Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight kingpin, Frankie Edgar, takes on former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) featherweight roost-ruler, Urijah Faber, this Saturday (May 16, 2015) in the "super" main event of UFC Fight Night 66 inside Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Edgar is on a mission. After taking some time off to coach The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) opposite former rival B.J. Penn, Edgar returned with a vengeance. Not only did he finish the notoriously durable "Prodigy" inside three rounds, but he proved his improved ground striking a second time against long-time contender Cub Swanson, brutalizing the knockout artist.
Now, Edgar is paired off with a fellow former champion. Gunning for a rematch with division champion Jose Aldo, Edgar will need another dominant win to separate himself from other potential contenders, namely Chad Mendes.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set and see if he can get the job done:
Edgar possesses a rather unique style of boxing, melding it with his wrestling ability in a way few can match. He's known for his constant movement and activity, which will carry on through an entire 25-minute bout. In addition, Edgar's boxing ability has been sharpened by years of work with Mark Henry.
A pretty huge portion of Edgar's striking is built off the threat of the takedown. If his opponent doesn't respect the takedown threat, he'll be on his back before long. Whereas if he does, Edgar will threaten with a potential shots and instead land punches.
To further confuse his opponent, Edgar commonly digs punches into his opponent's body. This makes his level changes an offensive weapon rather than just a feint, and it also can chip away at his opponent's conditioning. In addition, Edgar will stay low after going to the body and either run through a takedown or come up with punches, depending on how his opponent is defending.
It would be impossible to analyze Edgar without bringing up his lateral movement. "The Answer" is constantly circling to one direction or the other and switches quite often. All the while, Edgar is actively feinting with punches and level changes. This can be exhausting for his opponent, who is often forced to constantly turn and adjust to Edgar's new location.
Expect Edgar to circle away from Faber's big right hand consistently in this fight.
As Edgar settles into the bout, he'll open up with some jabs while circling. Once he's measured his distance, Edgar will step in with the strike and look to snap his opponent's head back. Regardless of whether Edgar is looking to find his range or land hard, it's not uncommon for him to double up his jab.
It doesn't take long for Edgar to begin moving in with combinations. Edgar attacks with a healthy mix of straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts, usually varying his offense up-and-down his opponent's body as mentioned. After landing, Edgar will look to circle away, often with some head movement, and return to his lateral movement.
To further diversify his combinations, Edgar commonly doubles up on his punches, usually the left hook. With his pair of hooks, Edgar will either throw both high or go to the body and then come up. It's not complicated, but it helps Edgar stay unpredictable and can throw his opponent's head movement off.
When Edgar is looking to hurt his opponent, he'll step hard into a right hook or overhand. In addition, if he's successful in rocking his opponent, Edgar will stop circling and walk his opponent down with the right hand. If his opponent -- worried by Edgar's sudden pressure and aggression -- attempts to keep him away with a jab, Edgar will look to slip inside and land a cross counter.
As mentioned, Edgar's ability to blend takedowns and strikes is vital to his success. Most of his boxing entries can also be used to shoot a takedown, which leaves his opponent wondering which to defend. As the shorter man, Edgar is happy to stay in close to his opponent once he engages, allowing him to easily transition to a takedown or clinch.
Plus, Edgar can use basic level change feints to land a strong overhand.
For example, Edgar commonly runs through a knee pick that is set up by his jab. As Edgar jabs, he'll often dip down, getting his head off the center line. From a very similar position, Edgar can stick his jab in his opponent's chest and grab onto their lead leg. Then, Edgar can attempt to finish the takedown, let go and come up with punches, or release and step into a hard body kick.
Edgar also creates openings to land punches from failed takedowns. The best example of this is, of course, his uppercut knockdown of Gray Maynard as the All-American wrestler scrambled up to his feet, but Edgar is pretty aggressive in trying to catch his opponent's strike defense slipping while defending the shot.
Edgar very often tries to counter strikes that have troubled him in the past. For example, since low kicks can mess up his movement or even knock him from his feet, Edgar has gotten very skilled at catching them in order to threaten with takedowns or follow up with punches.
Additionally, the jab has disrupted many of Edgar's attempts to move in with a combination, catching Edgar moving into the straight punch. To discourage this, Edgar will often look to parry his opponent's jab and come back with his own punch. If he parries with his lead hand, Edgar will then fire off a cross. Alternatively, Edgar will parry the jab with his right and bounce into a quick left hook or jab.
In the last couple years, Edgar's kicking game has grown quite a bit. He's long made good use of his low kick, but they seem to pack a bit more of an impact recently with Edgar turning his hips into the strike. Additionally, Edgar will occasionally go high with his kicking attack.
Edgar's style definitely has its downsides. In addition the struggling with low kicks and getting jabbed on his entrances, Edgar's circling can increase the power of his opponent's punch. If his opponent catches Edgar at the end of a punch while Edgar is circling in that direction, "The Answer" is in a tough spot. Maynard did this numerous times in their last two bouts, and he also timed a few of Edgar's level changes as well.
Edgar was a successful wrestler in both high school and college, and he currently helps coach the Rutgers wrestling team. Since perfecting his blend of boxing and wrestling, Edgar has had great success at scoring takedowns without giving many away.
Since Edgar's entrance into combinations and a takedown are so similar, his opponent is in the unenviable position of determining which one is coming.
In addition to his aforementioned single leg set up, Edgar is very effective with his double leg. While he'll occasionally use it to punctuate his combinations, Edgar uses the double as a reactionary shot more often. If his opponent is simply trying to walk him down -- usually out of frustration from his movement -- Edgar will simply blast through him.
In his last bout, Edgar repeatedly countered Swanson's forward movement and long range uppercuts by ducking under the strikes and getting in on Swanson's hips. While Edgar sometimes had to chain wrestle a bit before finishing the shot, it started with a double leg underneath Swanson's punches.
Despite always seeming to be the smaller man regardless of weight class, Edgar is often able to throw his opponents around in the clinch. Whenever Edgar can secure an underhook, he really gets it deep and spins his opponent around, tossing him to the mat.
Overall, Edgar is simply very good at creating pressure with whatever grip he has. For example, Charles Oliveira tried to use an underhook to hit a takedown but ended up smashing into the canvas face-first, as Edgar hit a hard whizzer to defend.
Finally, Edgar uses the front headlock very well to snap his opponent down. More often than not, he uses the grip of an arm-in guillotine, rather than a traditional wrestler's grip. Edgar is very good at pressuring down on his opponent's neck from this position and breaking down his foe's posture. In addition to hanging onto this grip as part of his sprawl, Edgar will use it to keep his opponent pinned to the mat.
Since moving down to featherweight, Edgar has had much more success controlling his opponents from top position. Because of this, Edgar has more opportunities to advance position and do serious damage.
Edgar is very quick to move into his opponent's half guard. From there -- and from top position in general -- Edgar will land hard elbows at a pretty high pace. Given the opportunity, Edgar will cut through his opponent's guard and usually look to move into mount. From there, Edgar is quick to posture up and slam down punches or elbows. His aggression can allow his opponent to get some type of guard back, but Edgar will just keep working from there and eventually pass again.
Against larger and occasionally better credentialed wrestlers, Edgar has been able to defend a vast majority of his opponent's takedowns. Using his front headlock and sprawl, Edgar weighs on his opponent until he can safely return to his feet or hit a reshot.
In addition, Edgar's movement ensures that his opponent can never line up a shot perfectly.
When he is taken down, Edgar is rarely held down for long. He's competent at wall-walking, using his wrestling to scramble into a stand up, and using butterfly hooks to elevate his opponent to stand. Above all else, Edgar just keeps working to return to his feet. Since his loss to Maynard, Edgar has not been out-wrestled, proving his development in their pair of rematches.
Edgar is a black belt under Ricardo Almeida and has proven to be competent both offensively and defensively. Though Edgar is not particularly aggressive with his submission attempts, he will snatch after his opponent's neck if given the opportunity.
The most active submission in Edgar's arsenal is the arm-in guillotine, which happens to be an Almeida specialty. Edgar has pulled guard with the choke in an attempt to finish before -- notably against Gray Maynard -- but will also use the hold to control his opponent and prevent stand ups.
In his last fight, Edgar was clearly hunting for a finish of any kind. He rotated between quite a few dominant positions as Swanson tried to survive, threatening with an arm triangle at one point. Then, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Edgar simply wrapped his arms around Swanson's jaw and squeezed. It wasn't pretty, but it secured the neck crank finish.
From his back, Edgar uses the butterfly guard to stand fairly well. After securing an underhook, he'll elevate his opponent with a hook and pop up to his feet immediately.
Edgar's submission defense is very sound. While in his opponent's guard, he keeps his hands off the mat and ensures his opponent cannot move his hips around and get a dangerous angle. This shuts down most submission attempts before they can even happen. For example, Edgar spent a fair amount of time in Charles Oliveira's fantastic guard, but the Brazilian wasn't able to get anything going.
Due to how frequently he shoots, Edgar is often forced to fight off his opponent's guillotine attempts. Even in this, Edgar is very patient and measured. As he fights his opponent's hands, he'll lean to the opposite side of the choke, relieving some of the pressure. It may remain uncomfortable, but Edgar can outlast his opponent's grip strength.
Best Chance For Success
Against Faber, Edgar needs to employ both parts of his wrestle-boxing attack. Faber has spent his last dozen fights putting it on bantamweights, so Edgar's size and wrestling ability may take a bit of time to adjust. If that adjustment period gives Edgar some early takedowns, it's a huge advantage for "The Answer."
Still, Edgar needs to watch his neck on each shot.
Whenever on his feet, Edgar should be conscious of his opponent's right hand. "The California Kid" has put a number of top fighters on their ass with his right, and Edgar isn't looking to be the latest in line. So while he should occasionally circle into it -- circling both directions and switching is a fundamental part of Edgar's game -- most of his movement should be away from the power punch.
In addition, Edgar should mix in more low kicks than usual. Both men are primarily boxers who have had difficulty with kickers, so whichever fighter takes control of the kicking exchanges would have a big advantage.
Will Frankie Edgar continue on his path back to the title or will Urijah Faber remain unbeaten in non-title fights?