A first glance at the statistics of Frankie Edgar and Charles Oliveira might lead somebody to wonder why Edgar is considered such an overwhelming favorite. Both fighters have a similar ratio of strikes landed to strikes absorbed. Neither has shown significant knockout power. Edgar has displayed a better takedown game, but Oliveira has proven to be very slick on the ground. Why is Edgar such a massive favorite?
The answer, of course, is in the strength of opposition for both fighters. Consider Edgar’s last seven opponents: Jose Aldo, Benson Henderson, Benson Henderson, Gray Maynard, Gray Maynard, B.J. Penn, and B.J. Penn. That’s one of the toughest runs of opponents any fighter has ever had in the UFC. Against that level of opposition, Edgar has fought very evenly for the most part. By contrast, Oliveira’s last three opponents were Cub Swanson, Jonathan Brookins, and Eric Wisely. Those are not bad fighters, but they pale in comparison to the fighters Edgar has faced recently.
The other big difference I see between these fighters is that Edgar is much more mentally tough than Oliveira is. Edgar endured a ridiculous amount of punishment in the first round in both of his fights against Gray Maynard. Both times, Edgar rallied to prevent a loss. Compare that to Oliveira, who crumples the moment he’s hit with a hard strike. Both Swanson and Donald Cerrone finished Oliveira by hitting him hard and making him want out of the fight.
Edgar is not a hard hitter, but if he lands as many strikes as we know he can, it’s likely that he will make Oliveira want out of the fight again. If Oliveira gets off to a good start against Edgar, I’m confident that Edgar will come back strong and not give up easily.
Besides that, the reality is that Edgar is simply a better fighter than Oliveira. Oliveira is certainly more flashy, but Edgar is easily the better striker and wrestler on paper. It’s hard to think of how Oliveira will actually defeat Edgar.
The one thing I’ll say in Oliveira’s favor is that he is very slick and creative on the ground. By no means is Edgar easy to submit, but it’s a possibility that Oliveira could catch him in some kind of submission hold with some slick move Edgar hasn’t seen before. I don’t think that’s a strong possibility, but I’m not going to dismiss it either.
Other than that, this is Edgar’s fight to lose. I feel that Oliveira was chosen as Edgar’s opponent as something of a gift to Edgar. It’s clear that Oliveira hasn’t done anything to earn a fight against one of the top three featherweights in the world. If Oliveira can find a way to win, that will be huge for his career, but when I look at the way he matches up with Edgar, I don’t see how he gets the job done.
Pick: Frankie Edgar by decision