Rivalries: Frankie Edgar

By: Brian Knapp
Jul 22, 2020
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It could be argued that no fighter in mixed martial arts history has squeezed more out of his ability than Frankie Edgar, a contender with staying power who has pieced together a hall-of-fame resume across multiple weight classes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“The Answer” will attempt to close the book on a two-fight losing streak when he makes his bantamweight debut opposite Pedro Munhoz under the UFC 252 banner on Aug. 15 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Edgar, who has spent more time competing inside the Octagon (7:15:51) than any other fighter, last appeared at UFC Fight Night 165 on Dec. 21, when he succumbed to first-round punches from Chan Sung Jung. It marked just the second time that the former lightweight champion had been finished in his 32-fight career.

As Edgar moves towards his showdown with Munhoz, a look at a few of the rivalries upon which his reputation was built:

Gray Maynard

Maynard looked like the best 155-pound fighter in the world for five minutes, but he could not extinguish the considerable fire housed within his chief rival. Edgar retained his lightweight title in a hotly contested draw with “The Bully” in the UFC 125 headliner on Jan. 1, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, weathering a first round in which he was brutalized by nearly 100 power punches from the challenger. Two judges scored it 48-46—Glenn Trowbridge for Maynard and Marcos Rosales for Edgar—while Patricia Morse Jarman saw it as a 47-47 stalemate. That Edgar reached Round 2 was a monumental feat in itself. Clocked by a ringing left hook a little more than a minute into the match, he was on his heels for the remainder of the first period. Maynard appeared close to finishing it on a number of occasions, as he waylaid the champion with a relentless volley of punches, highlighted by a pair of wicked right uppercuts. Miraculously, Edgar stayed alive, even as he teetered on the brink. When asked what he remembered about the first five minutes, he replied, “Not much.” Maynard’s pace slowed noticeably in the second round, and Edgar crept back into the fight. His speed, footwork and quick combinations returned, along with a powerful slam that wowed the Sin City crowd. The back-and-forth encounter spilled into Round 3, where Maynard answered with power punches and a pair of takedowns of his own. Edgar secured two takedowns in the fourth and threatened his challenger with a standing guillotine choke against the cage. Maynard escaped and pushed the fight into the final round. There, Edgar utilized a variety of strikes—combinations, jabs and knees to the head and body—to keep Maynard guessing and the 155-pound belt around his waist. They traded blows at the end of it, providing a fitting finish to the second of three meetings between them, a classic rivalry bookended by two decisive victories for Edgar: a three-round unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 13 and a fourth-round technical knockout at UFC 136.

Henderson twice got by Edgar with the 155-pound title on the line. (Photo: Sherdog Staff)

Benson Henderson

In a riveting five-round battle that showcased the best and most endearing qualities of both men, Henderson dethroned Edgar and captured the lightweight championship in the UFC 144 main event on Feb. 26, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. All three cageside judges scored it for Henderson: 49-46, 48-47 and 49-46. The MMA Lab standout leaned heavily on powerful kicks to the legs and body of the champion. To his credit, Edgar pinned many of them between his arm and body, but they served their purpose nonetheless. Late in the second round, Henderson permanently altered the complexion of the 25-minute affair, as he delivered a searing upkick from his back to Edgar’s exposed face. The New Jersey native crumpled where he stood and Henderson leaped into action, seeking to secure his patented guillotine choke. Edgar avoided further danger, but the damage was done and it was considerable. Rounds 3, 4 and 5 unfolded into a beautiful tapestry of skill and will between two of the 155-pound division’s premier fighters. His left eye nearly swollen shut and his nose badly damaged by the upkick, Edgar never went away. However, Henderson connected with more strikes of consequence—he outlanded Edgar 87-68 in terms of significant strikes and 100-81 in terms of total strikes—and unleashed his guillotine once more in Round 4. Again, Edgar freed himself. Henderson was not surprised. Neither champion nor challenger held back in the fifth, as the indomitable Edgar cracked Henderson repeatedly with short, straight punches. Henderson provided his retort late in the frame with a jumping knee and followed Edgar to the ground in the closing seconds, working for a guillotine one last time before settling for a decision.

They locked horns again some six months later at UFC 150, where Henderson escaped with a contentious split verdict, cemented his reign atop the 155-pound weight class and prompted Edgar’s move to featherweight.

Edgar beat Penn three times in three opportunities. (Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com)

B.J. Penn

An undersized contender who had been urged by many to change weight classes ended the reign of the sport’s most dominant lightweight in the UFC 112 co-headliner on April 10, 2010 at the Ferrari World Concert Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Edgar used his speed, movement and a pair of takedowns, as he outpointed Penn to claim the undisputed lightweight crown. Scores were 50-45, 48-47 and 49-46, all in Edgar’s favor, as he authored what went down as one of the biggest upsets of 2010. The decision continues to inspire debate in the mixed martial arts community, though Penn, bearing bruises under both eyes, seemed resigned to defeat as he awaited the decision from the judges. The longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt had not lost as a lightweight in more than eight years. Edgar grounded the Hawaiian with authority and punctuated his stunning triumph with a strong fifth round. There, he consistently beat the champion to the punch and stayed out of danger. Edgar utilized feints and a multi-pronged standup attack throughout the competitive five-round encounter. Penn landed the more powerful punches but never shook the challenger, who appeared unfazed by the pound-for-pound great’s considerable aura. Penn again relied heavily on his stiff left jab and flurried late, but he seemed to slow noticeably after chasing Edgar for the full 25 minutes.

While their first encounter was considered controversial, two subsequent rematches were not. Edgar dominated “The Prodigy” to a unanimous decision at UFC 118, then stopped him with third-round punches at “The Ultimate Fighter 19” Finale. Advertisement
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