This Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC 156 brings what is billed as a "super fight," as featherweight kingpin and pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo takes on former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the main event.
Some people are skeptical of this fight's billing as a "super fight," and while I am inclined to agree, you have to recognize that this fight pits two of the very best against one another in a fight with title implications. It really doesn't get much better than that.
Edgar, a man who repeatedly defied odds against significantly larger men at the top of the lightweight ranks, will be competing for the first time at 145 pounds, and he is no man to overlook. He built his name on grit, guts, speed and hard work, and while he was never recognized as a gifted athlete, he was able to do a lot with what he had.
In his strong run at lightweight, Edgar was a constant underdog. Beating B.J. Penn once wasn't enough to make him a favorite the second time around. Gray Maynard had everything he did, but with ten to 15 pounds on him. Ben Henderson was the more athletic, larger, more diverse opponent. Edgar had no regards for these things, as he was always competitive with the very best in a talent-stacked division, going 3-2-1 in title fights at lightweight.
Now, stepping into his seventh consecutive title fight, Edgar is regarded once again as the underdog. Still outsized by Brazilian phenom, Jose Aldo, Edgar is likely to give up advantages in speed and striking, both of which were vital to his success at lightweight. So, what then, does he have for this dynamic, explosive Muay Thai ace?
Edgar has tenacity. His skills have always been second to his willpower. He really isn't that great a boxer, but he uses his never ending movement and quick, diversely angled attack to keep opponents on their heels. His wrestling, while very good, has been either a complement to his striking or is aided by his constant pressure. Pushing fights far into the championship rounds is something he can do consistently, and he remains just as aggressive when his opponents start to slow down.
All of Edgar's skills and tactics will be put to the test by Jose Aldo, a man who I prefer to describe as brilliantly violent. A physical beast, Aldo is perhaps the fastest, strongest, most explosive man to ever weight 145 pounds. His athletic gifts are plentiful, and in addition to them, he boasts a terrific work ethic and a nearly flawless skill set. The only flaw people have used against Aldo is his cardio, and even that may be overstated.
Jose is what you get when you combine the peak of technical proficiency, hard work, and innate athletic ability, creating a dynamic, dangerous fighter on par with the likes of MMA greats like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. What's more is that he's only 26 years old, and he's had experience with some of the very best fighters in his division.
Against Chad Mendes, Aldo showed an incredible ability to stop takedown after takedown from a man known for his powerful, technically proficient wrestling. In beating Kenny Florian, Aldo outdid an MMA veteran known for his ability in all areas of the fight. Dominant performances over Mark Hominick, Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown further proved that Aldo is the very best fighter featherweight has to offer.
The match up between these two is one that could go one of two ways. Either Aldo stomps out Edgar early into the fight, or "The Answer" makes the fight interesting with his wrestling and heart, making it anyone's fight. If the latter is to occur, this is likely to be Aldo's toughest challenge yet, and one that should be highly entertaining.
With two fighters that operate at such high speeds, while also combining terrific technique and skill into their approaches, they usually create competitive shows that all will enjoy. With Aldo's volatile striking approach and Franke's swift, dynamic boxing style, exchanges between the two should make for interesting results.
Edgar's seamless transitions from striking to wrestling will probably keep Aldo on his toes until the final bell, and that will probably bring the best out of him. At the same time, Edgar must be wary of the ferocious attacks Aldo will present, making this a stand off between two dynamic fighters.
When the going gets tough, we'll see who rises as the new featherweight champion. Will Frankie Edgar succumb to Aldo's mortiferous attacks, or will Edgar be able to give Aldo more than he can handle, taking rounds or even a late finish in the process?
I don't know, but I can't wait to find out. If you call yourself an MMA fan, you better watch this fight.