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MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Friday night's UFC on FX 5 main card bout between weltersweights Justin Edwards and Josh Neer. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out inside
Josh Neer has been fighting off an on in the UFC for years, but hasn't been able to stick around for extended periods. Despite repeatedly getting his walking paper, "The Dentist" has always found a way back to the promotion due to his exciting style and the fact that he dominates the local circuit like no one's business.
Justin Edwards was raved about on The Ultimate Fighter season 13, but his talents haven't translated to UFC success. After losing his debut in the promotion, he's alternated wins and losses, going 1-2 thus far in his brief career. He hasn't competed since losing to John Maguire at UFC 138 last November.
Will Neer return to form against Edwards? Can Edwards step up to the plate against his most experienced opponent to date? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out:
Record: 33-11-1 overall, 6-7 in the UFC
How he got here: Josh Neer has been here before, this is actually his fourth stint in the UFC for the 28 year old Midwestern scrapper. "The Dentist" originally entered the UFC after accumulating a 13-1-1 record on the regional circuit, but was submitted in his UFC debut by Drew Fickett in the inaugural UFC Fight Night event.
He was brought back four months later most likely as a feeder to Melvin Guillard, but Neer surprised fans and UFC execs by submitting "The Young Assassin" in the first round and then following up his victory by defeating Ultimate Fighter season two winner Joe Stevenson, halting his nine fight win streak.
Neer would find himself on the outside looking in after two straight losses including a submission defeat to Nick Diaz, but would work his way back once more by going 6-1 in regional shows over the next year. In his third stint with the UFC, the native Iowan defeated Din Thomas, lost a close split decision to Nate Diaz and then tapped out Ultimate Fighter season 6 winner Mac Danzig with a triangle choke to earn some high profile fights.
He found himself on the receiving end of consecutive decisions after being controlled by wrestlers Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau which again left him looking for work outside the UFC. Neer bit off a bit more than he could chew in losing to Eddie Alvarez in a Bellator "superfight" but worked his way back to the UFC with four straight first round stoppages. He performed admirably against Keith Wisniewski in his return, elbowing his opponent into oblivion which forced a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round.
Neer then battled striker Duane Ludwig and after getting lit up on the feet for a bit, he took the fight to the canvas and scored a quick submission victory. He was hoping to continue his run at 170 pounds against Mike Pyle but was knocked out brutally in the first round. Now, "The Dentist" is hoping to get back on track.
How he gets it done: Neer is incredibly scrappy. He can stand and bang or he can take the fight to the ground. The key for him is to be aggressive. He needs to crowd Edwards on the feet and not let him get comfortable.
If possible, he should try to take the fight to the ground as well. Neer is very adept on the canvas and has a wide array of submission skills. While Edwards is decent on the canvas, he was controlled on the ground by John Maguire in his last fight, a fighter who's not nearly as experienced as Neer.
Pressure and aggression are the keys to a Neer victory here. Even if he can't get the fight to the ground, if Neer is constantly keeping Edwards on the defensive, he's got a very good shot of winning.
Record: 7-2 overall, 1-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Georges Lopez (UFC Fight Night 25)
Key Losses: John Maguire (UFC 138)
How he got here: Edwards got off to a terrific start in his MMA career, winning six straight on the local circuit while training under Jorge Gurgel in the Cincinnati area. He took his talents to season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) where he was ranted and raved about by the coaches and castmembers but he was upset by the eventual winner Tony Ferguson after eating a huge up kick in their bout.
Edwards didn't show much in his UFC debut, losing a decision to Clay Harvison on the show's finale after gassing quickly, but the UFC kept him around and looked better in his next bout, defeating much-hyped prospect Jorge Lopez via unanimous decision.
In his last bout this past November, Edwards was manhandled by John Maguire, getting outgrappled handily across the pond in the UK. He's hoping to put the past behind him with a huge victory this weekend.
How he gets it done: Edwards needs to get in Neer's face for the full 15 minutes if he wants to win. Clinching and takedowns are key as Neer does not have the greatest takedown defense and has been controlled in several of his UFC defeats.
If Edwards can take Neer down, he'll be well on his way to victory, as long as he can avoid Neer's spectacular ground game off his back. It may not be pretty as Edwards is not much of a finisher against top opposition, but if he can control Neer on the canvas, perhaps pass his guard a bit and drop enough punches to keep the fight from being stood up, he's got a shot.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is intimidation. Edwards has not exactly looked great in his UFC career thus far and Josh Neer has a certain aura about him. Neer is still going to be aggressive and confident despite the knockout loss because he doesn't know nay other way to fight. If Edwards can't take his game to the level of his opposition, he's going to be in serious trouble. He has lost fights to significantly less experienced or dangerous opponents than Neer before, so this bout could be trouble for him if he isn't fully there.
Bottom Line: In all honesty, this fight could get ugly. Neer is capable of putting on an exciting fight, win or loss, but Edwards hasn't really shown anything in his UFC career thus far that makes him seem like a fighter that deserves main card status. It's actually surprising he's still employed after going 1-2 in the promotion, whether alone being featured on FX. If Edwards doesn't raise his aggression, he's going to get controlled both on the feet and potentially even on the ground but the veteran Neer. This could get ugly.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 5? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!