A huge featherweight tilt between Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes will headline The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 Finale on Friday night (December 11, 2015) at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nev.
Edgar--the former UFC lightweight champion--is currently on a four-fight win streak with wins over Urijah Faber, Cub Swanson, BJ Penn and Charles Oliveira.
His counterpart, Mendes, is coming of a knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 189 and has gone 1-2 in his last three fights.
It is without question a pivotal matchup in the division and a loss would stymie each fighter's quest to earn another shot at the featherweight title, which will be up for grabs between current champion, Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor at UFC 194 on Saturday night (December 12, 2015).
Retired UFC middleweight and current UFC on FOX sports commentator/analyst, Brian Stann will be calling the action for the TUF 22 Finale card, along with Jon Anik on Friday night, and "The All-American" broke down the main event for MMAmania.com.
The smaller Octagon will be a factor
"I think most people look at the fight type and analyze and say, ‘OK in the early rounds, Chad is going to be very dangerous. He is going to cut Frankie off. He has to force him to fight in front of him and he has to land something big and firm and finish him, because the longer the fight goes on the more advantage it is for Frankie Edgar.' Now, because it’s at The Cosmopolitan it is going to be in the smaller Octagon, which is going to be a factor for a guy like Frankie Edgar, who uses the entirety of the Octagon. He is going to have less room to work. That being said, it is very important for Chad Mendes to cut Frankie off and put pressure on him, but he has to throw combinations. If you just try to hit a guy with one big shot … A guy as quick Frankie Edgar, he is going to cut you up; he is going to be turning you all night. Hitting angles and you are going to turning and turning and trying to find him and you are going to miss. But when you throw combinations, there is always a punch that knocks a guy down or knocks him off his rhythm. That is very key for Chad Mendes."
Edgar using wrestling to avoid Mendes counter strikes
"For Frankie, obviously, he has to continue moving. He can’t get into any brawls. He has to angle off and I think we are going to see actually Frankie use his wrestling at times to avoid counter strikes from Chad Mendes. And what I mean by that is Chad has phenomenal takedown defense, but when someone throws a combination, you plant your feet to strike back. You can’t do that and finish the combination with a shot. So, immediately you go from counter striking to now defending the single leg, defending the double leg and using your hands to address that. By the time that person is shooting on you lets up on the takedown, they are gone. You can’t counter strike with them. So, I think Frankie can use it to his advantage at times to avoid big counter strikes from Chad Mendes. Chad is an excellent counter striker. I think that is going to be key."
Mendes preparation for the striking volume and pace of Edgar
"Frankie’s volume just wears you down and just takes over the fight and it really sways the judges because he is constantly throwing and constantly getting after it. And one thing I will say, this is the first time I’ve ever found that an opponent of Frankie Edgar had their coaches count their strikes per round in sparring leading up to the fight. Chad Mendes coaches actually put him on a pace and they counted and told him, ‘hey you need to be throwing this many combinations, this many strikes per round if you want to win this fight. So, he’s been training for weeks to be on a high pace so that he doesn’t get over paced or outmatched by Frankie Edgar’s volume. I’ve called a couple of Frankie Edgar’s fights now. I’ve done the desk work for a bunch of Frankie Edgar’s fights and talked to a lot of his opponents and never heard one of his opponents having done this to prepare for him before. So, that’s an interesting factor."
Edgar is the toughest guy in the UFC
"Edgar is potentially and most likely the toughest guy in the UFC. In the purest sense of the word he is probably the toughest guy in the UFC. He is just getting warmed up in round three. If he had to do an eight-round fight, he could do an eight-round fight. And I will tell you, his coaches always count his strikes in practice. They film all the sparring sessions and then they count them. Mark Henry counts them and will tell him whether he is on pace or not, where he wants him to be."
It's most likely to go the distance
"I think it will probably go five rounds. If it ends inside the distance than either Chad caught him, or potentially Frankie catches Chad in a submission. Frankie's submission game--when you talk to his coaches--his submission game is underrated. He's becoming very, very good at jiu-jitsu and very crafty with his MMA submissions and catching you in transition. So he is very sneaky there. Chad is a guy that can put your lights out at any given time. This isn't Frankie's first rodeo. Chad can knock out anybody in the division, so can Frankie, but Chad is more likely to do that. When you talk about the wrestling, I think they cancel each other out. I think it's really important because Chad being such an explosive guy, such a high-level wrestler, I think he should make it a point in getting Frankie down. Even if he can just hold him there for 30 seconds, it really bodes well for him to capture rounds. That's 30 seconds that Frankie is on his back, not throwing five or six different combinations at him, accumulating that strike count."
The fight is not getting the attention it should
"I agree. Obviously I'm biased because I'm calling it. But I know both of these guys. They have incredible determination. They're hungry. Chad is hungry. He is embarrassed. He hates the fact that Conor McGregor can talk smack about him. He cannot stand it. At the same time, Frankie Edgar was texting me during the Mendes fight and telling me how bad he wants Conor McGregor and how he thinks it won't even be that hard of a fight for him. He wants a piece of him. These guys, there is a lot on the line. They both want it so bad. When you get two tough, hard-working guys, that is always a blast."
There you have it.
To see the entire TUF 22 Finale fight card and line up click here.