It's time for Frankie Edgar to drop weight

February, 26, 2012
2/26/12
3:21
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Benson HendersonSusumu Nagao for ESPN.comBenson Henderson proved his worth at lightweight -- and that size really does matter.
SAITAMA, Japan -- Watching Ben Henderson lift the lightweight title from Frankie Edgar at UFC 144, one truth became apparent over and over again.

Edgar was just too small for this fight.

I don’t want to sum up everything with this one sentence. It’s not that Edgar is incapable of beating Henderson. In fact, some thought he did enough to earn the decision -- although none of the three judges scoring the fight were among those.

And it’s not that size alone won Henderson the fight. The new 155-pound champion improves between each fight. He showed new levels of his game again in this win. His has no glaring holes. He is a deserving candidate for top 10 pound-for-pound.

Maybe an appropriate way to sum up what happened Sunday morning in Japan was to say that two equally skilled martial artists met in the Octagon -- and the larger one won.

Edgar, who said multiple times after the contest that he felt he deserved the decision, downplayed any challenges Henderson’s size presented.

“He’s no bigger than all the other guys I’ve fought,” Edgar said. “He was big and strong but nothing that I felt overwhelmed with or anything like that.”

Here’s what we’re looking at. Henderson stands 5-foot-9 and cuts a considerable amount of weight to make the 155 limit. His cut starts, really, weeks before an event. Typically, he’s known to shed all clothing at a weigh-in in an effort to remove every ounce possible.

Edgar is 5-6 and cuts nothing. When asked how much weight he’s losing for these events, his response was “zero.” Even to cut to 145, Edgar said, “I’d have to cut a little, but not a whole lot.”

In the cage Sunday, Henderson looked a full weight class bigger than Edgar. Up to this point, Edgar has fought that disadvantage in size with speed and endurance -- but those are two areas Henderson is also known for.

Edgar is such a talent he’s made up for one of the bigger disadvantages one can face in combat sports for years. But in this matchup against a guy who could match him in other key areas, the size was huge.

Throughout the fight, Edgar took Henderson down, got in his guard, but could not keep him there for any extended amount of time. Multiple times he was in position to take Henderson’s back, but failed to do so mostly because he had no leverage.

In the fifth round, he even dropped Henderson with a right hand. Again he went to take his back, latching his arms around Henderson’s waist. Against a smaller opponent, it’s likely he would have got the position. With Henderson, however, Edgar could not rotate around his body and maintain control. Henderson ended up recovering and breaking away.

“I’ve been saying that about him every fight,” said UFC president Dana White, regarding Edgar’s size disadvantage. “I’ve been asking the kid to go to 145 for a long time.”

It’s a move Edgar has resisted for obvious reasons. His rise through the lightweight division was unexpected by many and he’s shown enough heart along the way that he has many calling him the toughest athlete in the UFC.
[+] EnlargeJose Aldo
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comUFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, left, would make an intriguing foe for Frankie Edgar.

After the fight, he was noncommittal about what his next move would be -- but it certainly seemed he wanted an immediate second crack at Henderson. When asked his thoughts about that opportunity potentially going to Anthony Pettis, he pointed to the rematches he took against B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard.

“I’m not trying to shoot anybody out of anything they deserve, but I had to do two immediate rematches,” Edgar said. “What’s right?”

Until now, there was not a good enough reason for Edgar to leave the division. But after this loss, the time has come for him to compete in his normal weight class.

His run in the lightweight division was fascinating and, hopefully, will become historic. It’s made him an undisputable fixture in the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Take that run, now, to the featherweight division. There is a reason that cutting weight is such a standard process in combat sports.

And realistically, the opportunity to leave his legacy on the sport is greater as a 145-pounder. He is an obvious opponent for Brazilian star Jose Aldo and would certainly have a shot at holding the belt a long time -- without potentially taking years off his career by constantly fighting bigger opponents.

“I’m never a big fan of guys fighting out of their weight class,” White said. “It’s going to be up to him, but I’d love to see him do it. It’s hard to argue when the kid has done so many great things.

“I would love to see him move to 145 and I think he’d be a force to be reckoned with."

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