The Answer is Bantamweight

The patent Frankie Edgar entrance to Biggie Smalls “Kick in the door” just isn’t the same without the fans. It’s still very cool, but from the audience’s perspective, it doesn’t have the same effect when taking place in the UFC Apex center in front of a handful of people. But it makes no difference to Edgar, when the music hit on Saturday night, he entered his debut at bantamweight with the same gusto as he did when he was the lightweight champion and running out into sea of arms and screaming fans in a sold-out arena. The energy he projected in Saturday’s walk out was carried right into the octagon where he proceeded to put on the best performance he has in quite some time.

Something apparent from the very beginning was how different the optics of this Edgar fight was.  This is the first time we’ve seen Edgar fighting someone his own size. Pedro Munhoz is as dangerous a fighter as you’ll get at 135, and the fast-paced first round put in by these two set the tone for the entire 25-minute battle. Munhoz had Edgar on high alert right from the jump because of the constant threat he put “The Answer” under.  Munhoz had that look in his eye accompanied with the body language of someone who was very obviously going in for the one shot knock out. There aren’t many fighters that can maintain that threatening focused killer instinct for that long without breaking. It’s an extremely valuable trait and keeps all of Munhoz’s opponents on their toes.

While Edgar was on high alert, it certainly didn’t make him shell up, it actually may have made him more effective. He maintained offense the entire time despite being under constant pressure and moving backwards.  The boxing from both competitors was fast with picture-perfect technique, an absolute joy to watch. There is no question that the pace and overall technique of the 135 pound weight class is probably the most aesthetically pleasing to watch out of all the divisions in the sport. The matchups in the weight class have become exponentially more interesting to the casual fan base over the past year as well. At the current rate,  Bantamweight might become the most popular division in the sport.

For this contest, what was interesting to watch is how very clear it is that Edgar is following a game plan.  At the beginning of the second round, he immediately started threatening the takedown, just enough to make Munhoz think, only to pop back up and crack Munhoz with an impactful right hand.  A strike that elicited a lot of excitement from Edgars corner. Without getting greedy and staying on course, right after the punch landed he immediately grabbed the single-leg only to let it go right away. Keeping Munhoz guessing all along the way. How effective Edgar was with staying with a specific game plan of mixing up the techniques is the very attribute that has given him much of his success over the years.

Edgar threw many three to five-point combinations, and several times, landed the majority of the shots. Age is just a number, Edgar is sharper than he’s ever been. It also doesn’t hurt when you’re under the tutlege of incredible coaches.  Head coach Mark Henry is a master, if you pay attention in between rounds, you’ll see that he gives very detailed technical advice that often leaves the audience with a lot to think about.

Many fans and one of the judges had Munhoz winning the fight, and fair enough. But the split decision went Edgar’s way as it should have. He didn’t have octagon control per say, but he landed a higher volume of significant strikes. At soon to be 39 years old, Edgar just finished fighting one of the most dangerous fighters he could beat right now and looked totally on point.

As usual, a lot of the fanbase are now inserting him into the title picture by default. But rushing Edgar into a title shot is the wrong move. He was smart to wait for the right time to make the drop everyone has been pushing him to do for all of these years. Hopefully he is mindful enough to not look to jump right into a championship fight and instead, make a point to get a couple good performances under his belt in the new weight class.

If he has one more performance like this past weekend’s fight, it’s going to get interesting. There is a whole new life at 135, the answer for Edgar was bantamweight all along.

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