MANILA, Philippines – After a four-year wait, the UFC will finally crash Philippine shores with a main event that is worth the wait.
The “dream match” battle between Urijah Faber and Frankie Edgar on Saturday, May 16 will pit two of the best fighters from the lower weight classes against each other.
The Faber-Edgar duel has drawn hype similar to past super-fights like Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn, Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie and Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva.
Edgar stressed on numerous occasions that he would not turn down an opportunity to face Faber inside the Octagon, but Edgar shot down the idea of moving down to bantamweight, where Faber has competed since November 2010.
Faber opted to move up to the featherweight division, which has a weight limit of 145 pounds, to stage the long-awaited bout against Edgar.
To better understand this marquee match-up. Rappler presents a thorough analysis of each department and carefully weighs the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor.
Speed, size and power
The speed differential will not be much, but Edgar is coming into this fight as the bigger and stronger fighter because this five-round bout is set to happen at featherweight.
Edgar, who spent most of his career as a lightweight despite being undersized, has been competing as a featherweight since he unsuccessfully challenged Jose Aldo for the 145-pound division’s top prize in February 2013 and has now won three straight fights.
Meanwhile, Faber last fought as a featherweight when he lost to Aldo via lopsided decision five years ago, which forced him to return to bantamweight.
Although they have the same height, Edgar’s body frame is larger than Faber’s bantamweight physique and flaunts a 5 inch reach advantage.
Even if Faber has more stoppages under his belt, Edgar has the leverage in terms of power because in MMA, number of knockouts and submissions do not determine the strength of one fighter.
Statistically, Edgar is a 39% accurate striker and his success rate in scoring takedowns is 47% as compared to Faber’s 29% in both striking and takedowns.
Edge: Frankie Edgar
Faber is a bit more diverse in his stand-up attack as it revolves around his speed and athleticism, while Edgar is known for his sharp boxing combinations and correspondingly utilizes leg kicks.
Although both men have defensive flaws, there is a slight advantage to Edgar because of how he moves inside the cage.
Edgar’s footwork and head movement allow him to cut angles and unleash punching combinations to the head and body of his opponents.
In addition, his style calls for high-volume shots and persistent movement, which permitted him to stand toe-to-toe with the elite-level fighters like Penn, Gray Maynard, Benson Henderson and Aldo.
On the other hand, Faber’s striking game has come a long way, but he still relies on leaping in with single punches. He has good power in his right hand, but he tends to launch it too much, making it easier to detect.
Kicks are not a huge part of Faber’s skill-set, but he has decent leg and body foot-strikes if he needed to retaliate.
Edge: Frankie Edgar
Faber is no droop in the grappling department as he wrestled in college for University of California Davis and is recognized for his takedown attempts, often mixing up single legs, trips, tosses and throws to bring his cage counterparts down to the mat.
However, Edgar’s NCAA Division I wrestling background has translated astoundingly well to MMA as he has more variety of takedowns in his arsenal.
Edgar has excellent chain wrestling ability that allows him to score takedowns even if his first attempt is stuffed. Once he gets his opponents to the floor, he implements a superb top control and mauls them with ground-and-pound.
The 33-year-old native of Toms River, New Jersey has notably attained takedowns against the likes of Penn and Aldo, two of the best fighters with some of the best takedown defense in UFC history.
Meanwhile, Faber had trouble employing his grappling pedigree against foes who have above-average takedown defense such as Aldo and Renan Barao
Edge: Frankie Edgar
Faber’s submission game is another area where he truly shines as 19 of his 32 victories have come by way of tapout.
When Faber latches on his signature rear-naked choke, it is almost impossible to escape as he finished several fighters with the same submission hold, including Raphael Assuncao, Takeya Mizugaki, Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen and Alex Caceres.
On the other hand, Edgar has only four submission wins to his credit and was last seen in action this past November when he compelled Cub Swanson to wave the white flag with a neck crank in the fifth round.
Edge: Urijah Faber
How to win
It can be said that Edgar’s x-factor is his size advantage as he enters the Octagon as the bigger man for the first time in his ten-year professional run.
The speed difference between the two of them is virtually immaterial, which is why Edgar must use his size to his benefit to cut off the cage and coerce Faber to abide by the pace that he is going to dictate.
For Faber to win, he has to succeed in making Edgar a one-dimensional fighter and quash his combination of boxing and wrestling.
It will be difficult as it is to topple Edgar without forcing him into one or the other, but Faber’s competency in all areas could constrain his opponent and create small trenches to exploit.
What is at stake?
A shocking loss to Faber would derail Edgar’s aspiration to vie for the UFC featherweight title against the winner of the championship clash between Aldo and Conor McGregor on July 11 (July 12 in PH), while a win would cement his status as the next challenger.
If Faber claims an upset victory over Edgar, there is a possibility that he could be next in line for the UFC featherweight belt since he turned down the offer to face bantamweight titleholder and teammate TJ Dillashaw.
A disappointing setback to Edgar will break Faber’s undefeated streak in non-title fights.
Given that both fighters have the heart and the grit, Edgar’s striking mastery and grappling mastery will spell the big difference in this bout.
It is not inconceivable that Edgar could dominate the match if he can curb the key traits of Faber and walk away with a unanimous decision victory.
The only way I see Faber winning is if he is able to lock Edgar into one of his signature chokes.