After a full trilogy of fights, we've finally got some closure.
And it sure as hell didn't come easy for the defending UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, as he once again had to overcome a horrible first round against "The Bully," Gray Maynard in the main event of UFC 136 last night (October 8, 2011).
This time, not only did Edgar bounce back from nearly being finished, he came back and stopped "The Bully" for the first time in his professional career with a fourth round technical knockout victory.
So how did the undersized lightweight champ pull it off? And who's on the horizon as the next challenger to the throne?
We've got the answers inside.
Things did not start well for Frankie Edgar. After a relatively even first two minutes, Gray Maynard was still testing the waters with a pawing jab, trying to find his range and keep "The Answer" at bay.
Maynard finally got his opening when Edgar unwisely began circling to his left, which is directly into Maynard's power.
Maynard stepped in with a beautiful looping uppercut that Edgar never saw coming. It was a strike he must have been working on in his time off because he did not throw it in either of their previous meetings.
It also caught Edgar as he was winding up to charge in for a strike of his own so the surprise factor may have increased the staggering effect of the powerful blow to the chin.
For the next two minutes and 40 seconds, Frankie Edgar was in complete survival mode, just like their rematch this past July, but Maynard was much more composed, picking his spots and blasting Edgar repeatedly when he saw an opening, and there were many of them. Edgar's footwork and head movement go completely out the window when he's hurt.
Edgar, still woozy, throws a lazy jab and absolutely eats a face full of Maynard's knee. He wisely latches onto one of "The Bully's" legs with a takedown attempt to help himself clear out the cobwebs.
You always hear about the "fight of flight" response, well Frankie Edgar has no idea what it means to flee from battle. Despite getting pounded repeatedly in the latter half of the first round, he never cowered, never turned away, never even winced and never once despaired.
It was an ugly sight when Edgar went back to his corner, but he came out in the second round and went right back to work. Gray Maynard? He decided to sit back on his laurels and do absolutely nothing. Maynard came out for the second round in a wrestler's stance, barely ever throwing a strike and by doing so, he allowed Edgar to find his rhythm. The pawing jab that was helping keep Edgar at bay and allowing him to find his range had completely disappeared. Instead, he was loading up with the right hand and trying to occasionally throw it with power.
By the third round, Edgar had completely taken control of the fight. Maynard's footwork was atrocious and he was chasing the champion around the cage instead of cutting him off. Edgar was dancing circles around him and attacking without getting hit back.
Edgar's confidence was soaring as the fourth round began and he opened it with a big right hand, his most powerful of the fight, that connected solid. He also began landing some thudding leg kicks which staggered the challenger.
After stuffing the Maynard's second takedown attempt of the round, Edgar landed a crisp short right uppercut that hurt the Xtreme Couture product.
Maynard stumbled and Edgar exploded forward for the kill. After initially landing a nice short right hand on his staggering opponent, notice how much of his body he puts into that right hook that connects with the side of Maynard's head. Maynard is all but finished after that right hook connects. Who says the little guy doesn't have power?
Once Maynard dropped face-first, Edgar swarmed him with repeated huge left hands from above until referee Josh Rosenthal had seen enough and put a stop to the bout.
For Gray Maynard, he once again let a golden opportunity slip through his fingers. Not only could he not secure a finish when he had Edgar hurt for over half of the first round, but he came out so passively in the second that he allowed Edgar to get back into the fight and even take control. He completely abandoned what had worked so well in the first round and went back to trying to land his big power punches instead of working the left jab and mixing things up.
It's likely going to be a long time before "The Bully" ever sniffs a title shot again due to the fact that the lightweight division is absolutely loaded right now. A bout with recently defeated contenders Jim Miller or Melvin Guillard would be interesting. If not, don't be surprised to see Maynard step in against the loser of the upcoming bout between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida.
For Frankie Edgar, what a comeback. He probably gave his family back home yet another heart attack in that first round, but maybe that's what it takes to get him to wake up and get into the fight. Edgar is absolutely fearless, even in the face of adversity. Once he found his groove with about a minute left in the second round, Maynard never had a chance and major props to him for going for the finish when he had his opponent hurt. He answered a lot of his critics last night.
Edgar has two options right now. He can either face the winner of the upcoming match between top contenders Clay Guida and Ben Henderson at the UFC on FOX event, or he can take on Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who's heavily rumored to be transitioning over to the UFC any day now. Either way, fans can likely expect another incredible performance from one of the gutsiest fighters in MMA history.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Edgar "answer" all your questions last night? Has his trilogy with Maynard finally been put to rest despite the 1-1-1 record between them? Who do you think should fight for the title next?
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.