There is one man standing in Zombie's way. His name is Erik Koch. The fighter the kids like to call "New Breed" was already slated to challenge for the title on July 21st in Calgary, that was until Aldo feel a victim to the extremely contagious UFC 149 injury bug. As of now, Koch and Aldo are still expected to do business in Brazil this Fall if Aldo is healthy. That's not the correct fight to make at this juncture.
Erik Koch is an exciting fighter, you can say that about most of Duke Roufus' fighters. I don't have any issues with Koch's game or what he brings to the cage. I don't even have an issue with Koch getting a shot at Aldo coming off wins against mid-tier UFC guys like Jonathan Brookins, Assuncao, Francisco Rivera and some guy I never heard of. He was going to fight Aldo in July and Chan Sung Jung would get the title shot against the winner in the fall. That's not the case now, and when things get delayed you have to adapt. I'll tell you why after the break.
photo credit - Korea Herald
The Korean Zombie may not be a superstar in the sport by any means but the average fan knows who he is, if not by his resume, they at least know him by the t-shirts and the nickname. From a marketing standpoint 'Aldo vs. Zombie' is obviously a better sell than 'Aldo vs. Koch'. If you're a fringe mma fan you have no idea, or interest in Erik Koch right now and you may not even know who he is aside from being Aldo's next opponent. Now if Koch deserved the title shot more than Zombie then snubbing Koch just wouldn't be right, especially when he opted to wait for Aldo to heal. But that's just not the case.
The Mendes Factor.
Jose Aldo just disposed of the previously undefeated Chad Mendes in the 1st Round of their main event fight at UFC 142. The lone loss on Koch's record is a unanimous decision loss to Mendes, a fight where he showed flashes of brilliance late but was just out wrestled by the NCCA Division I wrestler in the end. Zombie has never fought Mendes. This sort of annoying "MMA Math" tactic usually annoys me but it holds a little bit of credence here. We will finish with the most important point though.
What have you done for me lately?
Erik "New Breed" Koch has shown that he is exactly what his name suggests, the new breed of fighter. He's gone 5-1 since signing with Zuffa and he already has a couple of highlight reel finishes. He looks to be a guy who will be a problem for anyone who weighs at or around 145 pounds and due to the shallowness of this division he'd deserve a title shot right now as planned. The problem is that there is another guy who just hopped over him on May 15th and became the #1 contender - with a bullet.
You saw the four most recent victims on Koch's hit list above. So what has the Zombie been up to since he joined the UFC? Pulling off the first twister (tap..or die) in company history and thus earning himself the 2011 submission of the year. Check. Knocking out a guy Jose Aldo couldn't knock out in 25 minutes in just 7 seconds. Check. Submitting a fighter in Dustin Poirier that was supposed to beat him with a d'arce choke in the 3rd round of a brawl that holds up as the current frontrunner for 2012 fight of the year. Check. Lets review. You have arguably the most exciting fighter in the division (don't forget he was robbed in 2010 against Garcia in a fight that many voted Fight of the Year) who is on a three-fight win streak and he just called out the champion. Give him what he, you, and all the fans want.