As the Team Edge competition comes to the straight away, it all boils down to the fighters and the fights. And it should.
As fans, you get to vote and enter the Team Edge contest, where weekly winners receive an impressive prize pack (a UFC gym bag and a pair of UFC gloves, for starters). The grand-prize winner gets not only a weekly prize pack, but two tickets and accommodations to attend a UFC event live.
Then there are the fighters themselves. They are stoked about being chosen for the Team Edge competition. The exposure the winner will enjoy is a sure signpost of great things to come—not to mention the year-long sponsorship agreement that comes with it.
This year’s contestants will be mentored by reigning UFC champion Dominick Cruz.
“No matter who you are in this sport, you know what it’s like to crave success and that you need an edge to make it to the top,” said Cruz, as reported by Missouri Sports Magazine. “That’s why I’m so excited to work with ‘Team Edge’ and help these four great athletes become the next UFC stars. I encourage all UFC fans to go online and vote for the fighter they want to see rise to the top.”
But this is about more than just a contest for fans or a fighters name and face on a can of shaving cream; it’s about what those fighters can do with such exposure—how they can make the most of it.
And all of that is done first in the gym, then in the cage.
Rory MacDonald, Chris Weidman, John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez are more than just pretty faces. They’re fighters aiming to be nothing less than UFC champions.
So, for your consideration, we humbly present four fighters worthy of your vote and the Team Edge Championship for 2012.
As the UFC looks to crown its first ever flyweight champion, Joseph Benavidez stands at the front of the line and looks to be the best of the bunch, and it looks like some of that momentum is carrying over into the Team Edge competition, where, at the time of this writing, Benavidez was leading the pack with 44 percent of the votes, putting him firmly in first place.
Possessing speed, power and an impressive skill set that allows him to go nose-to-nose against anyone in the division, Benavidez looks to become a UFC champion, and he clearly relishes the opportunity to take the title by force.
With all the tools needed to capture victory—by way of submission, knockout, doctor’s stoppage or decision—and the experience using them in big fights, Joseph Benavidez holds a distinct edge over his competition.
But will it be enough to see him prevail at UFC 152?
Slowly emerging as a leading man of Team Alpha Male, Benavidez has compiled an impressive record of 16-2, which leads him to his next test: a championship fight with Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152.
Benavidez has a deceptively well-rounded game with most of his offensive opportunities coming from an excellent wrestling base, which allows him to control where the fight takes place.
But, as in all fights, there are obstacles to overcome, and against Johnson, Benavidez is going to have to find a way to hit and not get hit. As fast as he is, if he allows Johnson to dictate the pace, he could find himself a beat behind in the music and, from there, on the loosing end of a decision.
Johnson is a tough, gritty scrapper who loves to spoil the party, and nothing would make him happier than handing Benavidez a loss that would not only halt his progression in the division, but could seriously hamper his chances of a first-place finish in the Team Edge competition.
It’s an exciting fight between two evenly matched fighters, and in the end, I think it will be the grappling of Benavidez that will carry the day and see him win via a unanimous decision.
Should Benavidez defeat Johnson at UFC 152, chances are good that he'll be leaving the octagon not only as the champion, but with the Team Edge sponsorship in his back pocket.
If there should be a quote applied to Rory MacDonald, it should be “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
MacDonald looks like the kind of innocent young man you’d like to see asking your daughter out to prom. But it’s only when you see him fight that you learn the truth: MacDonald would in fact be an excellent choice to take your daughter to the prom—because if anyone tried anything, he’d kick their ass off the planet.
MacDonald is a very aggressive fighter who has been fighting professionally for far longer than his young face would suggest, and inside the UFC, he has only suffered one loss. This was via a come-from-behind stoppage by current interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Before that moment, MacDonald was well on his way to the victory.
MacDonald is a sign of things to come. He’s the next generation of fighter: a young man who’s very accomplished in all facets of the game, whether standing or on the ground, and he’s only getting better and better.
Be it via submission or technical knockout, MacDonald has only allowed the fight to reach the hands of the judges one time in his career, which boasts an impressive record of 13-1. All 12 of his other victories have come by submission or knockout.
As it stands now, Rory MacDonald is pulling up the rear in the Team Edge competition, with 15 percent of the votes placing him dead-last. Being the underdog is something MacDonald is used to; however, when he steps into the cage at UFC 152, he’s going to find himself staring at one of the greatest champions in UFC history: BJ Penn.
Fighting out of the Tristar gym, alongside such greats as current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald is going to need to have all of his considerable skills honed to a razor's edge if he hopes to defeat MMA legend BJ Penn at UFC 152.
Much is being made about the current state of Penn; they say he’s a lesser version of his former self, and they may be right. But even a diminished version of BJ Penn is a hard fight for anyone. Coupled with Penn’s desire to prove himself, MacDonald is going to have his hands full.
While MacDonald will enjoy a substantial reach advantage, he needs to use it to the utmost advantage. Going toe-to-toe with Penn would bring his chin into dangerous territory, not to mention his neck.
MacDonald may be tempted to bravely attack Penn in the areas where “The Prodigy” has proven to be strongest, but that is a needless risk. Penn has enough advantages over MacDonald as it is without Rory giving anymore away.
MacDonald needs to strike from range as often as he can and maintain the top position and ride it for all its worth whenever they hit the floor.
Should he defeat Penn, look for MacDonald to find himself but two or three fights away from a title shot, and more over, he will see his stock in the Team Edge competition rise.
BJ Penn is one of the most beloved and known fighters in MMA, and a victory over Penn is going to make MacDonald a very well-known fighter. So well-known, in fact, that he could stage a coup and go from last place to first in the voting.
Nothing is for certain in the fight game. Great success stories usually begin with a fighter taking advantage of every opportunity afforded them, even if that means taking fights on short notice.
Seizing opportunities has paid off for Chris Weidman this year, and his second-place standing in the Team Edge competition, with 23 percent of the votes, is in no small part thanks to his willingness to step up and put himself out on the stage.
Weidman finds himself on the short list for a shot at reigning pound-for-pound king and UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva thanks to defeating Demian Maia (a fight taken on short notice) and then running all over Mark Munoz. Munoz was sitting in the top four of the division before Weidman pounded out his title intentions all over his face.
Weidman's now sitting near the head of the table: a younger fighter with excellent wrestling and an aggressive approach to applying it. Not one to content himself with simply defeating his opponents by maintaining a dominant position alone, Weidman takes things to the next step, always looking for the finish.
In a division that many were calling stale before Chael Sonnen made his first attempt to take the belt, Weidman looks to be just what the doctor ordered: a fighter committed to bringing the fight and fighting to win.
After such a strong showing over Munoz, Weidman should be fighting for the title in as little as three to six months.
The top spot in the Team Edge competition is still within striking grasp, especially given the fact that Anderson Silva’s next opponent hasn’t been officially named, and that in turn means that Weidman’s name is still floating around out there as the next possible contender.
If he continues fanning that flame and keep his name in the hat, he could move into the top spot and win the Team Edge sponsorship. If he actually gets chosen as the next man to face Silva, he could utilize the same game plan that Sonnen used in his first fight with Silva to win the title.
Granted, it’s still a long way from the butcher shop to the dinning room, but this is how things begin.
With the sheer number of big-name fighters that do hard time under the banner of Greg Jackson, fans of the sport may have been caught napping when John Dodson came into his own, winning season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Now that we’ve gotten to see him in action, we won’t get caught napping on him again. And given that he’s in third place in the Team Edge competition with 18 percent of the votes, it’s clear no one else is sleeping on Dodson either.
One of the most highly-prized attributes a fighter can possess is speed, and Dodson has that to burn. Easily one of the fastest fighters in the flyweight division, Dodson is a fighter who can unleash a flurry, and if you blink, you miss it.
Coupled with his ground game and shocking KO power, Dodson is finally coming into his own. He’s full of desire and has all the tools to beat anyone on any given night.
Making good on his victory of The Ultimate Fighter season 14 plaque, Dodson clearly intends to shoot for the stars, and as the flyweight division’s roster is still in development, Dodson has a good start to take a run at the title.
Should Benavidez and MacDonald lose their next fights at UFC 152, Dodson has a very good chance of winning the Team Edge competition. It’s a good time to be a young fighter in a young division, and a year from now, Dodson could be sitting at the top of the heap.