Nearly two years have passed since Frankie Edgar’s last victory. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Frankie Edgar (15-4-1, 9-4-1 UFC) vs. Charles Oliveira (16-3, 4-3 UFC)
The Matchup: If there were any questions as to whether dropping to 145 pounds was the right move for Edgar, they were answered at UFC 156, where “The Answer” gave featherweight king Jose Aldo the toughest test of his title reign. Even in defeat, Edgar set a frenetic pace and outworked the champion over the second half of the bout. Those familiar with the Toms River, N.J., native were not surprised by the effort, as Edgar’s resilience and seemingly bottomless gas tank were what once propelled him to the top of the lightweight division.
There will be no immediate rematch this time around, however, and now Edgar must work his way back into title contention after starting at the top in his featherweight debut. That journey begins with Oliveira, a 23-year-old former lightweight coming off a devastating first-round knockout loss to Cub Swanson at UFC 152. “Do Bronx” has looked extremely explosive at times during his UFC tenure but has generally faltered against top competition.
This will be Edgar’s first three-round fight since Dec. 5, 2009, when he submitted Matt Veach at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale. Edgar’s skills are perfectly tailored for 25-minute fights because he seems to never slow down, but a three-round affair will force him to start quickly. Oliveira attacks aggressively with his hands and knees without worrying about being taken down because he has an active guard and can threaten with submissions from his back. Edgar’s lack of one-shot power means the Brazilian will not hesitate to press the action on the feet. If he can hurt Edgar early, the entire complexion of the bout could change.
Rocking the Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu product is not an easy task, however. Edgar makes good use of footwork and angles on the feet while landing punches in volume. While Edgar is not a significant knockout threat, his right hand is exceptionally quick, and he generally does a good job of mixing up his strikes to score points.
Oliveira is not going to outland Edgar on the feet, so at some point he must look to get the former lightweight king on the mat, where he is adept at using punches and elbows from above to create openings for submissions. Edgar has never been submitted in his professional career, and while he can be taken down, he is extremely difficult to keep on the mat. An excellent scrambler, Edgar must be wary of leaving an opening for Oliveira to secure a submission if the action gets frantic on the ground. Edgar has a good sense of timing on his takedowns and transitions well between the striking and wrestling aspects of his game, so do not be surprised if he turns the tables on his opponent.
The Pick: Edgar should be able to control the tempo of this fight and keep Oliveira off balance with striking and takedowns. A finish against a heavy underdog would be ideal for the former lightweight king. However, after three straight losses, a win of any kind will be welcome. Edgar takes this by decision.
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