A 145 pound bout for the ages will go down this Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) as UFC Featherweight Jose Aldo takes on former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 156 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jose Aldo has put himself on the map with his tremendous striking diversity and his tenacity which has helped him defend his belt five times already including handing Chad Mendes the first loss of his professional career last year at UFC 142 in Brazil. Now, he's out to potentially secure a legacy if he can knock off his most esteemed opponent yet.
Frankie Edgar had been told for years he was too small to be a lightweight, but he was still able to win the title and defend it multiple times. After losing the belt and the rematch to Ben Henderson, he finally dropped down to 145 pounds where he earned an immediate title shot against Aldo.
Will Aldo's powerful striking be "The Answer" for Edgar? Can Edgar create another Cinderella story, this time at featherweight? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 21-1 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: After making waves in Brazil, Aldo migrated to the WEC and immediately began wrecking the place. He tore through his first four WEC bouts with deadly striking and decided to cap it off by earning a title shot with an unbelievable eight second knockout of Cub Swanson at WEC 41. Believe it or not, the time of the knockout was the least impressive part of it. Aldo flew through the air and connected on poor Cub's chin with not one but two flying knees at once and finished the stunned Swanson off with quick ground and pound.
The Brazilian made the most of his opportunity and manhandled then-champion Mike Brown, finishing the turtling titleholder with ground and pound from behind. His victory set up a WEC super-fight with the incredibly popular former champion Urijah Faber at WEC 48. "Scarface" would work a different gameplan for that fight, massacring Faber's legs with sharp kicks until they turned into linguine and "The California Kid's" corner needed to carry him to his stool in between rounds.
After the UFC/WEC merger, Aldo was handed the UFC featherweight title and got an opportunity to defend it against Mark Hominick. The Brazilian won a hard-fought battle over the course of five rounds in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance. He followed that up by outworking a persistent Kenny Florian for five more rounds to retain his belt.
The diverse striker returned to form last year, knocking Chad Mendes out with one second remaining in the first round in what was truly a star-making performance. He was injured twice while preparing to defend his belt last year, but after healing up, he's ready for potentially the biggest fight of his life against Edgar.
How he gets it done: Jose Aldo has a very diverse set of skills. He's got heavy hands and some of the nastiest leg kicks in all of MMA.
Look for Aldo to try to keep this fight standing and really go to work with his kicks, although he'll have to keep them low. He does a terrific job of closing off combinations with a leg kick. If he can connect a few times, it's going to slow Edgar down and slowing "The Answer" down is going to be extremely important if he wants to successfully defend. If Edgar begins to lose some of his lateral quickness, the champion could swoop in with a flying knee or some other devastating frontal attack.
If taken down, Aldo needs to do whatever it takes to pop back to his feet as it's highly unlikely he'll be able to sweep Edgar or submit him off of his back. He wins this fight by keeping it standing.
Edgar has a terrible tendency of getting rocked in fights often. If Aldo can connect with something solidly and hurt him, he absolutely has to go for broke to finish him once and for all.
Record: 14-3-1 overall, 9-3-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Ben Henderson (UFC 144), Gray Maynard (UFC Fight Night 13)
How he got here: Frankie Edgar has been a perennial underdog. He never won a state championship, falling just short twice and did the same thing at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. He made the transition to fighting professionally in late 2005 and in just the sixth fight of his career, he was already making his debut in the UFC.
He competed as a lightweight because the UFC didn't have a featherweight division yet and won his first three fights impressively against top competition like Tyson Griffin, Mark Bocek and Spencer Fisher. His momentum was halted by the bigger, stronger Gray Maynard in April 2008, but that loss only fueled him to improve.
Just one year later, Edgar put on the best performance of his career against former lightweight champion Sean Sherk, outstriking his bulkier foe and stuffing the elite wrestler's takedowns. After an impressive stoppage of the then-undefeated Matt Veach, Edgar was handed a title shot that many felt he didn't deserve against the legendary B.J. Penn.
Edgar made the most of his opportunity, utilizing his speed and conditioning to outpoint the plodding Penn at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi to shock the world and win the UFC lightweight title. He proved his victory wasn't a fluke by dominating Penn in the rematch at UFC 118, blasting the ex-champ with more powerful strikes, adding kicks and even takedowns to his arsenal.
His next defense was against Gray Maynard at UFC 125 and after surviving a horrible first round in which he was dropped four times, Edgar bounced back in Rocky-esque fashion to win three of the remaining four rounds and force a draw. He squared off with Maynard once more and this time, he took care of business to score a fourth round knockout victory.
Edgar finally lost his title in a very close decision to Benson Henderson, and he rose to the occasion in a rematch but found himself on the losing end of the scorecards. After the second loss, he finally agreed to drop down to featherweight and was awarded an immediate title shot against Aldo.
How he gets it done: Edgar's key to victory is his speed and his wrestling. He's got terrific footwork and tight, technical boxing. He's fast enough to dive into the pocket, land punches and exit at angles to get out of the way of his opponent's attack, but that wouldn't be recommended against someone as explosive and dangerous as Aldo.
What Edgar has to avoid is a defensive lapse early in the fight as he has tended to be a slow starter. They key for him is to take Aldo out of his game, make him second guess his own abilities by shooting in for takedowns whenever the champion goes on the offensive.
Edgar does a tremendous job of catching leg kicks with his quick reflexes, but unlike his fight against Benson Henderson, he really needs to follow-up the catching of the kicks by either landing a leg sweep or by simply taking him to the round.
Edgar has a tremendous gas tank and while Aldo has only really slowed down in one of his fights, if "The Answer" shoots in and really makes him work, he might be able to wear him out. It won't be easy, but if Edgar can survive the first couple rounds, time will at least be on his side.
Fight X-Factor: There are two major factors for this fight. The first is Aldo's explosiveness and power. Edgar has stepped into the cage against fighters like Maynard, Penn and Henderson who have some striking talent, but none of them compare to the deadliness of Aldo. Aldo is capable of extreme precision and thunderous power at any moment's notice. There's potential that he could be so fast that Edgar wouldn't be able to see it coming.
The other factor is Edgar dropping down to 145 pounds for the first time. He's used to not having to ever cut weight for fights, or at most, a pound or two. Ten pounds wouldn't normally be much for most fighters, but for a fighter cutting weight for the first time in his UFC career, it could be difficult. There's no telling how Edgar's body is going to react and whether or not it will be adverse. If he is even less capable of handing heavy blows, he could be in major trouble.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be incredible. Aldo has the potential of destroying anyone at any moments notice while Edgar has potentially the most heart of an fighter on the UFC roster. There is an opportunity for an epic comeback or a highlight reel knockout. There's so much going on, so many different skills that this fight could literally go anywhere and end up in all sorts of different scenarios. The unpredictability makes it even more intriguing.
Who will come out on top at UFC 156? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!