With the injury to Anthony Pettis and the subsequent selection of Chan Sung Jung as the replacement to fight FW champion Jose Aldo, the UFC decided to remove Ricardo Lamas from the UFC 162 fight card entirely, rather than find a short-notice and suitable replacement. That moved every fight up a notch, including Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira, which now serves as the co-main event of the card. Edgar is coming off of three consecutive losses, losing his lightweight title and falling in a FW title fight in the process. Oliveira was last seen on the receiving end of a Cub Swanson KO barrage last year, so both fighters are looking to get back in the win column, with Edgar desperately searching for his first win in over a year.
Charles Oliveira (16-3 overall, 4-3 UFC, 1 NC)
Strengths: Jiu-jitsu and that’s about it
Weaknesses: Lack of elite striking ability
Frankie Edgar (15-4 overall, 9-4 UFC, 1 draw)
Strengths: Heart, conditioning, well-rounded, boxing and speed
Weaknesses: Undersized, tends to get into trouble
Fight Breakdown – This is an interesting matchup. It’s basically a message to Frankie Edgar: okay Frankie, we know you still got the goods and you’re an elite fighter, but your last three fights were all losses. Granted, they were against two of the best P4P guys on the planet, but still losses. So here’s a nice and tidy bounce back fight for you that you will probably win to stay relevant in the FW picture.
This is a fight that Frankie Edgar can and absolutely should win. What makes it so compelling is that it’s also exactly the kind of fight he could lose if he gets overconfident and underestimates Oliveira. Edgar is the superior fighter, plain as that. He doesn’t really have a glaring weakness and he has lots of positives (probably why he was a champion). He can strike, grapple, wrestle, escape and tangle on the ground. He might be the gold standard for toughness and heart and he keeps a pace few fighters in the world, not just the FW division, can match.
Oliveira on the other hand, is a jiu-jitsu specialist. While he’s not a stranger to striking, it’s nowhere near as good as his ground game. It showed in his loss to Cub Swanson, who kept stalking Oliveira around the cage until he managed to connect and put him down.
Oliveira is going to have a noticeable height advantage and he must know Edgar will look to utilize his speed, movement and excellent boxing to keep him on the defensive until he finds an opening. He should try to avoid getting caught in a technical boxing match with Edgar and just keep his distance and maybe catch Edgar coming in with kicks and jabs. For how elusive and skilled Edgar is, he has also shown susceptibility to getting tagged and shaken many times in the past. Edgar is not invincible and Oliveira will have a few chances to capitalize. If Oliveira can’t read Edgar and keep up with his pace, it’s going to be a long night for him.
Pace is another factor to keep in mind. This will be Edgar’s first non-title fight in almost four years. Edgar has been somewhat of a slow starter in his many title fights, having five rounds to work with as opposed to the usual three. A huge part of Edgar’s effectiveness is his conditioning and cardio and his style just wears guys down over five rounds. Against Jose Aldo, he hit his stride just as the champion started to show signs of tiring. He won’t have that luxury come Saturday and he has to be ready to get to work immediately. A slow start here could spell his doom.
But back to the size disadvantage, Edgar is no stranger to fighting bigger guys and he’s pretty much fearless in the cage. He would probably do better to keep this one on the feet and stuff any potential takedown attempts by Oliveira. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Oliveira grapple with Edgar and pull guard at an opportune moment, but Oliveira will have size and reach over Edgar and may get caught up in a stand-up contest. Edgar has the ability to finish Oliveira on the feet, as well as the skill to earn some takedowns. For Edgar, mixing it up and getting into a clinch against the cage every now and then to work some dirty boxing would be a good idea. He has to keep Oliveira guessing and use his elite movement and elusiveness to his advantage. Edgar doesn’t have that phenomenal one punch KO power (few guys in this weight class do), but he does have the potential to string together combinations and put Oliveira on his back. That’s really going to be the key to this fight, if Edgar can implement his speed and movement to touch up Oliveira and avoid getting caught with counter strikes.
Why It Matters – Poor Frankie Edgar. Three years ago he was sitting on cloud nine after shocking the MMA world and upsetting B.J Penn, a future hall-of-famer, probably the best lightweight mixed-martial artist of his generation and simply one of the greatest of all time. Then he proved the first fight wasn’t a fluke in a clear and decisive rematch victory. Two years ago he flattened Gray Maynard in their trilogy fight after nearly getting finished earlier in the match. He finally conquered his greatest rival, a man who beat him once and nearly did it again in their second and third fights. It looked like Frankie Edgar was here to stay.
Then a year later, it all came crashing down. Benson Henderson tore through the lightweight division to rise up and challenge Edgar. He beat him once to take his title, then again in an immediate rematch. Only the second and third losses of Edgar’s career, but they happened back to back and in title fights. Next step: drop down to featherweight for a crack at Jose Aldo and the FW crown. Result? Another closely contested loss.
So where does that leave him now? Frankie Edgar absolutely needs to win this fight. That was true for every fight he’s ever fought in his career, but the consequence for losing this one is not something he wants to think about. Four losses in a row? Few guys are able to bounce back from that to become relevant again. His past few opponents were not “gimmes” by any stretch, and neither is Oliveira. But the bottom line is this is Edgar’s fight to win or lose.
Oliveira on the other hand, just can’t seem to break into the elite of whatever division he is in. Take a look at his three UFC losses: Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson. He was on a two fight win streak after dropping to FW, both ended by submissions, then he got knocked out by Swanson, who was a big step up in competition from guys like Jonathan Brookins and Eric Wisely. Even with Edgar’s three losses, he’s still an elite fighter and this will be Oliveira’s fourth crack at one of the best guys in his weight class. We already have an idea of his ceiling, but a loss here and his fate is pretty much sealed as a middle of the pack fighter who probably doesn’t have the goods to contend for a title, not at this point anyway. Oliveira is still very young by MMA standards and has a lot of room for growth, but the sooner he can earn a win over a top ten guy, the better. He’ll have a golden opportunity this Saturday. As hungry as “Do Bronx” might be, Edgar is going to come in with fire in his eyes and a desperation to win and win big. He’s smart enough and experienced enough to channel that desperation and focus it to turn out a winning performance.
Prediction – Edgar