MMA: Rocky IV
August, 31, 2012
By Chuck Mindenhall
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comSuit yourself: The odds are stacked against Frankie Edgar in his featherweight debut -- just how he likes it.It took 10 less pounds and a thousand lobbyists for Frankie Edgar to arrive at a familiar spot -- a championship fight that nobody expects him to win. He’ll fight Jose Aldo at UFC 153 in a bout with a hat trick of fun curiosities: There’s featherweight, there’s Aldo, and there’s the cauldron of Brazil.
The term we’ve been waiting to use in a situation like this is “superfight.” “Super” in front of anything gets people superstoked. And you think the Rocky theme has been done to death with Edgar? Not even close. He’ll be tossed into Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 13 to try to wrest the belt from the most dynamic dervish of a striker ever to crowd-surf his countymen.
Cue Survivor’s “Burning Heart.” It’s on.
Edgar, the perennial underdog, a blurry Jersey shore wrestler with cardio for days and blood that flows red every fight ... against Aldo, the unchallenged, unparalleled genius of preternatural striking who draws blood just by staring at you.
Wasn’t it Chad Mendes who tempted these odds not all that long ago? He still has no idea what hit him.
Mendes isn’t “The Answer.”
But, with Erik Koch having to drop out of the spot with an injury, Edgar brings high-watt spotlights to the feathers. There’s so much going on, but let’s start with the fact that it’s going down the way it’s going down.
Edgar -- ever willing to fight, ever reluctant to do it at reduced weights -- has never used ordinary launching pads. He defeated Matt Veach to arrive at B.J. Penn for a chance at the lightweight title, in a bout that looked like a plank to ruin (it was, but not for Edgar). By no stretch of the imagination did Veach scream No. 1 contender bout, which is a point that’s been hashed over many times.
Then again, neither does back-to-back losses. This time Edgar dropped a decision to Ben Henderson in fight that many thought he won, after dropping a fight against Henderson that he was at least convinced he won.
Edgar didn’t win, not officially, but he ends up winning by not losing definitively. Some might say by losing imaginarily, but that’s spilled milk.
Is it hyperbole to say that Aldo/Edgar is the biggest fight between small men ever? In MMA, it looks like it to me. There’s nothing conventional in play here to bring these parties together. There’s just opportunity, timing, and ultra-violet marketing. The UFC loves the fight. So do we. It’s win-win. And it feels good to contemplate it in the aftermath of UFC 151, which is now dead and buried in the remote desert.
But there’s also a vibe of fleeting novelties here.
Susumu Nagao for ESPN.comIt's hard to imagine Frankie Edgar, left, sticking around featherweight if he loses to Jose Aldo.
Edgar, the undersized lightweight who confounded opponents with speed, now faces Aldo, who attacks like a staple gun. Edgar’s quicks are no longer unparalleled, not at 145 pounds -- and especially not against Aldo. That’s a leg-kicking frenzy dead ahead for Edgar. That’s long-limbed precision with deceiving force. Aldo can fly. And we all know that Edgar takes punishment better than about anybody else; he has a chin, and he can’t help himself from testing it. He’ll need it plus nine lives if he stands within Aldo’s range.
Aldo’s range is the exact dimensions of the Octagon. Edgar will be asked to do what only he can do and that’s to win somehow. Exactly how is the reason we tune in. His “how” has a way of fogging our lenses.
But you know what lends this thing a “superfight-ish” feel? There’s a pending sense of finality that will come with Edgar’s debut. Isn’t there a very real possibility that this might serve as Edgar’s only cameo at featherweight? Let’s face it: If Edgar loses -- as so many have predestined him to do, just check Twitter -- he’ll find himself not in one but two purgatories for belt contention.
If that’s the case, he isn’t hanging around a weight class he was nearly coerced into trying. His druthers will be 155 pounds, where he feels right at home. This could be one and done. That is, if Edgar loses. As we’ve seen, Edgar loses once in a while but never emphatically.
So, should he fight Aldo for five rounds in a back-and-forth affair that comes down to a pendulum round, where people will be divided on the outcome no matter what the judges' scorecards read? Hey, maybe Edgar brings his heart and the bottleneck down to featherweight. It’s what he do.
In any case, here we are again. Edgar fighting for a belt, in a fight that most think he’ll lose, this time in a country that is all but counting on it.
If the pride of Toms River, N.J., wanted to roll out a cliché, it might be one we’ve grown to count on. That is, “I got him right where I want him.”