The Frankie Edgar Paradox
Saturday night, one of the biggest cards in recent memory will go down at UFC 156 in Las Vegas. Headlining the event will be featherweight king Jose Aldo as he looks to defend his crown against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
There is no shortage of buzz surrounding the event as the young Brazilian phenom attempts to solidify his pound-for-pound greatness by defeating one of the most resilient champions in UFC history.
On the flip side, the perpetual underdog will once again look to do what has appeared to be impossible and, if successful, will elevate his legacy to new heights.
The UFC has labeled the matchup a "superfight," and no matter what words you use to describe the bout, it is a crucial matchup in the careers of both men.
That being said, when examining the scales of gain and loss, it becomes clear Edgar is in a unique situation—a paradox of sorts, if you will. Should he upset Aldo at UFC 156, he will join Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the only men to ever hold titles in two different weight classes.
However, if he is unsuccessful, a once-great champion will find himself in the strangest of positions where his name alone will dictate headline-worthy fights, but his hopes of getting another title shot will be somewhere out in limbo.
There is no doubt Edgar is at a crossroads in his career. There is a lot at stake in his fight with Aldo on Saturday night, and which side of victory he emerges on will dictate the next path for Edgar to travel.
One of the Greatest of All Time
When MMA fans and media types talk about the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, Edgar's name doesn't often appear in the conversation.
There is no doubt defeating BJ Penn during the peak of his reign as the world's best lightweight—and then again in the rematch—put Edgar in a significant place within the Zuffa history books, but there has yet to be the moment that pushes him to MMA folklore status.
A victory over Aldo will provide this exact opportunity.
Despite leaving the lightweight division on back-to-back losses, Edgar was given the opportunity to step in for an immediate title shot in his new weight class. Edgar is passionate about being a champion, and the chance to reclaim UFC gold is the ultimate motivation.
Should he have the keys to solve the Aldo riddle at UFC 156, not only will he once again accomplish the seemingly impossible, but he will place himself in the record books alongside "The Natural" and "The Prodigy" as the only men to ever hold belts in multiple weight classes.
For Edgar, this accomplishment has the potential to solidify him as one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in mixed martial arts. Fans can certainly argue there are more talented fighters as far as skill sets are concerned, but when it comes to showing and proving in the biggest moments, when the chips are stacked against him, there is no other fighter who can claim the resume Edgar possesses.
Up to this point in his career, Edgar is known for defeating Penn and tremendous displays of heart against Gray Maynard, but a victory over Aldo puts the former lightweight champion into a different conversation.
The Rich Franklin Zone
Before Anderson Silva came to the UFC, Franklin dominated the 185-pound weight class. But after losing his title at the end of "The Spider's" knees—and suffering a similar fate in the rematch—the Cincinnati native was pushed out in the darkness that exists somewhere between a title shot and the rest of the top fighters in the division.
It wasn't a question of talent as Franklin was easily the next-best fighter in his weight class. But after two punishing defeats against Silva where he showed no signs of having an answer to the middleweight king's puzzle, the temperature on Franklin's title hopes had gone stone cold.
The circumstance of the situation forced "Ace" to test the waters in the light heavyweight division.
Although he had some success, Franklin was never able to gain genuine traction toward competing for the 205-pound crown. For most fighters this would most likely bring a close to their careers, but Franklin had the right amount of name recognition and fight left in the tank to start a new chapter in his UFC career.
Rather than chasing a title, the 38-year-old would become the UFC's "go-to guy" whenever it needed a headliner for a card, and bouts against Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell were all interesting matchups between fighters on similar trajectories.
At 31 years old, the idea of Edgar being pushed into the realm of fan-friendly bouts may seem a bit of a stretch, but there are a few things to take into consideration.
Should he lose to Aldo, the Toms River native will be 1-3-1 in his last five fights, all of which were for a UFC title.
He is dropping down into a new division that is set to explode in 2013. With surging featherweights like Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson and Chad Mendes all racing for title shots, it would be difficult to imagine Edgar not taking a back seat in the featherweight division's upper tier.
This is not to say "The Answer" couldn't work his way back up to title contention, but with the amount of talent now residing in the 145-pound weight class, it would be a journey with no guarantee.
The idea of Edgar returning to the division he once championed comes with a similar scenario. After dropping back-to-back fights against Benson Henderson, the idea of Edgar getting another title shot at lightweight seems far fetched.
When you include the ultra-competitive race to contention going on at 155 pounds, there is no way to justify Edgar leap-frogging anyone in the top five.
There is simply no need for it to be done, and with no shortage of possible contenders, Edgar would find himself having to battle his way through the most competitive division under the UFC banner.
Again, not to say it is an impossible task for the gritty New Jersey product, but a difficult one nevertheless.
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