“The Answer” is once again in the title hunt at 145 pounds following his victory over Charles Oliveira at UFC 162. It was Frankie Edgar's first three-round bout in four years. The spirited featherweight and former lightweight champion looked as potent a competitor as ever.
Edgar was more than Oliveira could handle. To his credit, the 23-year-old submission artist held on strong and survived a third-round beating that would have left lesser fighters on the floor.
Frankie nabs another win in his already impressive career. No sooner was his hand raised than a flood of questions came pouring in. What is next for Edgar? Should he receive a title shot? Is 135 pounds a possibility?
Five plausible potential bouts sit in front of the featherweight contender. Only time will tell which, if any, he chooses to take.
The winner at UFC 163 will hold the belt Edgar is after. Cub Swanson is all but sure to be next in line for a title shot. That leaves Edgar playing second fiddle with the loser. A win over said loser launches him to the top contender position.
The Philly native would like another crack at Aldo. It is reasonable to assume he would rather take the belt from the Brazilian. But The Answer may have to settle for a three-round bout to exact revenge if that is what fate has in store.
Either fighter is difficult for Edgar, as well as almost surely entertaining for fans. Both opponents are dangerous strikers who pose credible threats the Edgar's journey to the belt. Both could leave him unconscious or submitted, and that is the way Edgar likes his opponents.
The Answer is one man who seems almost drawn in to adversity. He would surely welcome either as a stepping stone to the belt he desires.
Cub Swanson is all but assured the next title shot. Pegging him as a possible next opponent for Edgar may seem far-fetched. On second thought, one will recall the growing list of immediate rematches made in UFC titles history.
If Aldo and Jung have a closely contested war that leaves all fans pining for more, Swanson will have to wait. In that case, he may opt for an opportunity to take on Edgar. The maneuver would not be for nothing.
Edgar is a worthwhile name to have on one's resume. If Swanson can defeat The Answer, Swanson adds to his resume at 145 pounds. If he can finish Edgar, he does what no other man could. The possibility has to be a draw for a competitor like Swanson.
Edgar can defeat Swanson just as easily as Swanson can take out Edgar. If fans are forced to see an immediate Aldo vs. Jung II, then a co-main event of Swanson vs. Edgar would be divine.
“The Bully” has an outside shot at a Edgar fight, but the opportunity is there. Ricardo Lamas essentially sits one tier below Edgar in the division. But there is still reason to consider Lamas as Edgar's next opponent.
The featherweight is 4-0 since joining the UFC. He has finished three of his opponents in the Octagon. Lamas has defeated Matt Grice, Erik Koch, Hatsu Hioki and new top contender Cub Swanson. If not for the sheer depth of the division, he would be a surefire top contender.
The only mark against Lamas is his lack of recent bouts. He had one fight in 2012, and thus far has participated once in 2013. He has not been scheduled for a second match. If the Aldo/Jung loser is injured and Swanson gets a shot at the title, Edgar would likely welcome an opponent like Lamas.
The Bully is a threat to Frankie standing, and he can certainly handle himself on the ground. A battle with a viable former champion would be the Chicagoan's toughest bout yet—but the feat is not insurmountable.
Frankie would have to rely on everything that got him this far to best the young brute. Like so many Edgar battles, it would be one the fans could get excited about.
Clay Guida has gone from one of the more beloved fighters in the UFC to a forum pariah. What better way to return to glory than a bout against the most exciting fight in MMA? And what better way to prove he deserves a shot in his new weight class than consecutive wins over Chad Mendes and Edgar?
For Mendes it is all about getting back to a title shot to avenge his lone career loss.
If the winner of the bout can walk away unscathed, a quick turnaround bout with Edgar would launch him to a top contender spot.
Edgar will have his hands full with either competitor. The Answer has amazing wrestling, but both Guida and Mendes can test its limits. While Edgar will hold an advantage on the feet, he won't be able to commit as often as he'd like given the prowess of both Guida and Mendes.
The possibility of a match is more far-fetched than other options on the list. That said, there is a possibility. We have seen contender congestion and confusion in the past. An injury here, a suspension there, and suddenly Chad Mendes vs. Frankie Edgar is not such a crazy idea.
For now, we're going to assume that Dominick Cruz is never coming back. The UFC and Dana White have said he will return, but fans have heard that before. Point being no one can assume Cruz will return.
If the UFC wants to pull the trigger on more creative matchmaking, then the winner of Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland would make a marvelous opponent for Frankie Edgar.
According to MMA Weekly, Frankie stated at the UFC 162 post-fight press conference he was not interested in the drop. However, if the UFC truly needed him to and the money was good enough, Edgar would likely consider it.
If nothing else, a superfight at catchweight or at 145 pounds is not out of the question.
Barao would be 31-1 with a win over Wineland. He would have nothing else to prove at 135 pounds. Moving up to face a legend in Edgar would likely sound too good to pass up. Wineland would be more apt to take Edgar on if the former champion dropped to 135 pounds.
If contender chaos ensues at featherweight and Edgar is forced to wait around for long periods for a title shot, a drop may not sound so bad. Even if he isn't interested in staying at bantamweight, the cut and bout is doable for Edgar.
It is not a reach to assume his want to compete will override any disdain for losing weight.