Recently, news broke that Erik Koch was out of his UFC featherweight title match against Jose Aldo. As is often the case in the UFC, Koch has been replaced by a tougher opponent, as his replacement is none other than former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. I speculated before that Edgar would get one fight at featherweight before getting a title shot, and I believe that would have been the case if Koch hadn’t been injured. With Koch injured, Edgar is the obvious choice as a replacement. The featherweight division is sorely lacking for compelling challengers; Edgar makes for the best fight, and the most intriguing fight, in my opinion.
Now, Edgar has a good wrestling base, but by now, it should be obvious that takedowns are not the way to beat Jose Aldo. A look at Aldo’s profile on Fight Metric displays the utter futility of trying to take him down. Only three times has it been done in Aldo’s entire UFC and WEC career. Chad Mendes tried seven times in one round, and failed all seven times. Kenny Florian managed to land a takedown, but he failed all other 18 times he attempted one. Urijah Faber tried nine times, and failed all nine times. Mike Brown failed four times before being stopped early in the second round. There is nothing in Aldo’s fight history that suggests Edgar will succeed in landing takedowns where others have failed.
Striking against Aldo is not quite as futile. It’s not an easy task by any means – Aldo has landed more significant strikes than his opponent in 10 out of 11 UFC/WEC fights, and the one exception, Chad Mendes, was knocked out by an Aldo knee at the end of the first round. At the same time, there have been a few fights where Aldo is less than dominant in terms of striking volume. Particularly, Aldo’s three most recent fights have all been quite competitive:
SIGNIFICANT STRIKES LANDED
- UFC 142: Chad Mendes 13, Jose Aldo 11
- UFC 136: Jose Aldo 51, Kenny Florian 40
- UFC 129: Jose Aldo 94, Mark Hominick 71
To break it down to a round-by-round basis, in Aldo’s last 11 rounds fought, he’s landed more significant strikes in six of them. It’s quite conceivable that Edgar could beat Aldo by simply out-pointing him in at least three out of five rounds. Edgar’s chances of winning also increase if his high pace causes Aldo to fade in the championship rounds, as he did at UFC 129 against Mark Hominick.
But don’t get me wrong: Aldo absolutely should be the favorite to win this fight. For one, Aldo has a much better chance of winning by knockout than Edgar does. Aldo has 13 career wins by KO/TKO in 21 fights, and eight of those wins have taken place against tough competition in the WEC and UFC. By contrast, Edgar has won by KO/TKO just three times in 18 fights. And while Edgar has never been knocked out, he has been dazed and badly hurt by strikes before; it’s quite possible that where a fighter like Gray Maynard could hurt Edgar, Jose Aldo could finish him off.
Another thing that works in Aldo’s favor is his takedown defense. While I believe a fighter should not be awarded points for defending a takedown, there’s little doubt that consistently succeeding to defend takedowns can help a fighter win rounds on a judge’s scorecard. If Edgar, a fighter who usually attempts takedowns early and often, goes something like 1 for 16 attempting takedowns on Aldo, it could be what convinces the judges to score otherwise close and competitive rounds in favor of Aldo.
I’ll take another look at this fight on the week it happens, but at first glance, this appears to be a competitive match, but one that clearly favors Aldo. If Edgar puts on a high pace and focuses on boxing and out-pointing Aldo, he might be able to win a decision, and that gives him a better chance than Erik Koch or anybody else at featherweight in the UFC would have. But make no mistake about it: it’s just as likely that Aldo will out-point Edgar, and he has clear advantages with his striking power and takedown defense. Aldo is the pick to win, but Edgar is a live underdog and should not be dismissed.