HOUSTON - Call Frank Edgar small all you want, but the UFC's lightweight champion has more fight in him than pretty much anyone in the sport.
The diminutive Edgar was on shaky legs throughout much of the first round at the Toyota center, but bounced back in the next two rounds and scored a fourth-round TKO finish of Gray Maynard to retain his title in an epic close to the trilogy between the two fighters at UFC 136 in front 16,236 at the Toyota Center.
"That last time we fought, he hurt me in the first round. Maybe I just wanted to make it exciting," Edgar told UFC analyst Joe Rogan.
The first round tonight felt like a replay of their fight back at UFC 125 on Jan. 1.
Edgar got drilled by two huge uppercuts, his legs were wobbly for more than two and a half minutes and he was almost defenseless over the final 60 seconds of the round. Edgar made it to the stool, but his left eye was a mess and nose was bloodied badly.
"After the first round, I needed to listen to my corner and I did. Almost like a robot," said Edgar. During the postfight press conference, the champ said his head movement was awful in the opening round.
Maynard, trying to pace himself, took his foot off the gas pedal over the next two rounds. He allowed Edgar to regain his legs and get into a good rhythm with his striking. Maynard was walking through some solid shots by Edgar, but eventually they'd take their toll.
After Edgar failed on a takedown attempt in the fourth, Maynard left his head hanging and Edgar drilled him with a short right. Maynard was rocked and backed up. Edgar charged forward with right hook after right hook. Another bomb he landed sent Maynard into the cage and his hands dropped. That's when another hook landed on the button and down went Maynard.
"I took my chances in the final round after my right hand had him stumbling backwards. Right after the transition I was on him and closed the gap. I gave it as much intensity as I could give it," said Edgar.
Edgar jumped on top and Maynard went limp after a third left to the head. Referee Josh Rosenthal stopped it at the 3:54 mark. Maynard sat up seconds later and had no idea where he was or what just happened.
Edgar (14-1-1, 9-1-1 UFC) waited nine months to put the questions to rest. He and Maynard fought to a draw back in January. The first round that night was even worse for Edgar. In this one, he was outlanded 33-11 in the first stanza and looked like he was ready to go at any moment on at least three occasions. The fact that he survived the onslaught from the much bigger Maynard, had UFC president Dana White bringing up "Rocky" comparisons in the postfight.
Edgar is still one of the smallest fighters in the division. His non-fight night weight is barely above 160 pounds. Maynard was close to 175 on fight night.
Maynard admitted that he tired badly in that fight after trying to pour it on. That had to be in the back of his mind Saturday night as he failed to go for the kill in the second and third rounds. This was the first loss of Maynard's career (10-1-1).
There may bea day when Edgar decides he doesn't want to lock horns with these giants, but for now, who's going to tell him that he belongs at a lower weight? He's got the hardware. That should silence all the chatter.