Heading into the biggest fight of his young career, Frankie Edgar was considered a 7-1 underdog against B.J Penn. Edgar was supposed to be too small and outmatched in comparison to “The Prodigy” who may go down in history as the greatest lightweight in the history of the UFC. Yet, much like his previous bouts, the kid from Jersey proved his critics wrong and shocked the world in front of a sold out crowd of 11,008 in Concert Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Edgar’s in and out movements, quick striking and explosive takedowns earned him a unanimous decision victory over Penn in what could easily be dubbed one of the biggest upsets (at least betting line wise) the sport has ever seen. Now with the coveted UFC lightweight championship around his waist Edgar will look to hold on to the belt for a lengthy reign on his path to building a legacy. The first step was dethroning Penn. With that out of the way, Edgar must slash through his first challenger like the great champion he’s aspiring to become.
Edgar’s first title defense will expectedly be against either Gray Maynard or Kenny Florian. Maynard is unbeaten in the UFC and actually holds a dominant decision win over Edgar in a 2008 affair at UFC Fight Night 13. It was the only time to date where Edgar’s size disadvantage truly was a disadvantage as the bigger, stronger Maynard tossed the eventual lightweight champ around the Octagon like a rag doll.
“The Bully” might not be the most exciting fighter in the world, but he gets the job done. In his last five bouts, Maynard has defeated Nate Diaz, Roger Huerta, Jim Miller, Rich Clementi and Edgar. His latest victory over Diaz was not enough in the UFC’s eyes to warrant a title shot, which is why Edgar was chosen to fight for the title instead. But the fact of the matter is, Maynard dominated the current champion not long ago and that holds merit when it comes to selecting the next challenger.
It will also be quite intriguing to see how Edgar would fair in the rematch. Since losing to Maynard, Edgar has truly refined his game and evolved into the champion that he is today. Maynard was able to take Edgar down at will, but Edgar’s quick footwork has become his strongest asset so one can’t help but wonder if Maynard will even being able to catch Edgar this time around. To his credit, Maynard’s boxing has also improved leaps and bounds since that fight, but Edgar would hold a marked edge in speed and quickness.
Even if Maynard does take Edgar down, he is going to have to deal with the newly developed Jiu-Jitsu skills that Edgar has acquired training under Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almeida. Point being, both fighters have changed a lot since their first matchup, so a rematch will be a completely different fight.
That being said, it is not guaranteed that Maynard will be the next in line to fight Edgar anyway. The Xtreme Couture lightweight might have to go through Florian first in a number one contender bout before fighting Edgar for the title. Florian is coming off back-to-back submission victories over Clay Guida and former PRIDE champion Takanori Gomi since losing to B.J. Penn in a title bout at UFC 101.
Maynard vs. Florian seems like a logical matchup to determine a clear cut number one contender. The bout could take place sometime this summer, which would give Edgar a sufficient amount of time to rest and recover.
If Edgar gets past his first title defense against either Maynard or Florian there will be a long list of contenders waiting for the opportunity to challenge him for the belt. Fighters such as George Sotiropoulos, Tyson Griffin and Kurt Pellegrino are all waiting in the wings, not to mention former champ Penn who will likely look for a rematch as soon as possible.
Edgar certainly has his work cut out for him, but knowing the hard-nosed kid from Jersey, he is absolutely looking forward to the challenge. An exuberant Edgar summed up his win and the road ahead in his post fight interview. “This is it,” said the newly crowned champ. “B.J. is the greatest lightweight ever and I just beat him. I just hope I can be half the lightweight champion he was.”