The opening fight of UFC Fight Night 25 will be a welterweight battle between TUF 12 contestant Justin Edwards and Wand Fight Team product Jorge Lopez. The debuting Lopez comes in at 11-1, and his fight history shows a lot of wins against decent/OK opponents. In fact, let me go straight to the Victory Scores of the fights of Lopez’s 10-fight winning streak.
- Brent Cooper – 65.28
- Joey Gorczynski – 62.29
- David Marshall – 62.24
- Dave Terrel – 59.87
- Jaime Fletcher – 58.64
- Waachiim Spiritwolf – 57.66
- Wayne Phillips – 57.41
- Lee Doss – 56.86
- Isidro Gonzalez – 49.43
- Chidi Njokuani – 44.44
While Lopez hasn’t been competing against poor competition (with the possible exception of Njokuani), he hasn’t been competing against great competition either. Beating fighters like Waachiim Spiritwolf consistently indicates that Lopez is a skilled fighter – fighters at Spiritwolf’s level know how to fight in MMA, and even if they’re below the UFC standard, it’s not easy to beat them all the time. But if one aspires to fight in the UFC, one needs to prove himself capable of beating high-quality opposition, and even though the Brent Cooper win barely qualifies as a “UFC-quality” win according to my own arbitrary cut-off line, Lopez has yet to prove that he belongs in the UFC.
Here’s the thing: the same can be said of Justin Edwards. Now, when Edwards competed on the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter, I ranked him as my #1 fighter and my pick to win the show going in, despite his being a replacement for Keon Caldwell. Edwards was 6-0, and on top of that, all of his wins were in the first round, with only one fight going longer than 80 seconds. Three of those six wins were against decent competition – Edwards began his career by defeating TUF 1 contestant Josh Rafferty, and followed up with a win against John Troyer in Bellator, and later against Dan Stittgen to win a four-man, one-night tournament. Usually, when a fighter can take out decent competition in such a quick manner, it’s an indicator that he could become a force to be reckoned with.
In Edwards’ case, it turned out to be less reckoning and more of a gimmick. Edwards fights by moving forward quickly, throwing power punches, mixing in power takedowns, and going for immediate, wild submissions. Against the less skilled adversaries of regional circuits, I have no doubt that it’s an excellent fighting strategy. Against UFC-quality competition, even lower-level UFC-quality competition like Tony Ferguson and Clay Harvison, it’s not a good plan. Both Ferguson and Harvison patiently avoided Edwards’ attacks, and Harvison capitalized on a badly gassed Edwards to end up winning a split decision.
Can Lopez survive the early Edwards onslaught? At this point, it’s impossible to tell; the only data on Lopez I have is his fight history, and while it’s slightly better than that of Edwards, there’s a real lack of information here. But situations like this are why I have SILVA in the first place, so let’s hand this one to SILVA for the prediction.
SILVA PREDICTION: JORGE LOPEZ (25.28) OVER JUSTIN EDWARDS (23.90)
If Lopez can emerge from the first round relatively unscathed and in good shape, he should be able to breeze from that point forward. If fights were five minutes long, Edwards would be a total force, but then again, everybody else would fight like Edwards if that was the case as well. Unfortunately for Edwards, UFC fights last 15 minutes, meaning that he needs to get the early finish, or he’s toast. SILVA is betting that Edwards will be toast.