Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on ESPN 15’s Frankie Edgar

Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on ESPN 15’s Frankie Edgar


Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight kingpin, Frankie Edgar, will make his Bantamweight debut opposite submission ace, Pedro Munhoz, this Saturday (Aug. 22, 2020) at UFC on ESPN 15 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Many fans of Edgar have been hoping for a drop in weight class for years. Really, after he lost to Jose Aldo the second time, the moment seemed perfect. The problem, however, was that Edgar remained an elite Featherweight, a man who would go on to batter Yair Rodriguez and fight for the title yet again. Two losses in a row have finally sent Edgar to 135 pounds, but is it too late? The former champion is now 38 years old, which is especially damning at small weight classes. He’s not been given an easy opponent, either, so this is really a pivotal moment for the legend.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Edgar was one of the first fighters to really take advantage of constant lateral movement. Edgar is always changing direction and feinting, trying to gain small angles against his opponents before bursting into combinations or takedowns.

A pretty huge portion of Edgar’s striking is built off the threat of the takedown, blending his wrestling and his boxing like few others. If his opponent doesn’t respect the takedown threat, he’ll be on his back before long. Whereas if he does, Edgar will threaten with a potential shots and instead land punches.

To further muddy the waters between takedowns and punches, Edgar commonly digs punches into his opponent’s body. This makes the level change an offensive weapon rather than just a feint, and it also can chip away at his opponent’s conditioning, widening his usual advantage. In addition, Edgar reads his opponent after the body shot, either running through a takedown or coming back up high with punches depending on the available openings (GIF).

UFC Fight Night: Edgar v Faber

Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Edgar is constantly pumping out a jab as he circles his opponent, using it both to judge the distance and to snap his opponent’s head back when he commits to it. The jab is also a big part of Edgar’s wrestling arsenal as he steps into the single leg/knee pick off the jab (or double jab) often. Against Faber in particular, Edgar used the jab and jab feint well to draw counters, only for Edgar to instead kick the lead leg or dig a left hook to the body.

Besides the jabbing, Edgar will suddenly come forward with fast combinations. Edgar attacks with a healthy mix of straight punches, hooks and uppercuts, usually varying his offense up-and-down his opponent’s body (GIF). After landing, Edgar does a nice job exiting safely, either by backing away at an angle, with some head movement, or both (GIF).

Edgar likes to double up on punches, usually the left hook. With his pair of hooks, Edgar will either throw both high or go to the body and then come up. This quick pairing of strikes is unexpected and can catch his opponent off-guard, or simply allow Edgar an easy opportunity to circle out.

Disguising punches behind the threat of the takedown is not a new idea, but Edgar does it extraordinarily well. Most of his boxing entries can also be used to shoot a takedown, which makes reacting correctly a difficult task. Plus, Edgar can use basic level change feints to land a strong overhand.

Edgar also creates openings to land punches from failed takedowns. Most notably, Edgar knocked out Gray Maynard after catching his rival off-guard immediately following a sprawl (GIF). Edgar looks for this type of strike often, as even a missed follow up can give him an opportunity to hit a reshot.

UFC 200: Tate v Nunes

Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

One of the more notable improvements to Edgar’s game over recent years is likely his kicking improvements. More often, Edgar will punctuate his combinations by running into a low kick, particularly against an opponent looking to pivot around him like Aldo.

For all his success, Edgar’s style definitely has its downsides. In addition the struggling with low kicks and getting jabbed on his entrances — which is largely how Holloway denied his title bid — all of that movement is dangerous for Edgar as well. If his opponent catches Edgar at the end of a punch while Edgar is circling into the strike, “The Answer” is in a tough spot. Maynard did this numerous times in their last two bouts, and he also timed a few of Edgar’s level changes with uppercuts as well. More recently, Brian Ortega began his finishing sequence by timing an elbow as Edgar burst forward.

Wrestling

A successful wrestler in both high school and college, and Edgar currently helps coach the Rutgers wrestling team. Edgar has always been a pretty solid wrestler, but his game really became much more successful when he perfected his striking and wrestling transitions. In addition, the potential of out-wrestling foes seems even greater now that he’ll be fighting more similarly sized foes.

The signature Frankie Edgar takedown is the running single-leg takedown. Often set up by the body jab, Edgar will dip forward, extend his left hand to the shoulder, and grab behind his opponent’s knee. As he runs his legs forward, Edgar pulls the knee off the mat and pushes the shoulder, off-balancing his foe and often creating an easy takedown.

In addition to his aforementioned single leg set up, Edgar is very effective with his double leg (GIF). While he’ll occasionally uses it to punctuate his combinations — takedowns set up by body punches-head punches-takedown, and most other low-high-low combinations, are very effective — Edgar uses the double as a reactionary shot more often. If his opponent is simply trying to walk him down, often out of frustration, Edgar will simply blast through him (GIF).

Edgar somehow manages to be the smaller man in every fight, but he nonetheless very successful at throwing his opponents around in the clinch. Whenever Edgar can secure an underhook, he digs it deep and spins his opponent around, tossing him to the mat. Overall, Edgar is simply very good at creating pressure with whatever grip he has. For example, Charles Oliveira tried to use an underhook to hit a takedown but ended up smashing into the canvas face-first, as Edgar hit a hard whizzer to defend.

UFC 162: Edgar v Oliveira

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Finally, Edgar uses the front headlock very well to snap his opponent down. More often than not, he uses the grip of an arm-in guillotine, rather than a traditional wrestler’s grip. From this position, Edgar pressures down on his opponent’s neck and breaks his posture.

Edgar’s top game is very dependent upon his ability to establish position. At Featherweight, he’s found more success in trapping foes beneath him, and as a result he’s been able to really let loose with his ground strikes as a result (GIF).

Edgar is very quick to move into his opponent’s half guard. From there — and from top position in general — Edgar will land hard elbows at a pretty high pace. Edgar is not blessed with extraordinary punching power, but just about anyone can throw a hard elbow, and elbows tend to add up quicker than punches. Considering Edgar’s high output, this means Edgar can quickly deliver a significant amount of damage.

Given the opportunity, Edgar will cut through his opponent’s guard and usually look to move into mount. From there, Edgar is quick to posture up and slam down punches or elbows. His aggression can allow his opponent to get some type of guard back, but Edgar will just keep working from there and eventually pass again.

UFC 125: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard

Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Against larger and occasionally better credentialed wrestlers, Edgar has been able to defend a vast majority of his opponent’s takedowns. Using his front headlock and sprawl, Edgar weighs on his opponent until he can safely return to his feet or hit a re-shot. In addition, Edgar’s ceaseless lateral movement makes lining up a takedown difficult.

When he is taken down, Edgar is rarely held down for long. He’s competent at wall-walking, using his wrestling to scramble into a stand up, and using butterfly hooks to elevate his opponent to stand. Above all else, Edgar just never settles on his back. Since his loss to Maynard, Edgar has not been out-wrestled, proving his development in their pair of rematches.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Edgar is a black belt under Ricardo Almeida and a well-rounded grappler. Though Edgar is not particularly aggressive with his submission attempts, he will chase his opponent’s neck if he feels a finish is possible.

The most active submission in Edgar’s arsenal is the arm-in guillotine, which happens to be an Almeida specialty. Edgar has pulled guard with the choke in an attempt to finish before — notably against Gray Maynard — but will also use the hold to control his opponent and prevent stand ups.

In his first bout with Swanson, Edgar was clearly desperate for a finish of any kind. He rotated between quite a few dominant positions as Swanson tried to survive, threatening with an arm triangle at one point. Then, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Edgar simply wrapped his arms around Swanson’s jaw and squeezed. It wasn’t pretty, but it secured the neck crank finish.

UFC Fight Night: Edgar v Swanson

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

From his back, Edgar uses the butterfly guard to stand fairly well. After securing an underhook, he’ll elevate his opponent with a hook and pop up to his feet immediately.

Edgar’s submission defense is very sound, as he’s survived some dangerous offensive guards over the years with few problems. Because of how frequently he shoots, Edgar is often forced to fight off his opponent’s guillotine attempts. Even in this, Edgar is very patient and measured. As he fights his opponent’s hands, he’ll lean to the opposite side of the choke, relieving some of the pressure. It may remain uncomfortable, but Edgar is nothing if not tough and has thus far been able to outlast his opponent’s grip.

Conclusion

Edgar is unquestionably a legend of the sport, a champion or top contender for roughly a decade. However, “The Answer” is at a crossroads. If this move works out, he remains a relevant force, but if not, it’s really the end of his long term status as a title threat.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 15 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 15: “Munhoz vs. Edgar” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.



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