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Sunday, January 2, 2011
Frankie Edgar earned respect in draw

By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar retained his title Saturday night, coming away with a draw against Gray Maynard. But forget the outcome for a minute -- Edgar showed how great a champion he truly is at UFC 125.

There was no reason to believe Edgar would retain his title after a disastrous opening round in which Maynard dropped him several times. By all accounts, Edgar should never have seen the second round.

It seemed that every punch Maynard (11-0-1, 1 no contest) threw found Edgar's chin. Maynard never looked more dominant than in that first round. He appeared too big and too strong for the undersized Edgar. But on this night, Edgar (13-1-1) demonstrated that it will take more than size to wrestle the title from him.

Edgar survived the onslaught and before the horn sounded to end the first round, he sent Maynard a small message with a straight right hand.

He let Maynard and every one of the 12,688 people in attendance at MGM Grand Garden Arena know that this one was far from over.

Edgar altered his fight plan in Round 2. He began throwing a few more kicks. He started throwing a few more combinations. And, most important, he became more elusive.

The diminutive champion, who most would agree should be competing at 145 pounds, was no longer there for Maynard to hit. And each time Maynard threw a punch and missed, Edgar countered with quick left-right combinations.

He would go on to win each of next three rounds on the scorecards of judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Marcos Rosales.

Rosales would score every round but the first for Edgar. He had Edgar winning 48-46. Jarman had the fight even at 47, while Glenn Trowbridge favored Maynard 48-46.

Maynard defeated Edgar by unanimous decision when the two first met in April 2008. During that fight, Maynard used his superior size to take Edgar down repeatedly.

That would not be the case in their rematch. Edgar kept this fight mostly on the feet. And with Maynard exerting much of his energy in the opening round, Edgar had little difficulty stuffing takedown attempts.

"I threw too many punches in the first round," Maynard told ESPN.com. "I had him hurt several times in that round and tried to finish him.

"I punched myself out after Round 1. I was feeling it."

Against Edgar, a tired fighter has little to no chance of success. This champion never tires.

Edgar made Maynard work much harder than the challenger wanted to after that opening round. It would prove to be a key element in Edgar retaining his crown.

By the end of the fight, many in the pro-Maynard crowd began chanting "Edgar! Edgar! Edgar!" Once again, the underdog champion proved he is not to be underestimated.

Maybe fans are beginning to appreciate the heart of this champion. But the crowd's response came as no surprise to UFC president Dana White, who shortly after the bout told ESPN.com that Edgar will make his next title defense against Maynard.

"He shows it in every fight," White told ESPN.com. "In the lead-up to this fight I talked about how this kid doesn't get the respect he deserves.

"He was a huge underdog coming into this fight. This guy beat B.J. Penn twice, beat him worse the second time than he did the first time. Then he comes into this fight and gets dominated in the first round, gets rocked several times and then comes back to pull this fight out. I consider a draw a win for [Edgar] tonight."

Edgar has been underappreciated for so long that the sign of respect he received Saturday night had no impact on him. The respect and love he gets from those closest to him is enough.

"I've said it many times: I am not in this for people to respect me," Edgar told ESPN.com. "As long as my friends and family respect me, that's all that matters."

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.