For the first time in over three years and seven fights, Frankie Edgar entered the UFC Octagon without a title on the line but still plenty to prove after three consecutive losses.
Edgar always seems to be in title contention, but battling a young, hungry Brazilian in Charles Oliveira he had to know that there could be no close call on the judges' scorecards like he's had in so many of his past fights.
It was also Edgar's second fight at featherweight, but unfortunately for the New Jersey native he still entered as the smaller man once again.
As for Oliveira, he's always been one of the most naturally talented fighters in the UFC, but he struggles against top fighters. Whether he was competing at lightweight or featherweight, Oliveira has never been able to survive against the best of the best in either division.
What We Learned About Frankie Edgar
Throughout his last seven fights, Edgar has been known as a bit of a slow starter, especially in his two bouts against Gray Maynard where he got lit up like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. With his fight against Oliveira only being a three rounder, Edgar knew he had no time to waste and no fourth or fifth round to take over as he's done so many times in the past.
He proved his mettle in this one because Edgar came out fast with his signature boxing game working perfectly, cracking Oliveira on the jaw numerous times throughout all 15 minutes.
By the third round, Edgar was teeing off on Oliveira's head with a series of right hands, looking stronger and stronger with each punch landed.
Quite a few people scored Edgar winning at least one or two of his last three fights, but on his record it still showed up as a trio of defeats. The pressure was on in this one to perform, and Edgar showed that he's still an elite fighter and hungry to get back into title contention.
What We Learned About Charles Oliveira
Scrappy and slick, Oliveira is a very solid featherweight, but he's never been able to get past the best fighters he's faced in the Octagon. Saturday night was no different as he lost to Edgar by unanimous decision, but still proved a point with his performance.
Oliveira stuck around and even did some damage to Edgar over the course of three rounds.
The problem is even though he stuck around, Oliveira still couldn't get the upper hand enough at any point to put Edgar in any serious trouble. It appears Oliveira's status will remain as a gatekeeper to the featherweight top 10 for now.
Oliveira is only 23 years of age, so he still has plenty of time to get better. He just has to show it sometime soon or he will be relegated to the outside looking in whenever the discussion about the best 145-pound fighters in the world comes up.
What's Next for Frankie Edgar
He's back in the win column, which was the most important part of UFC 162 for Edgar.
Now he's all about climbing back to the top of the featherweight division. There are plenty of matchups for him at 145 pounds, but one in particular makes the most sense.
Edgar taking on a fighter like Cub Swanson would be a fantastic featherweight showcase, and the two fighters have talked about fighting each other in the past. Edgar and Swanson were actually approached to fight each other earlier this year on short notice, but the bout didn't come together.
Now, with both picking up wins at UFC 162, the timing is perfect for this fight to happen.
What Happens Next for Charles Oliveira
Oliveira has now lost two fights in a row, so he has to know there's not much wiggle room in his next trip to the Octagon.
He's looked devastating at some moments, but overwhelmed at others when taking on the elite fighters in his weight class.
Oliveira will likely venture back out to a non-top-10 fight for his next bout, and if his past is any indication, he will do very well. He just has to get over that hump of picking up a win in the top 10, and then the sky could still be the limit for this young fighter.
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