He went 6-1 after his 2007 UFC debut, earning a title shot against then-champion, BJ Penn. The 2010 match was the beginning of a bizarre two and a half year pattern of title fights followed by immediate rematches for Frank “The Answer” Edgar.
After winning the title and subsequently avenging the only blemishes on his record, a decision loss and a draw (both from Gray Maynard), Frankie Edgar seemed unstoppable. Despite his dominant climb through the UFC’s deepest division, many so-called experts continued to doubt Edgar, as he was an underdog in his first four title fights despite a respectable 3-0-1 run among them.
During that initial title run, Edgar had decisively beaten the greatest Lightweight Champion of all time, and finished his arch-nemesis Gray Maynard with a stunning KO, handing him his first career loss. Frankie Edgar had finally silenced the critics.
Then came Ben Henderson. The former WEC Lightweight Champion entered the UFC with plenty to prove after he lost his title and fell victim to one of the most amazing MMA highlights of all time in the process (below).
One of the reasons why so many doubted Edgar’s ability to reign as champion came from a somewhat trivial fixation on the fact that he did not cut any weight to compete at 155 pounds, which had many critics saying that Edgar may be a formidable threat at the recently added UFC Featherweight Division. It’s not unusual for fighters to sweat out 10 or more pounds to compete in the Lightweight Division, so it seemed to be an obvious choice for Edgar to make the easy cut.
Even as he was making his now infamous ascent through the Lightweight ranks, people still continued to criticize the smaller fighter; namely, Dana White, who had been publicly campaigning for Edgar’s Featherweight move since the division’s inception. Edgar humored him for a moment when White tried to strap on the Lightweight Title following his victory over BJ Penn, and the belt wouldn’t fit. Edgar said to Joe Rogan, “Looks like the belt is too big, I guess I’m a Featherweight after all.”
Little did he know, that prophecy would eventually come true. But, at that moment, he still didn’t have enough incentive to drop down to the 145 pound weight class. After all, he had cleaned out his division, won the title, and went on to defend it like a true champion.
After Ben Henderson took the title away from him with a unanimous decision, Dana White wasted no time expressing his desire for Edgar to move down; but, Frankie stuck to his guns. To paraphrase: “I’ve granted immediate rematches to the last two opponents I fought, so I think it’s only fair to give me a rematch,” said Edgar at the post-fight press conference.
Dana White can be pretty stubborn, and he also stuck to his guns, but it didn’t last long. The fight was made, and to make a long story short, Ben Henderson won again, prompting Edgar to do some soul-searching...and some dieting.
To entice the reluctant move to Featherweight, White gave Edgar something that no fighter on a 2 fight losing streak has ever been given: a title shot. Edgar was afforded an extremely unique opportunity to reclaim championship glory in that unprecedented situation. After losing his Featherweight debut to the No. 4 pound-for-pound Jose Aldo, Edgar needs to get back in the win column more than ever.
He built his career by making critics eat their words, defying all odds, and defeating the best of the best. Now, the former UFC Lightweight Champion is staring down the dreadful reality of a 3-fight losing streak. The UFC does not typically keep fighters on their roster who have lost 4 fights in a row, but one can’t help but wonder if the fact that Edgar’s losses were all in title fights would be considered should he end up in that unfortunate situation come Saturday night -- not to mention he's the No. 3 ranked Featherweight as of this writing.
Even though Edgar is heavily favored to win, his opponent, Charles Oliveira, is not one to be taken lightly. He began his professional career at 14-0 before debuting in the UFC and winning his first two fights in the Lightweight Division. With a UFC record of 4-3, he’s had his share of wins and losses, but all four of his wins have come by way of submission.
Coming off a KO loss at the hands of fast-rising Featherweight contender Cub Swanson, Oliveira certainly has the same sense of urgency and desperation to win this fight as Edgar does. Both men are like wounded animals that have been cornered and couldn’t be more dangerous than they are right now.
Edgar’s cardio, wrestling and boxing are his biggest strengths going into Saturday’s contest. His endurance and stamina have been thoroughly tested in his past six fights, which were all 5 round title fights, territory that Oliveira has never been in. Of course, Gray Maynard has infamously tested Edgar’s chin in their last 2 fights as well.
Oliveira’s key to victory will most likely be the tried and true method he’s always relied on: his submission game and his technical Muay Thai striking. Edgar is an excellent boxer and very capable grappler as an NCAA wrestler and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, but he cannot afford to get complacent to the slightest degree against a submission ace who throws strikes from all angles.
The two will face off this Saturday, July 6th, in the Co-Main Event of UFC 162. The fight takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is headlined by a UFC Middleweight Title fight between champ Anderson Silva and challenger Chris Weidman.
By: Rodney James