In what is the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) matchup in the history of the Featherweight division, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar carry a sheen of brilliance into their UFC 156 main event fight tonight (Feb. 2, 2013) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Aldo's rule as 145-pound champion has seen him dominate and decimate challengers, turning them back almost with disdain for those would challenge him, as Mike Tyson once said, with their primitive skills.
Edgar's 10-pound drop is a fascinating move, as he ruled the lightweights in a thrilling reign of three defenses, competing with the cream of the division and being perhaps the most overachieving fighter in the game. And one of its most exciting, to boot.
Irresistible force? Meet immovable object.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 156 main event between Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar below:
Aldo's days at featherweight are numbered, as he's huge for the weight, and it's obvious in five-round decisions over Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick that he simply doesn't have the huge reservoir of bullets he did just a year or two ago. It doesn't matter against most challengers because "Scarface" can simply build an early lead, proving so superior in stand up and takedown defense that he pretty much cruises to victory, or, if exhausted, shrugs off a pithy rally to swing the momentum against him (as he did against Hominick).
Edgar is the antitheses of that kind of foe, however, and it's critical that he establish a "burn rate" of energy that makes Aldo work in reactive mode, instead of dictating what happens. Edgar's brilliant movement and timing on his strikes make him the first opponent Aldo's had in years who might, ostensibly, be able to match up effectively early on the feet, outlanding the Brazilian because of his great wrestling.
Aldo's takedown defense is phenomenal, and much of that is because of his stand up. You simply can't get close enough to set up a good pentration shot, and his heavy hips and incredible balance make him a nightmare to control.
This is a tale of two fights: the beginning, where Aldo should have advantages on the feet and in one-strike power, and the grind, after both hit the wall and have to fall back on conditioning, adjustments and maximizing openings. All of those elements favor Edgar, a long-burn type of fighter who gets better during bouts because of his ability to adjust. If Edgar isn't blitzed early, he will be able to force Aldo to work, and that sets the stage for a second-half push that may well run the champ out of gas- - if Aldo doesn't hand him his head beforehand due to his vicious strikes.
Aldo's not a front-runner by any means. It's obvious the guy has an incredible confidence in his ability. However, Edgar's capacity to make opponents work defuses that somewhat, especially if he can mix a demoralizing takedown or two into the mix early and make Aldo feel that he needs to step it up to regain the momentum.
Edgar's movement will be key to keeping him out of trouble early, and his ability to counter and catch leg kicks will be a huge factor. Aldo loves to punish guys on those limbs, then drill them in the head with blazing Muay Thai combinations that bust off with thrilling speed and torque.
However, Edgar's ability to circle, slip in and out, and even counter with his own leg kicks will do enough to keep Aldo honest. Jose won't be able to stand there and just potshot him, as Edgar will be constantly moving and switching up what he throws.
The struggle for the takedown will emerge in the second and third rounds, with Edgar sensing it's time to turn up the pressure, and transition the bout into from a tactical kickboxing match to a clinch-heavy streetfight. If Edgar can get Aldo down -- and I think he will be able by the middle of the bout -- his sharp top control and occasional flush blows from the top will cause Aldo to hit the wall, cardio-wise.
Edgar will absorb some heavy blows and be stunned on a few occasions, constantly rallying from the seeming brink of doom as Aldo steps up the pressure and desperately tries to finish him off. In the fourth, however, Edgar will land big counters of his own, as Aldo loses a step or two, clearly taxed from the pace. In the fifth, Edgar will plant Aldo on the mat, and that's when he opens up, ramming home enough ground and to sway the judges, taking a split decision of 48-47 across the cards. And he'll leave with the belt.
Edgar via decision
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 156 PPV main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst