More than a year has passed since Jose Aldo defended his title. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
The Ultimate Fighting Championship offers its second loaded card in as many weeks with UFC 156, which features a highly anticipated featherweight title tilt between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. It took some doing, but now that Aldo is finally healthy and Edgar is finally convinced that 145 pounds is the place for him, we might just have an early candidate for “Fight of the Year” on our hands.
UFC 156 has plenty more marquee value on its pay-per-view card, including the return of massive heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem, who attempts to re-launch his title campaign by knocking out the equally large Antonio Silva in a featured bout. Also, former 205-pound kingpin Rashad Evans attempts to bounce back from his loss to former training partner Jon Jones by taking out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Rounding out the main bill at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas is a pair of interesting matchups, as Jon Fitch meets Demian Maia at welterweight and Joseph Benavidez locks horns with Ian McCall at 125 pounds.
Here is a closer look at the UFC 156 “Aldo vs. Edgar,” with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 156 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Featherweight Championship
Jose Aldo (21-1, 3-0 UFC) vs. Frankie Edgar (15-3-1, 9-3-1 UFC)
The Matchup: There was a reason UFC President Dana White lobbied so hard for Edgar to drop to 145 pounds: fights like this one. Sure, White wanted to see the former lightweight champion pick on people his own size, but he was more interested in making the most lucrative bout possible. For now, this is the closest thing we get to a super fight in 2013.
Back-to-back losses to Benson Henderson -- another bigger, stronger lightweight -- forced Edgar’s hand. He was competitive in both bouts, and he probably had a solid case for winning the rematch. Edgar’s run at lightweight was a true underdog story, but the Toms River, N.J., native seemed to thrive in that role. At 145 pounds, he will be favored against practically everyone in the division, with the exception of the man he is facing here.
Aldo is a large featherweight, and a move upward could be in his future as the Brazilian grows older. Injuries have been the Nova Uniao product’s most daunting foe so far in his career. He only competed once in 2012, scoring a first-round knockout against Chad Mendes at UFC 142. A productive 2013 would see the 26-year-old step into the Octagon at least three times, allowing the promotion to give one of its brightest talents the push he deserves.
First, there is the matter of getting past Edgar, who is arguably the toughest test of Aldo’s Zuffa tenure. If Mark Hominick -- a kickboxer with little wrestling -- was able to wear down the Brazilian and launch a ground-and-pound assault in the fifth round of their UFC 129 encounter, what could Edgar do in a similar situation?
Aldo has three five-round bouts under his belt, and while his conditioning is solid, it is not on the level of Edgar’s. The Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu representative sets a rapid pace on the feet and his crisp boxing is backed by a use of footwork and angles to keep his foes off-balance. It remains to be seen if Edgar will carry more power to the featherweight division. At lightweight, he was rarely a knockout threat, but he did a good job of racking up points on the feet by working his boxing. He can do the same against Aldo by staying busy and finding a home for his quick right hand. While his strikes might not always hurt the champion, landing with consistent volume will force the cageside judges to take notice.
Another point to consider is that Edgar had a clear-cut speed advantage against virtually every opponent he faced at 155 pounds. That edge might not be as pronounced at featherweight, and how he handles Aldo’s striking will be telling.
“Scarface” is comfortable standing in the pocket, where he lands powerful kicks and counters with blinding speed. Aldo foes are often handcuffed because of the variety of weapons at his disposal, and those who insist on pressing forward will be met with devastating knees for their troubles. Aldo is probably well aware of the success Henderson had attacking Edgar with kicks to the legs and body in their two meetings. Although Edgar began to counter Henderson’s kicks more successfully in their second bout, no one has had an answer for Aldo’s kicks, which he uses to control distance beautifully.
Perhaps Hominick ‘s brief comeback against Aldo was an anomaly, but his ability to survive an onslaught of punishment for multiple rounds and mount one final salvo in the fifth round sounds eerily similar to something Edgar might do -- only better. Edgar is a solid wrestler with a quick shot and a keen sense of timing on his takedowns. The longer the fight with Aldo goes, the better chance he has to implement his wrestling. The question: how far behind will he be on the scorecards before he can make a dent in Aldo’s conditioning?
The Pick: Gray Maynard proved that Edgar is vulnerable to well-placed power punches, and Henderson exposed his weakness to leg kicks. The bad news is Aldo is adept at landing both in combination. Edgar will get rocked in this bout, perhaps on multiple occasions. He is not one to go away easily, and he will continue to battle, perhaps even stealing a round or two late. Still, it will not be enough. Aldo does his damage early and then holds on to take a decision.
Next Fight » Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira