Plateau or Age: Frankie Edgar Striking Analysis

Frankie Edgar
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 02: (R-L) Frankie Edgar punches Jose Aldo during their featherweight title fight at UFC 156 on February 2, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Frankie Edgar has been a perpetual leader of skill and toughness in mixed martial arts. He has had memorable wars and fights with all-time great legends. However, in recent years, Edgar has begun to slow down. His wins are no longer dominating technical marvels, but proof of his enduring workmanship. I’m curious as to whether this is a technical plateau or just age.

In this article, I’m going to discuss what has made Edgar so successful, but also highlight his flaws. I’m going to ask whether Edgar has plateaued stylistically or if the rest of the division has finally caught up with him. Without a doubt Edgar is a legend, however, time is the perpetual enemy to the athlete.

Frankie Edgar Striking Analysis

Humble Beginnings

Edgar made his UFC debut in 2007. He was a standout wrestler with a good chin and great cardio. However, at the time the UFC didn’t have a featherweight or bantamweight division. Therefore, Edgar was forced to face and develop a style to fight the bigger man.

Against Mark Bocek, Edgar showed that by moving his feet and slightly moving his head, he could easily get inside and land combinations.

Notice that Edgar’s head movement, while existent, was simple. Swaying side to side gave him the ability to slip straight punches and come back with his own.

However, in his first loss ever to Gray Maynard, Edgar would show that he was still developing his overall game.

Edgar showed the early signs of his offensive style. A quick short blitz of punches and then back out. It also helped that Edgar loved to feint punches with his sways.
However, Edgar could sometimes get overly eager with these swings and it got him taken down repeatedly as a result.
Edgar also had no real setups yet for his takedowns and diving for them got him stuck underneath Maynard.

The Answer to a Different Era

In Edgar’s next few fights, he would start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Against Hermes Franca, he stopped shooting out in the open and would settle for takedowns whenever he felt Franca commit to a strike or kick.

Because Edgar is constantly moving within Franca’s punching range, Franca is encouraged to swing. This leads Edgar to either block, slip, or take him down.

Against, Sean Sherk, Edgar put together the aspects of his game and became the wrestle-boxer he is today. What gave him the ability to do so was his footwork. Moving either left or right, Edgar constantly does so with good fundamentals. Moving left he goes left foot first then right foot and the opposite if he wants to move right. By doing so, he is constantly in his stance, ready to feint, strike, or take his man down.

Edgar kept Sherk thinking by constantly circling, feinting, throwing light strikes and faking takedowns.
Edgar also found that whenever Sherk would ignore his light strikes, he could slip under and throw a combination or a takedown.

The Trilogies

With his style established, Edgar would begin his march to the top and cement his place as a legend. It all started with starting and completing a trilogy with BJ Penn and Gray Maynard, respectively.

At the time Edgar fought Penn, Penn had already established himself as a legend with decent boxing, but truly amazing jiu-jitsu, especially for MMA. However, Edgar would take him apart in classic Edgar fashion.

Penn’s long stance and plodding footwork allowed Edgar to constantly circle around him. Whenever BJ overcommitted on a turn, he would get kicked, blitzed with punches, or have his leg ripped up for a takedown.
Edgar’s continuous feinting and circling had BJ guessing all fight. After 5 rounds, BJ was left exhausted trying to catch up with the elusive Edgar.

Their rematch would be much of the same as the first. BJ would come out far more aggressively, however, he would exhaust himself once again. This time the takedowns came easier for Edgar as BJ would step himself into them.

Penn always telegraphed his strikes, which for a moving target like Edgar, gave him the time and space to shoot for takedowns.
Exhausted and battered, Penn’s long stance also had his legs kicked harder than the first, giving Edgar even more tools to tear him down.

The pair would have a third fight, however, it Penn came out in a bizarre, tall thai stance, and would get mauled harder than the previous two. The other trilogy of importance was the legend-making Maynard fights.

Maynard Trilogy

The second Maynard fight solidified Edgar’s heart and toughness as he was dropped multiple times in the first round.

However, Edgar would go on to show that his improvements could slow down and trouble the hard-punching Maynard.

Edgar spent the whole of the round after this trying to recover and falling to the canvas various times.
After recovering, Edgar would still struggle with Maynard’s power, however, his constant feints and footwork gave him the striking edge as Maynard would stand there looking to swing.

The fight would be scored a draw and the pair would finish their trilogy, with Edgar winning by knockout. Their second fight would start the same way, however, Maynard’s desire to stand in range and look to club Edgar on his entries would be undoing.

Once again with Maynard waiting on Edgar, Edgar could come forward with punches, kicks, or takedowns. Edgar would, of course, do this off of his feints into blitzes.
Edgar would commit lightly to his ankle pick blitz, which numbed Maynard to the constant rushing. However, when Edgar punched after exiting his blitz, he was able to drop and finish Maynard.

After this fight, Edgar would be soundly outsized by Benson Henderson, and would move down to a more size-appropriate weight class – featherweight. However, it is here that Edgar would meet a style that showed his flaws.

The Problem With the Blitz

In his first fight at featherweight, Edgar was given Jose Aldo, the reigning champion. In this fight, Aldo would come to show everyone how to confuse and dismantle the “Answer”.

Aldo would constantly circle with Edgar, allowing him to stay in Edgar’s boxing range, however, Aldo’s long and quick jab would prevent Edgar from feinting consistently.
Since Edgar was constantly jabbed up, he was forced to make charges past Aldo’s jab, which got him caught and counter-punched.
Because Edgar needs to constantly move and blitz forwards, his weight is always on his front leg. This gave Aldo the perfect target to land his leg kicks.

After this fight, Edgar would continue to run through his opponents, however, he would rely more on his wrestling to get to it done. It would be second Aldo fight, that would once again show that Edgar’s style has remained the same.

Their second fight would be worse, as Aldo would pivot and jab with Edgar’s circling.
Once again, Edgar’s blitzes don’t really work when his opponent is expecting them and can safely move out of the way.
Edgar had no answer for Aldo’s pivoting and this was five fights later. Edgar had simply run through opponent’s with the same exact tools until Aldo.

While most opponents couldn’t capitalize, these two fights would be the blueprint to give Edgar trouble.

The plateau or age?

Edgar’s last two fights have shown that he has plateaued. Against Brian Ortega, Ortega did exactly what Aldo did, jab, give space, and pivot out.

Ortega showed that you can slow Edgar’s feints and circling down with nice jabs, keeping him in place or at least on a line.
Same as Aldo, moving back while Edgar charges stifle his charges

Once again, Edgar lacked the ability to stay in the pocket or fire from mid-range. This leads him to charge in and was promptly stopped for the first time.

Ortega caught Edgar still, this was likely because of the jabs and movement. But it also showed that by forcing Edgar into his blitz without set up, he can get hurt badly.

Against Cub Swanson, who no longer had the speed he did before, Edgar was still troubled in some parts of their second fight.

Pivoting and jabbing, once again had Edgar stuck on the end of Swanson’s reach, without any tools to get back inside.
Swanson showing the same principle, when Edgar follows his man back, he can be caught clean by hooks

Conclusion

Did Edgar plateau or age? The answer is sadly a little bit of both. Edgar’s style has remained relatively the same since his fight against Maynard and Penn. While he has added some kicks to act as a variation between his circling, the principle remains the same.

Edgar will be fighting Max Holloway at UFC 240 and against a fighter that has a lovely jab and great footwork this will be a tough ask. The division has begun to catch up, fighters are pumping jabs and pivoting. Edgar can’t take the same shots he did before, and he is unlikely to overhaul his style.

While I adore Edgar’s style and legacy, going into UFC 240, Holloway is the worst style that Edgar could be fighting against. However, Edgar has proven to be tough as nails, but possibly this time, he has plateaued and aged.

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