It almost seems impossible to imagine the UFC without its roster of lightweights.
Over the past five years, the 155-pound division hasn't failed to intrigue or entertain. When the company reinstated the weight class after a two year sabbatical, it opened the floodgates for a massive influx of talent.
Beyond welterweights like Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian who were able to drop down to a more natural weight, the UFC also welcomed in a new generation of lightweight fighters into the Octagon. Men like Joe Lauzon, Sam Stout and the UFC 136 headliners, Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar.
The two rivals will collide a third and possibly final time this Saturday (Oct. 8) when they settle a score that started in 2008 and remained unfinished at UFC 125. There, they battled for nearly half an hour with no clear winner and are now forced to take their differences to the Lone Star State.
But before they meet up inside the Octagon, we'll take a look at one of "The Answer's" early UFC bouts, a spirited one-round affair with Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt Mark Bocek. It was this kind of exciting bout, only a year after the division's reinstatement, that proved the lightweights deserved a spot inside the Octagon.
Let's get it on!
The bout opened the festivities at UFC 73: "Stacked," an event that included two title fights -- including one for the lightweight strap -- and mixed martial arts (MMA) legends Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tito Ortiz. Despite all the talent associated with the card, it was Edgar's bout with Bocek that is looked at more fondly than everything else.
Edgar had made his Octagon debut five months prior and scored a shocking upset over 155-pound Xtreme Couture stud Tyson Griffin. He was looking to continue his streak and hopefully find himself in a lightweight title fight of his own.
Without further adieu, let's take a closer look at this lightweight clash.
The two immediately meet in the center of the Octagon and begin trading jabs. Bocek shoots in for a takedown but "The Answer" is able to stuff the attempt. They stand up into a clinch and begin trading knees and body shots. Edgar especially punishes flesh with leather before they break.
Bocek throws a right but it's blocked by Edgar who counters with one of his own straight down the pipe. It crashes into the Canadian's chin and he drops to the mat but recovers before Edgar is able to take advantage.
They continue to trade in the center of the Octagon, neither fighter willing to give up an inch. Bocek once again shoots in but still doesn't find any success. He throws a knee that barely misses his American opponent but then connects with a left that catches Edgar right on the button.
"The Answer" collapses to the mat but has the same survival instinct that saved Bocek only seconds prior. He gets back to his feet and clinches up with the Canadian. Nothing of consequence lands and they break. Edgar throws a crisp two-punch combination that catches the BJJ player flush.
It was this point that Edgar must have felt was the opportunity to strike. Perhaps he felt the end was imminent if he imposed his will on his opponent. His striking becomes more aggressive and he increases his pressure on the Canadian. Bullying him around the Octagon, Edgar begins to unload on his feet.
Bocek ends up on his back while "The Answer" does his best Fedor Emelianenko impersonation by landing brutal ground and pound. Throwing down punches and elbows, the American is able to slip into side mount where hammer fists enter into the equation. An elbow cracks Bocek on the jaw and he begins to realize that something must be done if he doesn't want to have the fight stopped.
He throws his legs up for a triangle but then quickly transitions to an omoplata shoulder lock. Edgar defends perfectly and is able to slip his arm out, bringing the feet back to a vertical base.
They begin exchanging again only now it seems that "The Answer" has found his rhythm. He begins to take over, throwing combinations and connecting almost at will. By now, Bocek's stand-up posture has begun to slump as his gas tank empties out. He simply can't keep up with his opponent's pace.
The Canadian shoots in and gets stuffed for the third time. He tries to flip Edgar over but "The Answer" defends and is able to keep control of his opponent's body. Bocek ends up on his back and his opponent traps him inside of a crucifix, the same position Matt Hughes pounded out B.J. Penn in.
The referee steps in and stops the fight after a dozen unanswered punches connect with Bocek's skull.
This win was the second punch in Edgar's one-two combination -- which started off with his victory over Tyson Griffin -- that launched his campaign to prove he was one of the new UFC lightweight elite.
And in fact, with two wins over "The Prodigy" -- who was once thought unbeatable at 155-pounds -- and the lightweight title around his waist, he has accomplished his goal admirably. But there remains a single blemish on his record, the result of his first bout with Maynard.
He couldn't get revenge on "The Bully" in January.
Will he get it Saturday?