Frankie Edgar has appeared in seven straight UFC title bouts. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Sometime before 1 a.m. ET on Sunday morning, as the UFC 156 main event reached its most critical point, Frankie Edgar flipped the switch.
As expected, reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo exploded out of the gates, feeding the Toms River, N.J., native a steady diet of lightning-quick jabs and whipping leg kicks in rounds one and two. A front kick to the face that bloodied Edgar’s nose was the most spectacular strike of the third frame, but shortly thereafter, the former lightweight titlist began to plant those familiar seeds of doubt in the way that only he can.
When it comes to sure things, a championship round push from “The Answer” falls somewhere just below death and taxes. According to FightMetric.com, Edgar was the busier fighter in rounds three through five, out-landing his opponent by a slight margin in each of the final three frames. Sound familiar? At UFC 150, he out-landed Benson Henderson for three of five rounds -- including the third and fifth -- of their lightweight championship tilt.
“I felt like I pushed the pace, I landed more punches, I got the takedowns and I dropped him,” Edgar said in August. “My team thought I won it, too, and even the crowd seemed like they were behind me.”
Just moments after it was announced that Aldo had earned a unanimous verdict on the judges’ scorecards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Edgar uttered a familiar refrain. He thought he had it won.
“It was a close fight. I keep finding myself in these situations,” Edgar said. “Congrats to Jose. He fought a great fight. I did [think I did enough to win], but it doesn’t matter. Jose is the winner. I’m just going to go home and take some time.”
It seems that Edgar has perfected the art of close-but-not-quite. No one has more heart, resilience or tenacity, but for many, Edgar’s efforts simply do not pass the sight and sound test. When Aldo connects with a punch or kick, it resonates, whether you are in the arena or watching at home. Edgar’s flurries do not have nearly the same effect.
“My cornermen were talking to me all the time, and they were explaining the situation round by round. I was pretty confident about the results,” Aldo said. “I believe I won every round. In the fourth round, he was dominant for about a minute when he threw me down and caught my back, but after that, I came back to a dominant position and controlled the center of the ring. I was very comfortable, so I thought I won every round.”
While those scoring the fight might not have wholeheartedly agreed with Aldo’s corner, nearly everyone, from the cageside judges to the MMA media, had “Scarface” winning the bout by a 49-46 or 48-47 count. The matchup earned “Fight of the Night” honors from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Aldo maintained his standing as one of the top pound-for-pound talents in the sport and Edgar garnered more kudos for yet another gritty effort.
Of course, Edgar would much rather have gold around his waist, but this time it appears that the UFC will not go to the rematch well once again for the Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu product. After three consecutive title rematches involving Edgar at lightweight, the general consensus is that someone else deserves a shot at Aldo.
“The guy is so tough, but I don’t think this grants him an automatic rematch,” UFC President Dana White told Fuel TV.
So while the likes of Ricardo Lamas, Chan Sung Jung, Cub Swanson and the rest angle for the next shot at Aldo, Edgar is left to exist in something of a lower-weight purgatory. He had to cash in on his title shot against the Brazilian when the opportunity was presented to him, but it now becomes difficult to forecast the future for a man who has not competed in a non-title bout since December 2009.
Few would dispute that Edgar would be favored against any of the aforementioned featherweights, but is the UFC really interested in killing off viable contenders in a still-growing division? Right now, Edgar might very well be the world’s second best featherweight -- and its second-best lightweight -- but neither means he will be installed as No. 1 contender again anytime soon.
There are those who resent Edgar’s high-volume, push-the-pace approach. They call his style point-fighting and believe that true champions should finish fights at all costs. However, the level of competition that Edgar has faced since his lightweight title reign began is not conducive to highlight-reel knockouts or submissions, and it is worth noting that Aldo, Henderson, Gray Maynard and B.J. Penn could not finish Edgar; he was able to stop Maynard at UFC 136.
There may be no obvious next step for Edgar at this point, but he has already accomplished plenty, and unlike some of his highly ranked and highly regarded cohorts, he rarely gives a lackluster effort in the cage. On a night when Rashad Evans baffled with his inactivity and Alistair Overeem’s bloated physique was exceeded only by his hubris, Edgar was who we thought he was: a fighter who is never out of a fight.
Even for those who expected Aldo to prevail at UFC 156, the odds of a blowout were less likely than reconciliation between White and Randy Couture. Edgar just would not allow it.
“Yes, Frankie is resilient,” UFC light heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen said on Fuel TV. “It’s like calling Kate Upton mildly attractive.”
Preferences in women and UFC featherweights tend to vary from person to person, but somehow, Edgar keeps hanging around. For the first time in years, however, it appears that he is not an immediate factor in either the 145- or 155-pound title scene. What would Edgar have to say about that? He would probably tell you he is never out of a fight.