweight rankings, one spot behind Font. Though only a year older than Font, the 35-year-old Aldo has considerably more time in the sport, making his professional debut in Brazil in 2004. A former WEC and two-time UFC featherweight champion, Aldo represents exactly the type of opponent Font needs to knock off in order to prove he is worthy of a title shot.

“I can make my name off this fight and get one step closer to that belt,” Font says. “Aldo is a legend, but this is my time.”

UFC bantamweight fighter Rob Font

The son of military parents, Font has taken no shortcuts in his UFC ascent. He is currently riding a four-fight winning streak, which most recently includes dismantling former bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt in a unanimous decision victory last spring. His striking continues to improve, which Font credits to his coach.

“I’ve also had a lot of guidance with my head coach, Tyson Chartier,” Font says. “Tyson focuses so much on technique and getting better. I love this sport and being around it, and I can’t wait to do more.”

The top of the bantamweight division currently belongs to Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan, who are the bantamweight and interim bantamweight champions, respectively. T.J. Dillashaw is the next highest-ranked opponent, and while he stands in front of Font, a win against Aldo on Saturday would catapult him past Cory Sandhagen to third in the rankings. Just like he did against Garbrandt, Font wants to leave no room for doubt in the cage and deliver another convincing victory.

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“I want to make this a one-sided affair, a one-sided fight,” Font says. “It’s easier to say than do. Aldo’s been there and done this plenty of times before, but I believe I can and I will on Saturday.”

A win for Font will continue his career renaissance. And not only will it keep him on track for a title shot, but it will also provide him with even more incentive to do what he loves.

“I’m blessed with this opportunity, and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” says Font. “I’m confident I’ll get my hand raised. My plan is to go in there, get it done and get back to the gym.”

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Next year has a lot in store for fight fans

The news that Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev will meet in a five-round bout this February adds even more excitement to the upcoming fight calendar.

This is a perfect booking, matching up the third (Dariush) and fourth (Makhachev) fighters in the lightweight division. This bout will certainly help add clarity to the top of the division, as well as provide significant stakes even without a title on the line. Dariush (21-4-1) has won his last seven fights, while Makhachev (21–1) has also been unstoppable, winning his last nine.

While Makhachev is the early favorite, Dariush is an incredibly tough matchup. Very few lightweights, even in the top 10, can compete on the ground with Makhachev, though Dariush certainly can. And while it will hardly be a surprise if this ends with a submission, Dariush also possesses knockout power.

Justin Gaethje appears next in line for a title shot against the winner of Charles Oliveira–Dustin Poirier, but the winner of Dariush-Makhachev will also have a legitimate claim to a fight for the belt.


The Pick 'Em Section

Here are my picks for this weekend’s fights:

UFC bantamweight bout: Rob Font vs. José Aldo
Pick: Rob Font

Bellator bantamweight title bout: Sergio Pettis (C) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
Pick: Sergio Pettis

UFC lightweight bout: Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
Pick: Brad Riddell

UFC lightweight bout: Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
Pick: Leonardo Santos

UFC light heavyweight bout: Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
Pick: Jimmy Crute

UFC middleweight bout: Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
Pick: Brendan Allen

Two weeks ago: 3–2
Current record: 52–29

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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