This is the toughest fight on the card to call for a number of reasons, the biggest being is that picking one violates one of my three principles of MMA: never pick against Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar. And crazy enough both guys have fairly easy game plans going in. If you’re not excited for this fight, check your pulse: you might be dead.
Fight Breakdown: Jose Aldo is the best striker in MMA, or at least in the team picture, on a pound for pound basis. He hits you hard, fast and often. His technique is near flawless and he has an extensive background in Muay Thai, as well as being a former soccer prospect, that adds to that aspect of his game. He has one touch knockout power which is aided by his sublime takedown defense; he’s so good at defending takedowns that it gives him an added strength on his feet. His striking is that much better because even if he’s been in a bad spot because of it he doesn’t get taken down. He’s got a first rate ground game he never uses, as well. The best compliment I’ve heard about his overall abilities comes from Anderson Silva who said that if Jose was a middleweight he’d retire because he’s so incredibly talented.
When the greatest fighter who ever live loves you’re skillset you know you’ve done something right.
Frankie Edgar, on the other hand, is the king of relenting pressure. His gas tank is nearly endless and his ability to put a pace on someone to make them wilt has worked in one of the deepest shark tanks in MMA. You could almost call him a bantamweight fighting up at lightweight due to his desire to not cut any weight, Frankie survived against much bigger fighters with first rate wrestling and a surprisingly effective boxing game. Edgar thrives on his ability to stick and move, to outland guys and then grind them with his top position game. He’s shown knockout power in the past, as he is the only one to finish Gray Maynard in his MMA career. Edgar doesn’t have one punch power but he has the ability to land a big strike and follow it up exceptionally fast. He doesn’t get credit enough for his ability to outbox guys but Edgar has steadily improved that aspect of his game over the years.
A couple areas will determine this fight. I’m nearly giddy writing this, too, as this is an early candidate for fight of the year.
The first is Aldo’s vaunted takedown against under the relentless pressure of Edgar. Edgar has gotten a lot of guys down no one thought he could and he can win the fight if he can turn this into a mat based affair. Aldo’s been untested on the ground and if Edgar can get him there we’ll find out just how good he is. If Aldo can keep this standing he has an edge in the standing department; Frankie has a tough chin and is incredibly durable but Aldo has a habit of cracking guys like that.
That’ll be a key thing as well; Aldo has big one shot power as well as the ability to crack a guy and then swarm him for the TKO. Look at any highlight video of Aldo and he’s mercking guys left and right. Frankie Edgar has gotten cracked by Maynard and Benson Henderson, neither of whom could finish him like Aldo can in the same scenario. Aldo’s biggest strength is that killer instinct to go for the finish and if Edgar gets hurt it could get ugly.
The crazy thing is that despite cutting down to 145 Edgar will still be the smaller man in this fight because Aldo is a big lightweight who still keeps managing to make 145. So far he hasn’t had a problem in the championship rounds outside of the Hominick fight, which to be fair involved a rough cut and a sickness in the month leading up to it. He had no problem against Urijah Faber in similar territory, though, but if his weight cut is tough again Edgar’s pressure could wilt him the further it goes.
Why It Matters: If you’re not excited to see two guys on the Top 10 Pound for Pound list fight you’re not a fan of MMA, pure and simple.
It’s for the featherweight title, which gives it stakes as well, and could be Jose Aldo’s final fight in the division. He’s destined for lightweight and this could be his final moment as the greatest featherweight of his generation. A win over Edgar, especially a finish, puts him immediately in the discussion among elite lightweights.
For Frankie it’s another shot at a UFC title and it’s also the first stop in his quest to find a new weight class to call home. A win here and everything people have said over the years about him dropping to featherweight will be vindicated, as well.