Frankie Edgar faces the hottest upstart in the UFC, but the real question is whether a title shot is still in the cards anytime soon.
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar has faced virtually every contender the division has offered. Despite his best efforts, he has been unable to re-obtain UFC gold. He is far from the twilight of his career, but his fight against Yair Rodriguez is a clear play to help the young gun ascend to the elite of the division.
Edgar has had his time in the sun, but Rodriguez is enjoying a moment in 2017. The young Mexican fighter is arguably the biggest beneficiary from the organization’s sale to WME. He has been promoted heavily by the UFC since his victory in Phoenix and WME has had him attend high profile events such as New York Fashion Week. He is a young, exciting fighter that is perfect to break into the Mexican market for the UFC and Edgar is one of the final steps there.
“The Answer” has nearly twice the experience of Rodriguez, making the fight an almost exaggerated veteran versus upstart match-up. Rodriguez is currently ranked seventh in the division, so the jump to face Edgar is a clear push by the UFC to give their young star the most exposure in a possible title fight.
What does this mean for Frankie Edgar?
The former champion has stated that this is the last fight on his current deal. He told the MMA Hour in February that he plans on re-signing with the UFC and doesn’t see why they wouldn’t come to terms.
Of course, that is not to say that Edgar isn’t without options. If he chooses to explore free agency, he would be a huge steal for Bellator to bolster their roster.
It would also be a way for him to be given marquee billing and money. In the UFC, a victory over Rodriguez keeps him at the top of the division where he could be the next contender for the belt should Max Holloway emerge victorious next month.
In the UFC, a victory over Rodriguez keeps him at the top of the division where he could be the next contender for the belt should Max Holloway emerge victorious next month.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of factors that could impede those plans. José Aldo could emerge victorious, for one. There are also contenders like the Korean Zombie and Cub Swanson who could jump in line should the promotion choose to go in another direction. There is also the ever-present shadow of Conor McGregor possibly returning to 145 that could put a halt to several title aspirations.
Edgar came close to securing his own match with the Irishman in December of 2015. The night before McGregor knocked out José Aldo for the title, Edgar knocked out perennial contender Chad Mendes in the first round. The victory capped off a five-fight win streak that included wins over BJ Penn, Urijah Faber, and Cub Swanson. He was the clear number one contender, but “The Notorious” had other plans and moved up to face then lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
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McGregor’s plans took a turn as well, but his leave of absence in the featherweight division led to Edgar facing Aldo for the interim featherweight title. “The Answer” put on a great contest, but Aldo wouldn’t be denied as he took the decision.
Edgar rebounded with a dramatic bout against heavy hitting Jeremy Stephens but soon found himself in unknown territory again. The division has slowed to a virtual halt. Aldo is hell-bent on facing McGregor again, and the match with Holloway is barely the first featherweight title fight in nearly a year.
Edgar’s only options are to stay active against the ever growing crop of fresh contenders in hopes of staying ahead of the ever growing list of contenders. The only difference is that no victory at this stage guarantees a title shot in the muddled picture.
Stylistically, this is a bout nearly tailor made for Edgar. Rodriguez is nearly over-reliant with his kicking attack, to the point that he does not always set them up well with his hands. “El Pantera” is taller and has more reach, so it will be vital for Edgar to use his sharp footwork to stay out of range. From there, he is best when jabbing his way to the inside and getting out before the counter.
Frankie is also a competent grappler and Rodriguez’s reliance on his kicks opens up opportunities for Edgar to predict an attack and use it to take him down. On the ground, he holds a distinct edge as the Mexican is untested on the mat.
There is also the experience factor. “The Answer” has nearly twice the experience as Rodriguez and has been in plenty of high profile bouts. Should the fight be close down the stretch, Edgar is the more likely to stay composed and make fewer mistakes.
A victory keeps Edgar in the hunt for one more elusive title shot. Or at the very least, gives him, even more leverage on the free agent market. In the cage, Edgar has solved nearly every question. But only he knows the answer as to what’s next after Saturday night.