By Jaime C. Feal
Frankie Edgar, the former UFC lightweight champion, makes his first appearance at featherweight and gets the honor of challenging the champion Jose Aldo. Easily Aldo’s biggest test inside the Octagon, this fight is being dubbed as a “superlight” by the UFC. Quite frankly, they have to call it that, as they are giving an immediate title shot to Edgar when he’s never fought at featherweight before. Edgar has always been undersized as a lightweight, however, and could pose some serious threats to Aldo’s title. Also on the card is a heavyweight collision between Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva. UFC President Dana White has said should Overeem win this fight he will receive a title shot against Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (36-11, 1-0 UFC) vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (17-4, 1-1 UFC)
Overeem makes his return to the Octagon after a long suspension due to a positive test for PEDs. He faces an equally enormous heavyweight in Antonio Silva, and one that has also been linked to PEDs in the past. “Bigfoot” Silva resurrected his career with a win over Travis Browne in his last fight, whereas Overeem hasn’t been seen in the cage since he TKOd Brock Lesnar in December of 2011.
The question of cage rust could be a factor, as Bigfoot is in form and active, and Overeem has been just the opposite. Vegas has instilled Overeem as a massive 4:1 favorite in this fight, but there could be good value here in picking the underdog. The fight is actually a lot closer than one might imagine. Let’s examine.
Overeem is a world-renowned kickboxer with ferocious power in his fists, legs, and knees. If this fight remans standing he will have a clear advantage over Bigfoot. That is what Vegas is banking on, but Silva knows his recipe for success is the ground game, and that is what has given Overeem problems in the past. Bigfoot is best when he is taking down opponents and smashing their face in, as he did to Fedor Emelianenko. He could also test Overeem’s submission defense, as Bigfoot is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This fight ultimately comes down to who can impose their will and dictate where the fight takes place: Overeem wins by knockout in the fight remains standing, but Bigfoot pulls off the upset if he can take it to the ground.
Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.):
Rashad Evans (17-2-1, 12-2-1 UFC) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5, 3-2 UFC)
There has been much talk about Rashad Evans moving to the middleweight division after the fight, possibly to challenge Anderson Silva for the title. Vegas has instilled Evans as a big favorite in this fight, completely overlooking Rogerio Nogueira. Evans still has a lot to do to prove he is an elite fighter deserving of another title shot. Yes, Evans briefly held the light heavyweight strap, but his win was over Forrest Griffin, one of the biggest journeymen to ever be champion. Evans got knocked out in his first defense against Machida, and when he was given another title shot against Jon Jones, he was handled easily.
Nogueira, a veteran of the sport, is a complete mixed martial artist with solid striking and excellent jiu-jitsu. While he doesn’t posses the one-punch knockout power of Evans, he has crisp and technical boxing. Evans utilizes more leg kicks, and has way more power, so we’ll give “Suga” Rashad the slight edge in striking. Evans, the superior wrestler, can probably take down Nogueira whenever he wants.
The question is how often he will want to jump right into the extremely dangerous guard of Nogueira. He could be opening himself up to a triangle or armbar submission if he does so, but Evans is also a veteran of the sport, and has made a habit out of passing the guard and pounding on opponents. This fight figures to go the distance as both fighters are gritty, well-rounded and durable.
UFC Featherweight Championship (145 lbs.):
Jose “Scarface” Aldo (21-1, 3-0 UFC) vs. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (15-3-1, 9-3-1 UFC)
Aldo looks to continue his reign as the first and only UFC featherweight champion as he takes on Frankie Edgar, who is moving down from the lightweight division. A former titlist in the 155 lb. division, Edgar brings speed, quickness, energy, cardio, footwork, head movement, and great wrestling to every fight he’s in. What Edgar has consistently lacked is one-punch knockout power, and he is hoping the drop down to 145 lbs. will add some wallop to his punch.
He will need any advantage he can get, as he faces an explosive, confident fighter in Aldo, one that has not lost since way back in 2005. Aldo, a BJJ black belt from the famous Nova Uniao camp in Brazil, is also a vicious Muay Thai striker. His double-flying knee KO of Cub Swanson was one of the sickest knockouts in WEC history, but Aldo has also proven he can methodically and systematically break an opponent down with technical striking. In his fights against Urijah Faber and Kenny Florian he showed his ability to dictate the terms of the fight, and I expect Aldo to employ a similar strategy on Saturday night.
Expect Aldo to be very calculated with his striking, taking well-timed risks, but never getting overly aggressive unless Edgar is clearly hurt. Frankie has to get this fight to the ground and start beating on Aldo. “The Answer” must sap Aldo’s cardio and test his conditioning. Remember, Mark Hominick, a kickboxer with limited wrestling, was able to take down Aldo and control him for nearly an entire round in a title fight. Edgar needs to mix in as many takedowns as possible, and if he succeeds in getting Aldo down, this fight turns out to be extremely close. Jose Aldo has excellent takedown defense, especially at the start of the fight when his gas tank is full, so this will be no easy task for Edgar. Will Jose Aldo continue his dominance of the featherweight division, or will Frankie Edgar become one of the few men in UFC history to have captured a title in two separate weight classes by upsetting the champ? Tune in tomorrow night to find out.