While Weidman’s emphatic dethroning of living legend and now former UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva (sounds weird, doesn’t it?) is deservedly the hot topic after UFC 162 fight weekend, there were many other interesting fights and story lines with important results. Lost in the aftermath of Silva’s first ever UFC loss was the co-main event, which saw a rising star in Charles Oliveira fall to former LW champion Frankie Edgar, who was looking to rebound from a three-fight losing skid.
Give credit to Charles Oliveira, who looked great on fight night. For the most part, he showed improved striking and fought with patience and a cool head. That’s not an easy thing to do when Edgar is peppering you with shots, moving in and out, left and right, dodging and weaving and connecting time and again. Unfortunately for Oliveira, Frankie Edgar was just better. Oliveira wasn’t quite able to avoid a few well-timed and powerful shots from Edgar that shook him up and clearly threw him out of his rhythm. But fortunately for Oliveira, he’s only 23 and he’s also from Brazil, a country with a huge MMA fan base that will support him.
Oliveira could use some rebuilding right now. It’s hard to say no to a big profile fight against a guy with the name recognition of Frankie Edgar. Beating someone like that raises your status like nothing else. But Oliveira needs a winnable fight right now. He doesn’t need another top guy. He’s faced two back to back killers in the division in Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar. While his loss to Edgar was competitive, it was still a loss and Edgar demonstrated he was clearly better. Oliveira could have a very bright future in the FW division if given a chance to gradually improve on his weaknesses and gain some experience and confidence. Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo aren’t getting any younger, and Brazil is putting out a lot of new and young talent like Renan Barao and Oliveira. Building up Brazilian stars is going to be a key part of the future of not just the UFC, but all MMA organizations in general. Oliveira wasn’t quite ready for a fighter like Frankie Edgar last Saturday, but give him another year or so and he probably will be.
Speaking of Edgar, he has to be pleased with his victory Saturday night for reasons other than just ending his long drought. He was well in control of that fight from start to finish, was never in any danger and dictated the pace and style of the fight with his signature movement and boxing. He looked great in his first win in a year and a half, and his tilt with Oliveira was enough to earn Fight of the Night honors (along with Swanson and Siver).
Since Edgar lost his strap, he’s been in the running for the “Best Fighter to Not Hold a Title” label along with maybe two or three other guys. He could beat the current champions of the UFC FW and LW divisions on any given day, but he could (and did) get beaten by them as well. Therein lies the big dilemma for “The Answer”.
Edgar is a tough, tough guy. He’s never been finished in his entire MMA career, although he famously came close to being knocked out in his second and third fight with Gray Maynard. Edgar never broke, he never quit and in that third fight, he somehow miraculously rebounded to turn the tide and then finish Maynard. That performance went down in MMA history as one of the most epic comebacks of all time. But even with Edgar’s “never say die” attitude and seemingly inhuman ability to not get finished and stay in fights, the flip side of that is in his 10 UFC wins he has only earned finishes in three of them. His knockout of Maynard in their trilogy fight is one of the most memorable highlights of his career, but it was his first KO win in over four years at that time.
Edgar is a firm believer of hard work and never giving up. He’s proved doubters wrong plenty of times. There’s only one problem. Hard work can only take you so far. There comes a point when someone comes along who works just as hard as you, but has more natural ability. Take a look at what fellow featherweight contender Cub Swanson did to Oliveira in their matchup. Swanson ended up mauling him. Edgar came close to putting Oliveira down on one or two occasions, but he didn’t follow through and earn a stoppage. Edgar doesn’t have the freakish athleticism of Benson Henderson. He doesn’t have the fight ending Muay Thai power of Jose Aldo. Look at Jon Jones. The guy is a brilliant fighter in the mental aspect, but he also has a clear physical advantage in most of his fights and he uses his length and reach to the fullest potential. Edgar is constantly undersized in his fights, which was very noticeable against Oliveira and it’s only his skill and heart that see him through. That was enough to defeat Oliveira, but it proved to be inadequate against the likes of Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo.
Many people constantly state that Edgar is still one of the elite and a clear top ten P4P fighter. It’s a fair assessment considering he is a former champion who lost three close decisions in title fights against two of the best in the world. Edgar has been clear about his goal: championship or bust. But based on his victory this past Saturday, which was hard-fought and well deserved, Edgar may be destined for the same fate if he finds himself in another championship fight. Welcome back to the win column Frankie, but where do you go from here?