Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber are set to battle this Saturday (May 16, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 66 inside Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
In his last two appearances, Edgar's hunger for another shot at the title has been clear, as the New Jersey-native absolutely mauled his opponents. "The Answer" will look to continue that trend here opposite the former featherweight kingpin.
Though Faber was victorious in his last pair of bantamweight scraps, he's left the division for greener pastures. Rather than aim for a second match with Jose Aldo, "California Kid" has his eyes set on big name bouts, and this match up with a fellow veteran is just that.
Let's take a closer look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: BJ Penn (TUF 19 Finale, UFC 118, UFC 112), Gray Maynard (UFC 136), Cub Swanson(UFC Fight Night 57)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 156), Ben Henderson (UFC 144, UFC 150)
Keys to Victory: Edgar is both an excellent wrestler and boxer, and the former lightweight strap-hanger excels at combining those two skills. In addition, Edgar possesses incredible toughness and conditioning, meaning he's going to push the pace for five rounds.
Much like his opponent.
Since Faber has spent the last few years taking down bantamweights, Edgar should look to surprise "The California Kid" with some early takedowns. Edgar's top game and control have improved dramatically recently, so if he can use those skills to steal an early round or two, it will be a big advantage in what will likely be a back-and-forth fight.
Additionally, any success with his wrestling early on will force Faber to react to his level change feints and general misdirection about whether he's punching or shooting. Once Edgar gets into his game, it's very difficult to predict whether "Iron" is setting up for a combination or takedown.
It will be easier for Edgar to get to that point if he scores some early takedowns.
Still, Edgar needs to be wary of a couple things. Whenever he does initiate a takedown or grappling exchange of any kind, he absolutely needs to watch his neck. Given even a small opportunity, Faber will force his way into a choke.
Additionally, Edgar should look to constantly circle away from Faber's right hand. It's the Californian's best stand up weapon, and circling into it would cause him all sorts of problems.
Record: 32-7 overall
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Michael McDonald (UFC on FOX 9), Alex Caceres (UFC 175)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (UFC 149, UFC 169), Jose Aldo (WEC 48), Dominick Cruz (UFC 132)
Keys to Victory: A successful college wrestler, Faber has developed one of the finest submission games in the sport, largely based around finding and squeezing his opponent's neck. In addition, Faber has proven to be a legitimate power puncher, particularly with his right hand.
For Faber, this bout is all about creating opportunities to hurt his opponent. Edgar has proven himself an incredibly difficult man to knockout, but if Faber is able to hurt him with punches, then a submission opportunity could open up.
To that end, Faber needs to keep a high pace. Each time there is an exchange of punches, there's a chance that Faber connects with a hard shot. From there, Faber is a master of capitalizing on his hurt opponent and jumping him like a wounded animal.
Additionally, Faber should look to be the more active kicker. Both men are largely boxers and have struggled against low kicks in their past. Therefore, if either man takes the initiative with the kicking game, it could really help him dictate the distance and exchanges.
Bottom Line: This is a bout between two of the best lower weight fighters in history. Both athletes are at the top of their division and are known for excellent conditioning, high activity, and toughness.
All the makings of a potential classic are there.
This is a potential title eliminator for Edgar. At the moment, the top three contenders -- outside of Conor McGregor -- are Chad Mendes, Edgar, and Max Hollaway. With a win, Edgar would have as strong an argument of any of them.
On the other hand, a loss would be devastating. It's been a long time since Edgar's last title shot, and all the time he spent working towards that goal would largely have been in vain. "The Answer" would have to build up a whole new win streak.
It's difficult to analyze where Faber goes from here, win or lose. With Dillashaw as champion, he's not going to pursue the bantamweight title, which is why Faber jumped up to featherweight. At the moment, Faber seems to be gunning for McGregor, but whether or not he'll be able to get that fight depends on how the Irishman does against Aldo in July.
Another potential high-profile fight for Faber would be his trilogy match with Dominick Cruz. But, considering Cruz's reoccurring injuries, it's tough to make a time frame for that bout.
Will Frankie Edgar continue his path back to a UFC title or will Urijah Faber remain unbeaten in non-title fights?