Very soon, we will see fan favorite Frankie Edgar square off against one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport, Jose Aldo, for the UFC Featherweight Championship of the world at UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar.
Edgar was always a smaller lightweight, so dropping down to the featherweight division makes sense, but one cannot help but think that a few fights in the division before contesting with one of the best in the world would have been wise.
No doubt Edgar believes that he has seen some holes in Aldo’s game and can capitalize on them with enough success to win the title, or else, he wouldn’t be doing it.
But it’s a long way from the butcher shop to the dining room, and when facing a man like Aldo, the distance between theory and practical application can be as wide as the Grand Canyon and as painful as a fall to the rocks at the bottom.
As experienced as Edgar is, he’s never had to contend with a fighter as explosive and fast as Aldo, and that leaves us with many questions about Edgar and how successful his move to featherweight is going to be.
One of the most reliable ways of containing a mobile fighter like Frankie Edgar is to hammer their legs with fast, strong kicks, and Jose Aldo is quite capable of putting Edgar through the same kind of hell that he did Uriah Faber.
The question then becomes obvious: Is Edgar ready for a heavy leg attack should it come?
Aldo will, no doubt, be the faster fighter between the two of them, and given how the champ is capable of freezing opponents in their tracks by feinting any number of attacks, Edgar needs to be ready to check those kicks or avoid them outright, even if it means he has to reset before launching his own attack.
Yes, that could see Edgar playing more defense than he would like, but to simply absorb kicks from Aldo in an attempt to pressure him against the cage or counter with an overhand right is the kind of gamble that is all long odds with little chance of a return.
One of the reasons fighters usually drop down a weight division is because of the size and strength advantage they enjoy once they rehydrate.
But given that Frankie Edgar’s always been a small lightweight anyway, will he really be that much stronger at featherweight, especially against the younger Jose Aldo?
It’s just too hard to say, really. We’ve seen him tangling with some serious powerhouses at lightweight, and he’s always managed to hold his own.
But was that physical power, or was it simply a combination of skill, timing and experience?
If Edgar does feel as if he is much stronger than Aldo, that could become a turning point in the fight as men who feel they are stronger usually become much bolder.
Should Jose Aldo prove capable of stuffing or avoiding Frankie Edgar’s takedowns, will Edgar still find as much success with his in-and-out style as he normally does?
The threat of a takedown is a very big thing in the sport. Often, excellent strikers see their offensive games frozen due to fear of planting their feet to unload because that’s when they are the most susceptible to the takedown.
If Aldo isn’t hindered by this, is Edgar’s striking good enough to pick up the slack?
One of the greatest advantages of that style is that it scores points, protects Edgar and goads his opponents into chasing him—usually flat-footed, trying to anticipate the next flurry while looking for ways to cut off the ring while defending the takedown, should it come.
This style is not going to work nearly as well against Aldo, who is actually faster than Edgar and can move with him, maintaining favorable range, anytime he wants.
If Edgar cannot find a way to augment that style with takedowns, can he modify it enough on the fly in order to give Aldo new reasons for pause?
If he can’t, he may find himself in a role reversal that sees him as the fighter plodding forward, reacting instead of enacting.
In most of the fights of Frankie Edgar’s career, he has enjoyed the advantage of being the faster fighter, both with his strikes and his overall movements.
When he faces Jose Aldo, that will no longer be the case.
It is always hard when a fighter finds that one of his areas of advantage is no longer in his back pocket, but Edgar is going to have to expect that very thing.
So, how does Aldo counter such speed?
Feints are one possibility that has seen some success in the history of the fight game, alongside a meaningful and noteworthy jab; Edgar has some of the former and less of the latter.
Another option is a consistent attack thrown Aldo’s way—constant aggression. If you can’t lure your man forward, then you make him run from you. It’s not pretty, but aggression scores points.
Whatever Edgar comes up with, he better have a lot of it. Five rounds with Aldo is a long time to spend getting beat to the punch.
During his second and third bouts with Gray Maynard, Frankie Edgar got the holy living hell beat out of him in the first round of both bouts.
Perhaps, the only things that saved him were his heart, his chin and Maynard’s lack of offensive striking weapons.
If Aldo rocks Edgar early and begins to blast him all over the Octagon, is he going to be able to survive to see Round 2 against a fighter who’s much faster and more versatile than Maynard?
While Maynard was trying to close the show with his fists alone, Aldo was bringing out all the big guns, both long range and short.
No one doubts that Edgar is about the toughest and grittiest fighter on planet Earth, but eventually, even the greatest swimmers drown.
If Edgar finds himself in the same situation as before, he’s going to be in some very deep water, and the shore is going to be very far away.