Unlike Urijah Faber, Frankie Edgar simply cannot lose at UFC Manila

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After exploding out of near obscurity late last year, the UFC’s featherweight division has been eerily quiet these past couple of months. In the aftermath of Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor’s cantankerous world press tour for UFC 178, and the utter demolition of Ricardo Lamas by Chad Mendes at UFN63, the top end of the weight class has been in a relative state of torpor.

Sure, Max Holloway’s graduation from prospect to contender after his stunning submission of Cub Swanson at UFC on Fox 15 made for compelling viewing, but by-and-large the previous status quo had temporarily resumed. Until now.

Fantasy match-up

Billed by some as a super-fight, in truth, the paring of Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber for the headlining bout of Saturday’s UFN66 in Pasay City, the Philippines, is more the realisation of a fantasy match-up. On this rare occasion, a hypothetical debate surrounding an inter-divisional showdown can be settled in reality.

For the fans, it’s a win-win scenario, but for the competitors, particularly one of them, there’s plenty at stake. While Frankie Edgar has wrung off three impressive wins – against Charles Oliveira, BJ Penn and Cub Swanson – since his unsuccessful tilt for Jose Aldo’s crown at UFC 156, falling short against Faber could do untold damage to the 33-year-old’s aspirations of another shot at UFC gold.

Undeniably, Faber is an incredible fighter, worthy of the utmost respect. However, he is moving up from bantamweight, and, having turned 36 today, is a considerable underdog. Thus, the California Kid can concentrate on the task at hand without the burden of expectation, but the bigger picture is likely weigh heavily on Edgar’s mind.

Featherweight landscape

With Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor set to go to war on July 11th in Las Vegas, the chance to be named the division’s next No 1 contender remains up for grabs. Chad Mendes and Max Holloway have placed themselves firmly in the running thanks to their recent exploits so, at the very least, Edgar must answer – no pun intended – those victories in kind.

Even then, the New Jersey native would almost certainly have to dispatch of either Mendes or Holloway to set up a re-match with Aldo. Or, indeed, what would be an intriguing encounter with McGregor. With the chasing pack significantly culled due to Cub Swanson, Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez falling by the wayside, now is no time to slip up. Whether or not a victory for Faber would see him emerge as a candidate remains to be seen.

Striking similarities

One of the most striking aspects of the bout is the parallels between the two; each are almost universally loved by fans; they are leading exponents of the evolutionary-path from wrestler to mixed martial artist and both have held titles in weight classes they would generally considered too small for.

Moreover, they share an unfortunate tendency towards losing when a title is on the line. All of Faber’s seven career losses have come in championship bouts, while just one of Edgar’s four, against Gray Maynard, was in a 15 minute contest. That said, each know the feeling of being top dog, and all the trappings that come with it.

Styles make match-ups

Considerable time has passed since either man has faced an elite wrestler inside the octagon, while the form continues to be the bedrock of each’s game. In terms of submission-grappling, a perusal of his record tells us Faber has a significant edge, though, according to FightMetric.com, Edgar has only been taken down once in his previous six outings, which may prove telling.

Few would debate that Faber has both power and speed in his punches, however, his footwork and, to a lesser degree, head movement, are noticeably rigid. The same cannot be said for Edgar. His perpetual, lateral shuffling and angular appreciation have become the hallmark of one the better boxing games in the sport. Poignantly, Faber struggles against evasive opponents, as evidenced by his second bout with Dominick Cruz.

Given that each could easily compete between 135-155lbs probably negates the chance of there being a marked size disparity, though that’s never stopped these guys in the past.

The year of the underdog

Major upsets have been en vogue in 2015 so a Faber victory would, at this stage, merely add to list. Ironically, Edgar has spent the majority of his career as the underdog, so who knows if he is as adept at anticipating an incoming banana skin as he is punches. If not, his road back to the top will be a long one.