There's nothing glamorous or controversial about Frankie Edgar. Figuratively speaking, the newly-crowned UFC world lightweight champion entered the UFC 155-pound title picture through the side door.
A steady and careful fighter known more for his physical fitness and masterful game plans than any highlight-reel knockout power or submission skills, Edgar's shot at B.J. Penn felt more like a compulsory reward for his successful record than the result of demand from viewers hungry for this match-up. There are few fighters out there like Edgar; he is as completely detached from the typical hype-building melodrama as he is committed to earning a victory.
Edgar's win over Penn last night only reinforced my opinion of him. I observed that he didn't appear to be fighting "The Prodigy", but rather dynamically reacting to a very dangerous and skilled opponent with the problem-solving patience of an engineer.
Was it exciting? Probably not to the average latent MMA fan. I found myself slightly bored by the action, but simultaneously found Edgar's strategy of frustrating Penn, while decisively scoring points, to be very compelling.
How exactly did Frankie Edgar beat Penn, the man who had cleaned out the division?
- His Cardio: Well into the championship rounds, Edgar remained fresh and light on his feet, while Penn, who has noticeably improved his cardio in recent years, seemed to lose a step by comparison.
- A Conservative Game Plan : Edgar's strategy appeared built on the prediction that Penn wouldn't fight an aggressive fight, and it proved spot-on. "The Prodigy" never found a consistent range and didn't adjust his game plan accordingly to use a clinch, pull guard, or otherwise take the fight somewhere else. It played perfectly into the hands of the patient, careful challenger.
- Winning the Fight Game : Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it appears that Edgar was supremely confident that, within the context of the 10-point-must scoring system, he had this fight completely under control from the outset. Penn, with his heavyweight punches and incredible finishing skills, never had any intention of scoring any points. It was all about the finish for Penn, but unfortunately, that's exactly what Edgar needed to put the odds in his favor.