Who wins the Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes main event at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, and how? What other fights stand out on the Fox Sports 1 card, and why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
It’s hard to pick a fight between two guys who look absolutely unbeatable when they’re fighting anyone not named Jose Aldo (or taking a fight on two weeks’ notice). Both Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes have continued to look head and shoulders above the rest of the contenders in their division (sans Aldo and McGregor) for quite some time now. This is about as legitimate of a number one contender’s match as you’re going to find in the sport.
Edgar is a truly fascinating fighter to watch. He’s one of the strongest pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, and way too tough for his own good. It was crazy to watch him pick up and throw guys around as a significantly undersized lightweight. He’s capable of doing the same as a moderately sized featherweight, and he could easily cut to bantamweight if he ever captured the title at 145 and wanted to try to become the first three division champion. Edgar just doesn’t lose when it comes to wrestling or scrambles.
Mendes is another fighter whose wrestling has translated well into MMA. The college All-American has a stocky frame that generates an immense amount of power. His center of gravity and natural strength make him next to impossible to take down. Unlike Edgar, his natural power has carried over into his striking, where he’s become one of the more devastating knockout artists at featherweight. Five of his last six wins have come via KO/TKO, including his last victory where he trucked top four ranked Ricardo Lamas in under three minutes.
Edgar is a sound, technical boxer who exhibits textbook footwork and head movement. He’s had a few knockouts (his fourth round TKO over Gray Maynard remains one of my favorite finishes in one of my favorite fights ever) in his career, but the majority of his wins come via decision. He controls the Octagon exceptionally well, using his striking to pick apart his opponents and set up the takedown. Mendes seems more content to stand and trade, as he’s pretty confident a firefight ends in his favor. This is where this fight gets really interesting. Mendes has never fought anyone with the ability to get under his hips and lift them over their head like Edgar can do. I could see Edgar doing the unthinkable and slamming Mendes to the ground to score points in top control.
However, Edgar has never fought anyone with the sheer one-punch power that Mendes has. Edgar has exhibited an insane ability to recover from absolutely devastating head shots and somehow come back to win rounds and fights. He’s one of those guys, much like Roy Nelson, that just won’t go down. But again, I could see Mendes doing the unthinkable, and finally landing a shot that puts Edgar’s lights out.
That’s what this fight really comes down to. Edgar seems to eat one huge shot a fight, can he avoid the power punches and work his points game to take a decision? Or even better, can he set up a takedown and neutralize the main advantage Mendes may have over him? In the event that their wrestling cancels out the ground game altogether, Edgar has five rounds of needing to avoid a game changing punch to get through. His slight reach advantage and utilization of the jab will help, but Mendes is used to having to close the distance. I don’t see Mendes being able to take Edgar down, but if he does, he’ll likely win the fight. This one’s really a coin flip. I’d take Edgar by decision, with the thought that he avoids a haymaker that ends his night, or has enough left to recover from at least one more punch that would put us mere mortals on the canvas.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m going with Edgar for primarily only one reason, cardio. Both fighters are really good, I give Mendes the edge in power and Edgar the edge in technique. I think it’s a pretty even fight, and one that either guy could win, but I think Edgar has the conditioning to go all five rounds and Mendes doesn’t. If Mendes doesn’t stop the fight in the 1st or possibly early in the second, his chances of beating Edgar drop by the minute. The problem is, it’s damn near impossible to stop Edgar in the 1st or 2nd rounds. So I think the fight plays out as Mendes takes the first two rounds, but then Edgar comes roaring back and gets the TKO stoppage in the fourth round, as Mendes tires.
As for other fights of interest, Edson Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson is the standout to me. Barboza has damaging kicks that end fights, but Ferguson has shown that he’s ready to take the next step. He’s on a roll and will want to use this fight as a springboard towards title contention.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I feel bad for Chad Mendes, I think overall he seems to be a very nice guy albeit a little corny at times but he’s going to get worked by Frankie Edgar. It’s unfortunate as Mendes will be 1-3 in his last four fights after he loses to Edgar on Friday night.
Mendes likes to talk about his new found power, but Edgar’s been hit by the best of them and kept coming. Also if you review the T/KOs that Mendes has had the highest ranked person he has a victory over has been Ricardo Lamas. Mendes hasn’t exactly been laying out elite competition.
In addition, to Mendes not being able to consistently beat elite competition, he has problems with fighters that actively use lateral movement. The best footwork we’ve ever seen Chad Mendes utilize was against Aldo under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig. Mendes can claim all he wants that the 2 week notice resulted in his demise against Conor McGregor. However, Mendes is a pressure fighter and McGregor forced Chad to back up and also threw an incredible volume of strikes when both men were upright. You know who also throws a high volume of strikes and is a come forward pressure fighter, Frankie Edgar.
Chad Mendes’ opponent is better in every category, Edgar has better footwork, wrestling/takedowns, and jiu jitsu. There’s a reason fighters in two different weight classes aren’t clamoring to fight Frankie Edgar (with the exception of a misguided B.J. Penn).
I pick Frankie Edgar to win in the fourth round by submission.
Other matches that are of interest to me are Edson Barboza versus Tony Ferguson. I think Ferguson is a tough stylistic matchup for Edson as well as a powerful striker. In Barboza’s fight with Paul Felder he showed he wouldn’t wilt under constant pressure like he did against Michael Johnson. However, I still question whether Barboza’s chin can hold up after sustaining a hard hit.
The other match that interests me is Joe Lauzon versus Evan Dunham as I’m just a fan of Lauzon’s style of fighting.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Such a great matchup, as this is about close to a championship fight you can get without having an actual title on the line. It isn’t far-fetched to see the fight going one way or the other, but I’m leaning more and more towards favoring the ex-lightweight champ. Edgar has taken his game to the next level since being turned away by Jose Aldo to the point that I would favor Edgar against either Conor McGregor or Aldo for the title if he continues to turn in similar performances. Mendes has the power advantage for sure, and should turn in a much more competitive fight than his teammate Urijah Faber did against Edgar, but I don’t see him being the man to be the first to put Edgar down for the count. Edgar scores the higher volume of strikes and takes the decision.
DAN MOORE, MMATORCH UK COLUMNIST
It’s a shame this fight is sandwiched between two other cards, because it’s a great match-up that has somewhat fallen under the radar. If Frankie Edgar is his old elusive self and his footwork remains excellent, I see no way for Mendes to win other than by lucky punch. Edgar is quick enough to stay out of reach and jab away at Mendes with enough combinations to wear him down. Mendes will slow down heading into the final rounds even if his cardio is better after a full training camp. If Edgar survives any scares in the early exchanges, the latter rounds are the time for him to score the points he needs to win. Edgar takes this one via decision.
Edson Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson is the other exceptional fight on this card. Losing Khabib Nurmagomedov to injury was a blow for the division, but it wasn’t for those who paid good money to be in attendance. Barboza will give as good as he gets, and he’ll be a bigger test for Ferguson than any of those faced en route to his current six fight win streak. It’s a 50/50 fight from where I’m sitting but I’ll stick my neck on the chopping block and predict a Barboza win via TKO.
[Frankie Edgar art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]