While the following night may in fact be the biggest featherweight bout in the history of Mixed Martial Arts, December 11th is the date the next contender may be named when #2 ranked Frankie Edgar meets #3 Chad Mendes in what is sure to be a title eliminator fight for the featherweight championship.
Breaking down the Takedown: Edgar vs Mendes
Both men are former title challengers to longtime reigning Jose Aldo and are widely regarded as the top fighters to grace the 145lb division. Frankie Edgar is a former lightweight champion and gave what appeared to be (at the time) Aldo’s toughest test when the two fought to a close decision back at UFC 156. This seemed Aldo’s first legitimate test in the Octagon and many fans still see the fight going Edgar’s way. Nonetheless, Aldo remained champion and went on to rematch Chad Mendes at UFC 179, garnering the Fight of the Year award for 2014.
While both men have fallen to the champion, they have fought their way to their respective ranks and remained constant threats to Aldo’s 4 year title run. This Friday, the two featherweights meet to name a clear cut contender and continue their path to UFC gold. I will be examining all the cards both Edgar and Mendes bring to the table in terms of strengths and weaknesses, and what exactly they need to do to claim victory.
Throughout his entire career, Frankie Edgar has been known for his extreme cardio and massive output on the feet. Whether he is constantly feinting the jabs or pawing a straight right hand, it’s hard to see Edgar’s hands remain still for a single second. Edgar definitely has one of the best set of hands in the featherweight division and constantly allows setups for either the takedown or clinch work. FightMetric has Frankie Edgar atop the leaderboard of the ‘Most Strikes Landed’ stat with 1,777. His impressive boxing technique has lead him to championship gold in the past and is one his biggest assets.
Coupled together with his impressive boxing, Frankie Edgar’s footwork is another trait all its own that is worth admiration. His consistent movement allows for a fast paced, cardio extensive fight that not many people are ready for. In his championship fights against Gray Maynard, Edgar displayed his impeccable footwork during big exchanges, being able to step in and out at will even with the constant pressure of the heavy hands of Maynard. With his footwork being one of the best in the sport, expect a fast pace from the get-go and for Frankie to never let up on the gas pedal.
Any hardcore fan of ‘The Answer’ is bound to recognize that one of his biggest assets is his championship heart and will to compete. There have been many a time when the Toms River native has been in deep trouble: almost being knocked out by Maynard on two separate occasions, receiving a devastating upkick from Benson Henderson, and the multiple broken noses endured in fights, where Frankie was forced to dig deep and continue on. Edgar and Manyard’s Fight of the Year championship fight had the then reigning Edgar down 10-8 after the first round yet still fought his way back to a draw. With this drive he has, Frankie Edgar is sure to be able to dig deep if Mendes is able to put his back against the wall and give ‘Money’ one of the biggest fights of his life.
-Keeping it Simple
Though the former champion has been one of the most successful fighters in his stint within the UFC, it should be noted that sometimes the basics can be one of the biggest weaknesses to the all-time greats. Maynard made use of the lead left hook to almost put away the champ in their second fight, and the right uppercut in their third. Aldo was able to use his stiff jab and fast right hand to repeatedly catch Frankie during their exchanges. This does not take credit away from Edgar at all but it is important to take notice that sometimes the basics are enough to help capture some of the biggest wins.
As many fighters will say, the championship experience is an invaluable resource. There is something about being a champion that separates them from other fights; their will to push forward and break their own limits in order to get the win. While in the lightweight division, Frankie was deemed “too small” for the division and one of the bigger underdogs heading into his fight with the legendary BJ Penn. That being said, time and time again Frankie has shown that he belongs in the cage with the best of the best and can always manage to dig deep when it counts to pull off huge wins.
Though Mendes was touted for his world class wrestling talent for the early part of his career, after his 2012 loss to Jose Aldo, Mendes went on a tear in the featherweight division, winning 4 fights in a row via KO/TKO, stopping Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins and the concrete chinned Clay Guida. For being one of the smaller fighters competing in the 145lb division, his brute power is almost unmatched and has become a staple to the former challenger. If able to land on the chin of Edgar, expect the fight to take a sudden shift as one punch from Mendes can be one of the biggest game changers we’ve seen.
Up until his first match with featherweight kingpin Aldo, Chad Mendes was known for his pure athleticism in the wrestling area. His takedowns were always powerful and he became known as a grinder of fights. While taking a backseat for his incredible power, Mendes’ wrestling is still one of the biggest threats in his arsenal as his suffocating pressure on the mat almost won him the interim featherweight championship against Conor McGregor. If Edgar’s hands prove too much for ‘Money’, expect the top contender to go back to his roots and look to his wrestling to pick up the win.
Wherever the fight should take place be sure to expect Mendes to be more than willing to allow it. He is always headstrong when it comes to competing at the highest level and will always hang in there whether it be on the feet, on the mat, or tied up against the cage. In their second match, Mendes stayed on the feet with Aldo, exchanging with him for the entire five rounds and even gaining a round of his own. Nothing is too far out of his comfort zone and expect to see the most game Chad Mendes we have seen this Friday.
-Aim for the Body
Fighters will constantly say that the body shots always tend to add up higher in terms of damage rather than head strikes. In his last bout with McGregor, the Irishmen aimed for the body to slow Chad down early in the bout and secure his win. Jose Aldo used a combination of a hook to the body followed by a leg kick to constantly stop the challenger from feeling confident with his striking. Body strikes with Mendes have seemed to always work more effectively when facing off against Mendes and expect the body to be something ‘The Answer’ targets.
-Chasing the Finish
One of the most dangerous sequences of events in a fight that can either make or break a fight is the pursuit of a finish. In his bout with Ricardo Lamas, Mendes had the top featherweight hurt with a strike early on and preceded to stay constantly on him with punches for the next 57 seconds. Now while he did use this almost minute time wisely, picking his shots and showing maturity, this will to finish the fight can cause a problem against a veteran like Edgar who knows how to handle tough situations.
During most of his fights Mendes can be seen pushing forward on his opponent, whether it is just simply making them move backwards towards the cage, or making them worry about the possibility of a haymaker of a right hand, pressure is always a dangerous asset in the hands of the right fighter. Expect the early parts of the fight to consist of Mendes wanting Edgar on the back pedal and setting up his openings for big shots or a powerful takedown in which to remain heavy from.
Both men are definitely a huge threat to each other in this huge 145lb clash and on any night can take the win over the other. They have both proved time and again that they are championship material and can more than hold their own with some of the best fighters in the world. However, if I were to place money on it, expect my bet to be in favor of the former lightweight champion. I believe, he has the faster pace, better footwork, better hands and the superior technique. This by no means is counting out Mendes from the fight in the slightest but in the end I can only imagine ‘The Answer’ being the one with his hand raised.
The two former title challengers are set to do battle from Las Vegas, Nevada at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan on December 11th. Expect the winner of this fight to be next in line for the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor which headlines UFC 194 the very next day.