Oh MMA math, please don’t fool me now. You’ve always been such an exact science (not really).
But when trying to evaluate tonight’s main event between featherweights Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes, it’s nearly impossible to ignore their one common opponent: champion Jose Aldo.
Edgar and Mendes are near mirror images of each other. Both are on the stockier side of the 145-pound limit, both come from wrestling backgrounds, and both have seamlessly adapted boxing into their mixed martial arts repertoire. They both also happen to have a connection to bantamweight contender Urijah Faber. But whereas Mendes spends his days in the training room with the former WEC champion, Edgar dominated Faber earlier this year in Manila, manhandling “The California Kid” throughout five rounds.
Sure, these comparisons don’t help to determine who has an edge in tonight’s main event. They’re just statistics. And while Edgar’s experience in seven straight title fights from 2010-2013 would seemingly give him an edge, Mendes is no slouch with three championship bouts on his resume. Albeit Edgar did actually hold the title for 687 days, Mendes has never touched gold.
This analysis of facts and figures has hit a stalemate; both Edgar and Mendes can fight, in every aspect of the MMA game. Sure, Frankie may own better Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credentials, but mixed martial arts is not grappling—there will be no gis allowed inside the Octagon. And although some experts point to Mendes’ power punching advantage, Edgar throws volume at such a rate that he might as well be an honorary Diaz brother.
More than any other bout on this weekend’s trio of fight cards, the Edgar-Mendes scrap will come down to intangibles, as opportunities unfold during competition. And with 29 UFC bouts between them, Edgar and Mendes have plenty of experience to draw upon. But without a doubt, the lingering memories that both contenders carry with them tonight will be of their bouts against Jose Aldo. He is, after all, their only common opponent.
Back in February 2013, Edgar dropped down to 145 pounds for the first time after a failed bid to reclaim his lightweight belt from Benson Henderson. Already a long-time champion, the UFC granted him an immediate title shot against Aldo. Many thought it was a winnable fight for Edgar (they all are, right?), but after five rounds, the judges awarded Aldo his fourth title defense.
His UFC 142 KO loss to Aldo aside, Mendes put on one of the more memorable performances of 2014 during his UFC 179 decision loss the Aldo. The bout was a back-and-forth affair, with both fighters doing serious damage on the feet. And looking at how they fared against Aldo, it’s easier to understand how Edgar and Mendes match up.
Or is it?
In reality, very little can be determined from these fights, and when the two collide tonight, it’s going to be super fast-paced action, inside the smaller Octagon nonetheless. Maybe the cage will favor Mendes, who competed eight times for the WEC and knows how to implement his game within the cozier confines of the 25-foot diameter. But again, that Aldo fight proved that Frankie has no trouble boxing it out in close spaces.
It would be nice to draw upon their one common foe more, but Aldo’s dynamic arsenal of leg kicks, which gave both fighters trouble and slowed down their offense significantly, cannot be duplicated. In fact, neither Edgar, nor Mendes have ever been much for kicking attacks. They’re a pair of hands-first combatants.
One thing that the Aldo bouts do confirm about Edgar and Mendes is that they’re both able to recover fast following knockdowns. Aldo dropped them both, but couldn’t finish either (again, UFC 142 aside; you know, cage grab and all).
And it is because of this ability to return to their feet and withstand damage that neither will stop the other tonight—batter yes, but finish, no.
Instead, this bout will look very much like the old Chute-Boxe method. Edgar and Mendes will punch first, clinch second, and follow with takedown attempts and ground strikes. It will be close, like razor-thin close after five rounds. And while there’s no definite title shot on the line here (the featherweight division is just too stacked right now, and with McGregor and Aldo looming it’s impossible to make such prediction), the winner of this bout will emerge from the shadows as the rightful number-one contender.
So strap in for a barnburner, because Frankie and Chad will deliver five-rounds of non-stop, toe-to-toe action.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.