Ben Fowlkes has a profile of UFC Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who defends his belt this Saturday in Japan against Ben Henderson, over at MMA Fighting.com. The focus is on how everybody seems to underestimate him.
According to the oddsmakers, that was true until very recently. The first time Edgar fought B.J. Penn for the UFC lightweight title, Penn was a 7-1 favorite. Even after Edgar beat him via decision to claim the belt, Penn was still somewhere in the neighborhood of a 3-1 favorite in the immediate rematch. Edgar won that fight too, this time even more convincingly than the first, but he was still a slight underdog when he defended the belt against Gray Maynard some four months later.
It wasn’t until the third fight with Maynard, which Edgar would go on to win via knockout, that he finally entered a title fight as the (slight) favorite. Even now, coming off arguably the biggest and most decisive win of his career, he’s just barely a favorite — currently hovering at -130, according to most oddsmakers — to beat Ben Henderson in Tokyo at UFC 144.
I’ve always been an Edgar fanboy and thought he was a lot better than people thought. Now here we are how many years later and somehow, despite having the most impressive resume of any Lightweight ever sans BJ Penn (who he beat twice), the guy is still somehow underrated and unsung.
I think it’s a combination of the fact that, as Edgar himself points out, he’s undersized for his weight class. Like his former nemesis BJ Penn at Welterweight, he walks around at or below the weight limit for his class. Unlike Penn, however, he has found more success in utilizing his speed and technique to overwhelm larger opponents while matching their strength. Like I’ve said before, it gets harder and perhaps more detrimental to cut weight as you progress to lower weight classes.
There’s also his proclivity for decisions, which draws the ire of many fans. It’ll take more than one stoppage to win them over.
But I don’t think too many people put that much thought into Edgar, because he doesn’t distract (or attract) them with boorish behavior, smack talk, an ego, or a manufactured personality. Which is a real shame.