Hey chaps, just a little breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of Frankie Edgar's much discussed stand up. Hope it brings something new to the table and that you don't mind clicking the link to HKL if you enjoy it.
Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, decreed that to win in boxing all that is required is speed; speed of hands to win exchanges, and speed of foot to dictate when they take place. Frankie Edgar has both of these qualities and as the UFC lightweight division's "Cinderella man" upset BJ Penn twice before having two back and forth matches with the gigantic wrestler, Gray Maynard. Frankie Edgar is always entertaining to watch, but he is never going to be a big draw such as Anderson Silva or his predecessor, BJ Penn were - he is neither a submission finisher or a knockout artist. What is unique about Edgar, however, is his method of taking apart lightweights - exploiting the same lack of striking confidence and experience in the lightweight division that Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz does in his own weightclass: a lack of ability to deal with lateral movement. Is it possible for Benson Henderson to out-strike Edgar? Of course. Will he actually out-strike Edgar? That remains to be seen, but the opportunities do exist to pick Edgar apart, it is whether Henderson's coaches have noticed this and whether he can focus when he is face to face with Edgar's perpetual motion style.
To understand how one might beat Edgar on the feet it is important to note his greatest successes and the times which he has shown weaknesses. In looking at Edgar's fight tape and record, nothing stands out more than his defeat of then number one lightweight in the world, BJ Penn. Penn was touted as a phenomenal boxer with a counter jab that jacked his opponent's head back, slick counter-punches and power which is rarely seen at lightweight. What Edgar exposed in Penn, however, was an inability to deal with lateral movement. Just as Nick Diaz does, Penn often stands in a boxing stance with his front foot turned in to maximize the reach on his dipping counter jab. This does, however mean that circling to the outside of this foot makes it hard for him to set up his punches and exposes the back of his leg for low kicks and his jaw for right hand leads. This circling is Edgar's modus operandi, and against Penn - whose dipping jab and emphasis on head movement is tailor made for inexperienced opponents who are willing to run straight at him, hoping to overwhelm him with combinations - it worked a treat. The fact that he kept having to turn and face Frankie meant that he was often unprepared from Frankie's own charging combinations.
Edgar's weakest showings on the feet have been his slow starts against Gray Maynard. Though traditionally not a big finisher (his only notable KO coming over himself), Maynard caught Frankie hard in the opening rounds of both of their title fights. In the first of these two title fights, at UFC 125, Edgar was caught with a slapping left hook, which did not carry a full rotation of Maynard's hips, but caught Edgar so off guard that it was enough to send him stumbling backward and almost cost him his hard earned UFC title. In watching this knockdown, Frankie is circling away from Maynard's left hand, then pauses as if he is ready to circle back the other way, in traditional Edgar fashion - unfortunately his right hand is down by his chest when he intends to change direction so he meets the full force of the left hook while leaning into it.
Edgar's habit of dropping his hands as he circles is a bad one, and while Penn was inadequate at chasing him, instead trying to bait him in, Maynard's aggressive pressure in the first rounds of both of their fights put him in position to punch into the space into which Edgar was moving. Circling into the left hook without adequate protection has produced some fantastic knockouts in the past, despite the hook lacking power it is hard to see coming and much of the force is provided by the opponent's movement into it. Here is Mitsuhiro Ishida, whose chin is fairly solid, circling into a short left hand of Hirota (the arm which Aoki went on to savagely break). Notice how Ishida is almost immediately out cold, and that the hole through which Hirota's punch entered was not especially large - Ishida could still be seen to have his hands up, but still lacked protection.