Most of the immediate reaction toward the announcement that former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar would be replacing Erik Koch in a featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo was that of enthusiasm for what is sure to go down as the most highly anticipated 145-pound fights in MMA history.
On the other hand, there were also some dissenting opinions stating that Edgar was not deserving of a title shot after losing to lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson in his past two appearances.
In a way, these opinions are logical, but they need to be silenced.
Frankie Edgar Earned This
Even after picking up just one win in his past four fights, Edgar is more than deserving of a featherweight title shot. He's certainly more deserving of a spot in a championship bout than Vitor Belfort, who will be competing for the light heavyweight belt at UFC 152, and Edgar should be praised for taking the fight that was offered to him. After all, it's more than can be said for top 205-pound contenders Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua, who both recently turned down a short-notice title shot against champion Jon Jones.
Simply arguing that Edgar doesn't deserve a title shot because he has lost his past two fights is an oversimplification of the former champion's standing. He may have come out on the wrong end of those decisions, but Edgar certainly performed better in both of his fights against Henderson than any top featherweight contender would, as many believed he had done enough to win back the lightweight championship at UFC 150.
If so many think Edgar is the rightful owner of the 155-pound title, then what does he really have to prove at 145 pounds in order to be deserving of a shot at the featherweight belt?
Edgar has already proven himself more than any featherweight contender ever could. In his seven years as a lightweight, "The Answer" became one of the division's greatest fighters of all-time. In the past three years alone, Edgar earned three victories over former UFC champions in B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk, and he also defended the lightweight title on three occasions. What current 145-pound fighter could match that resume?
There's Nobody More Deserving
With Koch out of the picture, some may have pointed to Chan Sung Jung as a logical replacement for a bout against Aldo. Jung is coming off of impressive wins over Dustin Poirier, but does any type of victory over an opponent like Poirier really make a Jung as deserving of a title shot as a fighter who competed to a controversial decision against the world's best lightweight?
That was a rhetorical question, but let's delve deeper into it just in case you were one of the few who answered it with a yes.
Jung's submission win over Poirier was excellent. It came in a main event and concluded one of the most entertaining fights of the year, but it didn't make him a more worthy candidate for a title shot than Edgar.
Having beaten Max Holloway, Pablo Garza, Jason Young, Josh Grispi and Zach Micklewright, Poirier was on a five-fight winning streak heading into his bout with Jung. That made Poirier a very bright prospective contender in the featherweight division, but it shouldn't make him the type of fighter that an opponent can earn a title shot by beating. Some of the aforementioned fighters Poirier has defeated have bright futures in their own right, but none of them are currently considered contenders.
Some may now dig deeper to Jung's three-fight winning streak as reasoning for him being more deserving of a title shot than Edgar, but that logic also falls a bit short.
In his UFC debut, Jung submitted Leonard Garcia with a twister, which was cool and all. Though, the submission came against a fighter who hasn't won a fight without controversy since November 2008. After his win over Garcia, Jung scored a lightning fast knockout against Mark Hominick, but Hominick's career has taken a turn for the worst since that fight, losing his following fight against the almost unknown Eddie Yagin.
Don't get me wrong. Jung is a really good fighter and a real title threat in the featherweight division, but a cool nickname and exciting fighting style have earned "The Korean Zombie" a little more credit than he's due in this case. Jung's just not as deserving of a title shot as Edgar, who some believe should be on a three-fight winning streak of his own in fights against Henderson and Gray Maynard.
Whether those individuals who think Edgar won both fights with Henderson are right or wrong, the fact that people are even proposing that leads me to believe he is clearly more prepared for a fight with Aldo than Jung. Matching Edgar up against Aldo now also ensures that the few legitimate featherweight contenders like Jung won't suffer an unnecessary loss against Edgar as he would have made his inevitable run at a title shot.
Are You Not Entertained?
Let's just say, for arguments sake, you still don't think Edgar is deserving of this matchup with Aldo before picking up at least one win at featherweight. Does that feeling really take precedence over your eagerness to see said fight? Because, try as you might, you won't convince me there's a more intriguing matchup out there to be made for the featherweight championship.
There's a reason people had been trying to convince Edgar to drop down to featherweight even while he was the reigning lightweight champion. Even though he hasn't been competing in the weight class, Edgar has been the second best featherweight in the world behind Aldo for years now, and we'll finally get to see the two best fighters in the division stand toe-to-toe for what is sure to result in 25 minutes of non-stop action.
If anyone should be complaining, it's the 145-pound contenders themselves, not the fans. So, unless you are Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson or the like, let's keep quiet on whether Edgar deserves this fight or not so as to avoid ruining the build-up for the biggest featherweight bout of all-time.
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