Jose Aldo battered Renato Moicano on Saturday. It was an incredible performance, especially considering that this is, by all indications except for actual performance, Jose Aldo’s twilight. If everything goes according to plan, Jose Aldo will retire at the end of this year, leaving behind an incredible record of monumental wins and violent victories. Where he ranks in terms of the greatest featherweights and fighters of all time will surely be debated for a long time, but here’s something that isn’t up for debate: Jose Aldo had the best soccer kicks in MMA.
With the growing prominence of the UFC, promotions have, for the most part, adopted the UFC’s rules. It is just the natural course of things, fighters want to get to the UFC, local promotions want to be seen as a conduit to the UFC, and so the UFC’s rules, the “Unified” Rules of Mixer Martial Arts, have spread throughout the world. With that UFC-ification, the homogenization of MMA, soccer kicks have, outside of a handful of promotions, been erased from the vast majority of high-level MMA. You can debate the safety of soccer kicks and what their implementation does to the safety of fighters, but from an aesthetic point of view, at least if your atheistic is born out of a craven need for violence, a well placed soccer kick is rivaled only by the headkick as the most beautiful techniques in fight sport. They’re all but extinct from modern MMA, but there was a time, a short period of time less than three years, less than a year really, where Jose Aldo was fighting in promotions where he could punt dudes in the head and those were heady times.
Jose Aldo wasn’t a prolific soccer kicker. He didn’t spam soccer kicks every time he was standing over his opponent, he was calculating, he used them to finish fights, not just as a way to kill some time before the referee stood the other fighter up. So below is a collection of Jose Also soccer kicking people, revel in it.
This is from Aldo’s pro debut. It doesn’t exactly land flush, or maybe at all, the footage isn’t exactly pristine,but the kick is thrown with real power, and his opponent, Mario Bigola, is lucky it didn’t land flush.
This gif is from Jose Aldo’s fourth pro fight, against Aritano Silva Barbosa. In the previous clip, Aldo dropped his opponent with a head kick and the the soccer kick was just there for added emphasis, here Aldo uses them to finish. These kicks are quick and thrown with real technique. Shogun Rua has a reputation for great soccer kicks, but often times they weren’t thrown with the same kind of power and speed as his other kicks were. We don’t get that with Aldo, he throws these kicks are just as violent as knee he used to decapitate Cub Swanson.
In Aldo’s next fight, against Anderson Silverio, he just absolutely obliterates his opponent with soccer kicks. A lot of this fight has Silverio lying on his back, inviting Aldo into his guard. Eventually Aldo gets impatient and ee jumps over Silverio’s guard and hits him with a kick to the back of the head, Silverio starts tapping immediately, but Aldo lands two other kicks before the referee stops it. Also, note here how fast he is able to throw these and how he alternates feet. This isn’t everyday stuff, for the most part, soccer kicks are always thrown with the same leg, almost never with this kind of malice behind them.
Another angle, because Jose Aldo deserves it.
At this point in his career, Jose Aldo has become a prospect of note. He ends up going to the UK after this for two fights, in organizations that don’t allow soccer kicks. After that he had three more fights in Brazil. the first was a loss to Luciano Azevedo in Jungle Fight, where soccer kicks are allowed, but Aldo was unable to land any. Azevedo was a clear step up in competition and wasn’t going to let Aldo kick him in the head if he could help it. His second fight, against Thiago Meller, doesn’t have any soccer kicks, which is a real disappointment. In that fight, which is available online in parts, Aldo is lot more safe. He’s more measured, aiming toward getting to the bigger shows, this is the very nascent days of the WEC on Versus, and so he fights more conservatively, it is a shame. His third and final fight in Brazil, not under the Zuffa banner, isn’t on tape. After this, he goes to Pancrase to fight Shoji Maruyama, there are no soccer kicks in Pancrase, and so we have no footage of Jose Aldo kicking Shoji Maruyama.
If you go back and watch all of these fights, all of them, excluding the Mello fight, are on YouTube, you don’t really see the WEC version of Jose Aldo. You don’t see the flying knees, you don’t see the preternatural takedown defense. It is all the more impressive the offensive explosion and defensive wizard that Aldo became in the WEC and carried over into the UFC, wasn’t there at the beginning of his career, outside of his pro debut. He developed all of that fighting at the highest levels of the sport.
What you see in Jose Aldo’s early fights is a fighter who’s best offensive skill is soccer kicks. He finishes two of his first five fights with them. But, then they go away. Why? Because the bigger promotions were calling, Sean Shelby wanted to get Aldo in the WEC. So, Jose started fighting differently, started fighting in organizations using the Unified Rules. Basically, the UFC came calling and the soccer kicks had to go.
Of course Jose Aldo had to go to the WEC. He’s one of the best fighters in the history of the sport, him not going there would have been in a travesty. Of course, he should have done everything he could to succeed there, including adapting his style to better suit those rules. But, there’s a part of me that wishes he hadn’t. That circumstances would have conspired in such a way to allow Jose Also to kick more guys in the head. He was that good at it, it looked great every time he did it, it was always effective. I don’t know if we’ll ever see soccer kicks in America ever again, we probably won’t, there isn’t an appetite for it among commissions and fans don’t seem to care, en masse, but I don’t think we’ll ever see anything on the level shown in this post. Fighters like Jose Aldo don’t come around all that often, and in today’s world, the likelihood they’ll fight in promotions with rules that allow soccer kicks is slim. Top prospects aren’t going to work on techniques that are illegal in the vast majority of MMA promotions. Bellator isn’t going to adopt soccer kicks, Rizin isn’t going to become a legitimate competitor to the UFC. Soccer kicks are dead. Unless things drastically change, Jose Aldo will always have the best soccer kicks in MMA, even if he only used them for a handful of fights.