Top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight contenders Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes will throw down this evening (Fri., Dec. 11, 2015) in the co-main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 Finale inside "The Cosmopolitan" in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Since dropping to 145 pounds, Edgar has once again established himself as an elite threat to anyone in the weight class. He dropped a close decision to division champion Jose Aldo in his debut, but has since rattled off four straight wins, showing improvements during that win streak.
Meanwhile, Mendes is in a strange situation. After coming up short in one of the greatest fights of all time with Aldo, he brutalized Ricardo Lamas before getting stopped in a short-notice bout with the Interim strap-hanger, Conor McGregor. Regardless, Mendes is also one of the best in the world and is looking to regain some momentum here.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: B.J. Penn (TUF 19 Finale, UFC 118, UFC 112), Urijah Faber (UFC Fight Night 66), Cub Swanson(UFC Fight Night 57)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 156), Ben Henderson (UFC 144, UFC 150)
Keys to Victory: Edgar is a tremendous wrestler and slick boxer. However, his best attribute may be his conditioning, as Edgar maintains a level of activity across five rounds that very few men can match.
In this bout, volume and conditioning will be key. Early in the fight, Edgar is not likely to have any success hurting his opponent with punches or landing any takedowns.
With that in mind, Edgar needs to be cautious but active. By setting up his strikes with lots of feints, Edgar can look to suddenly land his strikes, force Mendes to work by blocking or moving out of the way, and finish with a quick exit.
On the whole, the first couple rounds aren't super important for Edgar in terms of the scorecard. Even if he fights excellently, there's a good chance the extra oomph in Mendes' punches and kicks will win him the rounds.
However, by surviving the early rounds while making his opponent work, Edgar sets himself up to do very well in the championship rounds. That's Edgar's wheelhouse, as he really excels at working over tired opponents.
Key Wins: Ricardo Lamas (UFC Fight Night 63), Nik Lentz (UFC on FOX 9), Clay Guida (UFC 164)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 142, UFC 179), Conor McGregor (UFC 189)
Keys to Victory: Though Mendes spent most of his early career taking down and controlling his opponents with ease, he's developed into a brutal striker. Mendes has thunderous power, particularly in his right hand, which has helped him score seven knockout victories.
In this bout, Mendes needs to make the most of his power and explosive advantage. When Mendes commits to a punch or kick, it simply flies forward with far more speed and impact than his opponent can match.
Simply put, while a fighter like Mendes -- the hyper explosive athlete -- will never be able to have a gas tank like Edgar's -- the supremely conditioned machine -- nor can the Frankie Edgar's of the world ever hope to explode into strikes or takedowns with the force of Mendes.
To take advantage of his athleticism, Mendes needs to make the most of his opportunities. Obviously, an early knockout would be a grand solution to Edgar's conditioning, but that's a difficult feat. Instead, Mendes needs to take a page out of Jose Aldo's book and use big, explosive combinations to do damage and overshadow his opponents work.
Basically, Mendes doesn't need to throw more across the entire fight or rush forward in the hopes of a finish. Instead, Mendes should look to smash Edgar with hard strikes at a speed Edgar cannot match, rest and recover, and then do it again. Even if Edgar throws more, Mendes will be the one landing effective and fight-changing strikes, which will win him the decision.
Bottom Line: This is a collision of two of the Top 5-ranked Featherweight standouts in the world. Regardless of other circumstances, the winner here is in great position to fight for the title in his next bout.
If Edgar is victorious, there's absolutely no doubt he deserves another shot at the belt. He's on a very strong win streak, has looked great, and is a former champion. What else does he need?
On the other hand, a loss would be a considerable setback. Working his way back to the title wouldn't be impossible, but it would take at least two or three more fights following this one ... and Edgar isn't especially young.
For Mendes, this is also a huge opportunity. If he's able to take out Edgar, it's the biggest victory over his career, as very few men have bested the New Jersey-native. While he might not get an immediate title shot -- Max Holloway will likely earn one with a win over Jeremy Stephens -- there aren't many other contenders for him to fight.
If Mendes comes up short, he's in a bit of an awkward position. He's absolutely crushed the men below the big four in the division, but defeat here would mean he has a loss to the other three. Now, the circumstances of some of those losses help him quite a bit, but that's still not a desirable position.
At TUF 22 Finale, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes will collide in the main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?