At UFC 150 on Saturday, former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar gets another crack at Benson Henderson, only this time around Henderson is wearing the belt that Edgar wore when they first met. Can Edgar reclaim what was once his? Or has his day passed and the era of "Smooth" is truly upon us? Though predictions may vary on whether the "Answer" can defeat Henderson, one thing is certain: for the wars he's waged in the cage, sometimes dangling precariously over the edge of the abyss of defeat before finding the impossible win, he has thrilled us more than most fighters ever will. Win, lose or draw on Saturday, Edgar has made his mark on the sport.
Consider this about man from Toms River, N.J.:
When he first appeared in the UFC, it was for a fight that many others had turned down. Tyson Griffin was the opponent, and at the time (UFC 67), the word on the street was that Griffin was some sort of undefeated, unbeatable monster. Edgar smoked him, and earned a Fight of the Night bonus in the process.
When Edgar challenged B.J. Penn for the 155-pound belt, Penn was considered to be at the height of his dominance in the weight class. The former welterweight champ hadn't simply beaten all comers at 155 (since his loss to Jen Pulver years before), he'd destroyed them. In his rematch with "Lil' Evil", Penn treated him like a petulant jiu-jitsu white belt. In his fight against Joe Stevenson, he made the TUF winner into a bloody mess. He left Sean Sherk dazed on the canvas, had Kenny Florian tapping for mercy, and turned Diego Sanchez into an extra from "Dawn of the Dead". And then came Edgar, who out-hustled Penn for five rounds to take the decision. Was it a fluke? Obviously not, because in the immediate rematch, Edgar did it all over again, only this time he was totally and completely dominant.
There have only been a handful of champs in the lightweight division, with Penn's reign lasting the longest at 812 days. But having held the belt for 687 days, Edgar comes in at second, surpassing former title holders Sherk and Pulver (and current champ Henderson).
Flat facts and numbers and aside, there's something else to what Edgar has done in terms of leaving his mark. Where some fighters have made themselves memorable by dominant performances and finishes by knockout and submission, Edgar has been the one to come perilously close to getting TKO'd (by Maynard) or having a limb broken (by Griffin), only to rally back and win. The Answer has thrilled us — not just once, but many times. And in ten, maybe twenty years, when we tell our kids about how the UFC was "back in the day", the clips we'll show them will undoubtedly contain a few instances of Edgar on the verge of going to sleep, yet finding some way to survive and thrive.
Duane Finley over at Bleacher Report put it nicely with this bit here:
Over the past two years Edgar has built his reputation on resilience and resolve. The former champion displayed tremendous heart and perseverance in both of last year's fights with Maynard and then again after being rocked by Henderson in the third round of their first matchup in February.
It has been on the strength of these types of performances where Edgar has laid the foundation to his legacy and nothing has meant more to him than being a champion.
Who will come away with the belt when the main event at UFC 150 is over? I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that, when it comes to the history books, Frankie Edgar has already made his mark.