The year 2009 was the last time that Frankie Edgar was involved in a non-title fight. The date was December 9th, he stepped in on short notice to fight wrestler-journeyman Matt Veach on the TUF 10 Finale.
He choked him out in the second round.
A few months later, UFC made the decision to have Frankie Edgar face BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight title. Some people questioned the decision, insisting that Gray Maynard was the legitimate number one contender. Maynard was undefeated at that point, even having a win over Edgar in Spring of 2008. But it seemed like a close fight against Nathan Diaz in January 2010 led the UFC to pass over Maynard. They took a risk con el joven de Toms River, NJ.
As soon as the bout was announced, very few gave Edgar a chance. Divisional kingpin BJ Penn was seen at a higher level than anyone else at peso ligero. Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce and Shinya Aoki in Japan were top notch talents. Pero Penn was seen in an almost mythical light, and as unbeatable in his true weightclass.
The fight between Penn and Edgar at UFC 112 (April 2010) was a close and controversial bout. At the end of the contest, Edgar was awarded the unanimous decision and the UFC lightweight championship. It was a great moment to everyone that was cheering for the underdog. However, a lot of people in the media, along with fellow fighters, disagreed with the decision. A rematch was ordered at UFC 118 (August 2010). Edgar did what he couldn’t do the first time — he dominated the fight. He made the previously dominant Penn look loss in there — with his boxing and wrestling at display. Edgar made it clear that he legitimately deserved to be called the UFC lightweight champion.
His next two pair of bouts took a huge toll on Edgar. At UFC 125 (January 2011), he encountered a horrifying first round. Dropped several times, flip flopping like Mr. Perfect all over the place, Edgar miraculously survived the first stanza. Through guts and grit, he managed to fight his way to force a draw. In the past, I said it was the closest thing we’ve seen in MMA to the first Pacquiao vs Marquez fight (May 2004). In the rematch in Houston, at UFC 136 (October 2011), Edgar’s slow start came to haunt him again. Another one-sided round saw Edgar on the brink of being stopped. Nose busted, blood everywhere, Edgar was hurt badly. Like in the previous bout, he persevered. Esta vez, he managed to stop Maynard in the fourth frame via KO. He completed the trilogy and had finally disposed of his fierce rival.
His next challenger was Benson Henderson. At UFC 144 (February 2012), he had one of my favorite fights of the year. A dangerous upkick from Henderson — a move that the challenger picked up from Donald Cerrone — changed the momentum in the fight. Edgar’s face was busted up again, yet he still managed to keep the fight fairly competitive throughout 25 minutes. The judges favored what Henderson did in there and a new champion was crowned. I felt a case could be made for Edgar winning but I didn’t think it was controversial. The rematch at UFC 150 (August 2012) was another story. After Henderson had some success in the first round with legkicks, Edgar took over the fight. He scored a knockdown and was landing the cleaner, harder golpes on the bigger Henderson. Unfortunately, Henderson was awarded the highly polemic decision.
If Edgar had gotten the nod, history would have been different. We could have seen Frankie Edgar vs Nathan Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. Instead, Edgar dropped 10 lbs. and stepped into the cage against Jose Aldo at UFC 156 (February 2013). Edgar took at least one round, but was damaged viciously and violently for most of the pelea. Like in his previous fights, Edgar’s face made it clear that he took a lot of punishment in there. No debate here, Aldo was the better fighter.
After three-plus years of fighting some of the best fighters on the planet, Edgar finally gets a break. Charles Oliveira isn’t a push over or jobber. He’s got some slick skills on the ground and he is very athletic. But it wasn’t too long ago that we saw Jim Miller tap him out, Donald Cerrone TKO him, and Cub Swanson finish him with one punch. Seeing how the two match up, I think Edgar will look very good in there. I see a stoppage or a one-sided decision in his near future. If anyone deserves a break, it’s good ole’ Frankie.
He might not be the most skilled or athletically gifted fighter out there. But the toughness he displayed the last several years has made him a cult favorite among a certain segment of MMA fans. Looking forward to seeing que pasa mañana and in the future for Frankie Edgar.