While it’s perhaps not the superfight that fans expected or were excited for in 2013, UFC 156 is being headlined by a collision between two of the sport’s biggest little guys in Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.
With all the talk of Anderson Silva bouncing around to fight any champion with a pulse, people likely thought that he’d be the one making superfight headlines this year.
He’s not (yet) though, and instead focus is on the traditionally massive Super Bowl Weekend UFC card being headlined by a tilt between two of the best pound-for-pounders alive.
Here’s everything you need to know about it.
There are no two ways about it, Jose Aldo is the best featherweight on Earth. When it comes to mixed martial artists at 145 pounds, Aldo is leading the way and no one else is even close.
Don’t think so?
The man has never lost at that weight. He’s 21-0 at 145 pounds. Nobody has been able to touch him, with the exception of one good round turned in as a hometown Hail Mary by the ever-game Mark Hominick at UFC 129.
Aldo is the true king of his class. Every other 145er on this planet is just another one of his subjects.
Though he’s dropping down in weight and preparing for his seventh straight title fight in his first showing at featherweight, there’s a real argument to be made that Frankie Edgar might still be the best lightweight alive today.
He beat a legend for that title in BJ Penn, then proved it wasn’t a fluke with a decisive repeat performance. He bested Gray Maynard, a man who might very well be the new best guy at 155 now that Edgar left town.
Both of his fights with current champion Benson Henderson were painfully narrow decisions, both of which left many believing that Edgar had won each time.
His decision to drop a class was likely influenced by a guaranteed title shot and the allure of fighting guys his own size for a change, but it’s hard to deny that Edgar might still be the best man in the world at the weight he just vacated.
People often misconstrue Edgar as a wrestler because he has a background in wrestling. Fair mistake, but looking at his MMA career shows an evolution that has built a fighter with a boxing-heavy style that mixes in occasional takedowns to score points and rough his opponents up.
In his fight with Aldo, he’ll be looking down the barrel at a guy that is bafflingly hard to take down and no picnic even if you get him there. Men with far more enthusiasm for wrestling than Edgar (names like Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown) couldn’t take Aldo down or couldn’t hold him there, so don’t think Edgar will be focused on that path.
Similarly, while Aldo is perhaps the UFC’s premier muay Thai practitioner at 145 pounds, Edgar is no slouch on his feet. The gap between them is a lot more narrow technically than people are willing to admit, and while Edgar lacks the power to match Aldo, it’s not a stretch to imagine he can match him for speed.
Aldo will have a more diverse attack to go along with his power advantage, but Edgar’s movement and penchant for boxing from his bicycle may frustrate the champion. When faced with capable technical strikers in the past, Aldo has stumbled a little before finding his way to victory.
Against someone as talented and experienced as Edgar, 25 minutes of losing 10-9 rounds could go by very fast if Aldo can’t get on track standing.
Jose Aldo straight up finishes people; 15 of 21 victims, or 71.4 percent, have succumbed to the champion’s onslaught inside of the distance. Eight of his last 11 wins have been stoppages, all by (T)KO.
To put it mildly, it takes a special breed to survive a night trying to take away Aldo’s belt.
Conversely, Frankie Edgar just keeps coming. In fighting monstrous lightweights like Maynard and Henderson, people marveled at his willingness to take a beating and keep coming forward, keep trying to secure victory.
All of his career losses have been via decision, and he’s repeatedly proven that he has the capacity to come back from the brink and find a way to win. He’s the closest thing MMA has to a man you’ll have to kill to stop.
Due to injuries and other rigmarole, Aldo hasn’t defended his title in a year. The last time he did, he demolished Mendes and ran into the crowd to celebrate among his Brazilian countrymen. A great memory, but not a fresh one.
This fight was supposed to happen at UFC 153, but Aldo hurt himself riding a motorcycle and it had to be postponed. Now it takes place in Vegas on the hottest weekend of the year there.
It’s no secret that the champion has had increasing difficulty making 145 pounds. as he’s entered his mid-20s. There’s a lot to suggest that he’ll probably be bigger than Edgar once the two are in the cage together on fight night.
With that in mind there’s been plenty of talk about a potential move to lightweight, and win or lose at UFC 156, now could be the time.
A win? He moves up as an undefeated featherweight fresh off a victory over a decorated former lightweight champion, something that might allow him to jump the queue for a shot at gold there.
A loss? He can say the cut is getting too tough and that he needs a reinvention at 155, which really should have been his natural home for a couple of years now.
Don’t be surprised if the move happens soon.
Very few men have held titles in multiple weight classes. Two, actually. Two men.
Randy Couture and BJ Penn are the only multi-division champions in UFC history, and with a win at UFC 156, Frankie Edgar could add his name to that prestigious list.
You know what else? It could be the second part of a series that eventually leads to Edgar as the first-ever three-division champion in the UFC.
As an undersized lightweight and average-or-below featherweight, there’s a serious chance Edgar could make his way down to 135 pounds before his career is over.
If he does, and does it with two titles already on his mantle, there’s a serious chance this fight will be part of his legacy as the best pound-for-pound fighter in UFC history.
Without a doubt, this fight is the biggest in the brief history of the UFC’s featherweight division.
The first time the belt was defended was big, as it happened in front of 55,000 people on the biggest card the promotion has ever done.
When Aldo defended in Brazil and catapulted himself to stardom in that country by doing so, that was perhaps even bigger.
But UFC 156 is in another stratosphere. This is a fight that places a relatively unheralded division at the top of what is traditionally the biggest card of the year for the UFC.
The marketing machine is behind it, people are intrigued by the matchup, and the undercard is built in a way to secure buys and get the featherweight title some exposure.
If Aldo and Edgar don’t deliver now, nobody ever will at 145. For that reason, it’s simply can’t-miss television.