Jose Aldo shaking Kenny Florian's hand at UFC 136. - Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting
UFC 156 promises superb action to accompany the featherweight superfight this weekend. If history is any indication, the 'don't blink or you'll miss it' principle should be in full effect, and these five fights explain why.
I'm in the minority about a lot of things, I find. Especially as I get older. I thought the Dark Knight Rises was all kinds of dumb and can't stand Bane's spinning inverted (?) superman punch (though it's a fun film in iTs own way). Wonder Showzen is better than Family Guy, and South Park (combined). And hockey is more exciting than football. Especially when this happens.
And so like everything else, I'm in the minority about Frankie Edgar. I think he should still be at LW. The fact that he was so competitive with the world's top LW's is evidence enough that he belongs there. There are few things sillier than having a debate about whether or not a division champ belongs in the one place he holds the gold in. But I get it. He's not dominating enough, and therefore makes the division feel stagnant...to which *I say*...but alas...
With those tears expunged, it'll be interesting to see how Edgar deals with someone as fast as he is. FW is a division still in flux. Would-be contenders are now out of the mix, with Erik Koch's eye still bleeding from the beating he received from Ricardo Lamas. Hatsu Kioki, meanwhile, didn't have enough extraneous hair to waive around arbitrarily in order to convince the judges of his 29-28 victory over Clay Guida. It's a little ironic that the man said to deprive the life of one division is now breathing life into another, but it'll prove to be a hell of a fight, so enough bickering.
What fights tell us the story of UFC 156?
It's probably true that Urjiah Faber is a better facsimile to Edgar than Florian, but I think Edgar and Florian share a much more important trait. Where Faber is erratic, Edgar and Florian are both calculating. Neither waste much energy. There are major differences in their game, but at the time, many saw Florian as Aldo's greatest threat.
This fight doesn't get enough credit for being so technically brilliant (especially in the brief exchanges on the ground). Aldo was never in trouble, but a mentally lesser fighter (or a fighter not as smart as Aldo I should say) would have succumbed to the technical pressure Florian was putting on in the first two rounds. Kenny mixed in his own array of leg kicks with well-timed takedown attempts. But what I think makes this fight interesting is that Aldo is great at scrambling; his fights take place on the feet because when fighters get deep on him, he's adept at swiveling to the side, or limp legging until he and his opponent end up in the clinch where he's as good as anyone else. But whereas that will work on the plodding wrestling of someone like Florian, I'm not sure it'll play out that way against Edgar.
I think Edgar will get takedowns. I don't think there's anyone else who can hit a double like Edgar, wrestling credentials be damned. It's Edgar's key to victory because he's doomed if he keeps it standing. If Aldo wins, it'll look like his fight with Florian, but with a brutal, decisive finish before the third round ever begins.
Watching Rashad Evans fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will likely be somewhat formulaic. Evans will pick his shots, landing a good portion of them, but most of the match will feel transitional. It'll go to the ground, back to feet, then back to the ground, rinse repeat. Despite making Rashad seem boring, I enjoy watching Evans fight. Still, I refer back to the Thiago scrap because Evans seems like he's always in danger of getting rocked at the last minute. ‘Lil Nog' doesn't have enough power to replicate that experience, but even if he does, expect the outcome to be the same. Evans is still an elite fighter. Nog-lite is not.
Overeem fans won't like this pick, but it's the perfect fight in terms of symbolizing the best, and worst in Alistair, which you can watch here. Antonio Silva is exactly the kind of guy Overeem doesn't want to be fighting passed the first round, assuming he's been able to eat his best shots.
Against Sergei, Overeem was blistering within the first few minutes. Indeed, the first two minutes are a good indication of what his match with Silva will look like. Bigfoot, like Sergei, is not great defensively, so he will take a few at some point. It's just a question of whether or not he can handle those punches.
Obviously, Overeem has changed over the years. He's gone three rounds since then, and toughed it out in K-1 against Tyrone Spong. But intangibles are much harder to change than muscle mass, so hopefully we learn more about Overeem's improvement against Silva.
Anytime these grappler vs. grappler fights occur, it's often disappointing. Why? Because grapplers feel like they have to turn into strikers in order to win. While I don't expect anything on par with Sakuraba/Newton, Tokoro/Callum, or Stevenson/Sotiropoulas, I do think Fitch will engage with Demian Maia on the ground at some point, and it might look like something like Fitch's match against Sanchez.
I forgot how fun this fight was. Especially Diego's cannonball sprint to start the match. Thankfully Maia is under no illusion that Fitch is a comparable grappler, so he'll do what he can to get the fight to the ground. I prefer Fitch, but he's prone to mistakes. Except unlike as he did against Diego late in the third round, don't expect Jon to just walk out of a locked triangle choke against Maia.
I don't have much to offer in the way of analysis with Ian's fight with Benavidez. It's gonna be a token flyweight scrap. I think McCall made some errors in his rematch with Johnson, but everything you need to know about McCall you can find in his fight with Darrell Montague here, who himself is likely UFC bound.