UFC: Fan favourite Frankie Edgar vows to reclaim lightweight crown
As title fight fever hits Denver we preview this weekend’s UFC 150, find out who has stepped up to face welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger at UFC 151 and look at the reasons why one mma vet may have become more media savvy of late…
Hot on the heels of the UFC’s latest Fox offering the Las Vegas based promotion hurtles into the high altitude surroundings of Denver, Colarado where Frankie Edgar will attempt to reclaim the lightweight crown he held for almost two years. Current champ Benson Henderson will present Edgar with an almighty challenge, but is it a step too far for New Jersey’s favourite son? Perhaps the answer (pardon the pun) lies in last weekend’s main event…
Frankie Edgar and “Shogun” Rua are two firm fan favourites, essentially because they invariably put it all on the line and let the chips fall where they may. Arguably both men are fighting above their proper weight class. Edgar perhaps should be competing at bantamweight (our own Brad Pickett walks around at 160lbs) and so neither man relies on bulk or excessive weight cutting to tilt fights in their favour. Both men are proud martial artists, who prefer to go out on their shield rather than put on boring displays. Unfortunately both men have taken too much damage in the course of their careers to date.
“Shogun” has already begun to show the scars of war in terms of his levels of performance in the cage. Against Brandon Vera he looked lethargic and essentially laboured to a routine victory, which the Rua of old would have seized with aplomb in his Pride FC heyday. Frankie Edgar’s career is travelling a similar course. In recent wars against Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson last time out Edgar was noticeably the smaller man and took shots that would have crumpled a horse. Sooner or later such fan friendly wars of attrition take their toll.
I believe that his weekend’s title rematch will unfold in a similar manner to their first meeting in February. Edgar may arguably be a better technical fighter than Ben Henderson, with beautiful footwork and excellent timing but when the differential in technique is marginal, size and strength make all the difference. I don’t believe that Henderson has the tools to dispose of Edgar within the distance but I predict he will edge the judges’ scorecards in a hotly contested affair.
The evening’s co-main event bears all the hallmarks of an old fashioned high noon gunfight. Especially apt since it pits one Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone against former training partner “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard. This should be a real humdinger with Guillard’s power-punching a danger to any man alive at 155lbs. Cerrone is a true artist in the stand-up realm. He oozes textbook technique with a nasty snap featuring in all of his offensive forays. This should be one for the highlight reel. The difference when all is said and done will be Cerrone’s all round game. Whilst both men will endeavour to put on a striking clinic I believe that Cerrone will tire of engaging with Guillard on the feet. Cerrone has spoken this week of wanting to put on a show for his home town fans especially since he and Guillard are the best of friends. I think such meanderings will disappear into the thin Denver air once Guillard’s combinations start flowing. After an entertaining back and forth first round I expect Cerrone to submit Guillard via whatever he wants midway through the second stanza.
Flittering through future cards a few weeks ago, Josh Koscheck versus Jake Ellenberger was a match-up that I was genuinely looking forward to. Unfortunately, that bout was withdrawn on Tuesday of this week following the news that Koscheck has suffered a bulging disc in his back. With the event little over three weeks away it was entirely possible that Ellenberger would have been removed from the card. However, UFC and Bellator vet Jay Hieron has stepped up to face Ellenberger and I for one am equally interested in seeing this one. Hieron has been performing at a high level outside the UFC for almost seven years and it will be a real litmus test of where he is at as a fighter when he faces Omaha’s Ellenberger in the Mandalay Bay. Hieron belongs in the UFC but whether a three week turnaround to share the cage with a fighter of Ellenberger’s calibre is sufficient, only time will tell.
As the sport of MMA continues to grow fighters have increasingly realised that it is not all about what your record states. Who you fight, how you perform (even in a loss) and how you interact with the general public are all critical factors in exploiting that elusive and brief window of opportunity in a fighters career. Jon Fitch is one fighter who has went about his business with an unassuming blue collar work ethic and searing efficiency in the cage. Not one for sound-bites or trash talking Fitch got on with the task in hand and let the results speak for themselves. A perennial welterweight contender and mainstay in anyone’s top ten rankings for many years Fitch’s stock took a major hit when he suffered a flash knock out against Johny Hendrick’s on the high profile Lesnar v Overeem card.
At 34 Fitch knows that the time to make hay is now and he has been uncharacteristically vocal this week in reference to MMA icon BJ Penn. Penn had sounded out the possibility of training in San Jose with Javier Mendez, “Crazy” Bob Cook et al in recent weeks and Fitch allegedly blocked such a move. He proceeded to make his feelings on the former 170lb champion abundantly clear on a conference call earlier this week:
“He’s a coward. He wouldn’t be welcomed here”
Fitch may see a second meeting with Penn as a pathway to future marquee match-up’s in the Octagon. How Hawaii’s finest reacts to being called a coward remains to be seen.
Join us for some insightful interviews in the coming weeks as the countdown to UFC Nottingham continues…
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