The main event of The Ultimate Fighter 22 finale is a tremendous featherweight fight between former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar and former three-time featherweight title challenger Chad “Money” Mendes. The winner of this fight will likely face the winner of the Jose Aldo versus Conor McGregor title unification fight. Frankie Edgar (19-4-1 MMA, 13-4-1 UFC, -165 favorite) Fan favorite Frankie Edgar makes his return to the Octagon in a matchup that could finally earn him another shot at the featherweight title. Edgar shocked mixed martial arts fan and pundits in 2010 when he dethroned lightweight kingpin B.J. Penn, who at the time was considered unbeatable at 155 pounds. Since many people thought Penn won the fight, the two had an immediate rematch, which Edgar won easily. He followed that up by defending his title three times before losing it to Benson Henderson at UFC 144. That was another close fight, so the two had a rematch at UFC 150, which Henderson won by split decision. The decision was widely criticized by fans, as most thought Edgar clearly won. That loss prompted Edgar to move down to the featherweight division, where he got an immediate shot at UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Again, Edgar lost a close decision. Since then he has reeled off four dominant victories over Charles Oliveira, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson, and Urijah Faber. The 34-year old has never looked better inside the Octagon. His boxing and level changes are on point, his wrestling is relentless, and his motor is non-stop. Edgar’s utilizes exceptional movement to create angles to land his jab, right hook, overhand right, and right uppercut, all of which he routinely follows with a leg kick. Actually, kicks have become a bigger part of Edgar’s game in recent years, especially his leg and body kicks. His striking and level changes set up his great wrestling. His chain wrestling is tremendous and he continually switches from knee taps, single-legs, and double-legs. He also gets the occasional scoop double against the cage. The drop to the featherweight division has drastically improved Edgar’s top game. He was undersized at lightweight and had trouble holding his opponents down. That is not the case anymore. He finishes his takedowns and immediately looks to pass, which he does smoothly. Edgar’s ground and pound is also something opponents have to fear, as he is able to hold position, posture up, and land bombs. His ground and pound opens up space for him to pass to a dominant position. He is very crafty with his submission game, but he is not a huge submission threat in most instances. As always, Edgar’s conditioning is impeccable, he can go five hard rounds without a problem. His constant pressure often wears his opponents down, especially in five round fights. Chad Mendes (17-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC, +145 underdog) Only five months after his third loss in a UFC title fight, Mendes finds himself back in a fight that could conceivably earn him another title shot. The Team Alpha Male member has lost two out of his last three, but those were losses to the top two fighters in the division, Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. Sandwiched in between those losses was a first round knockout win over top five featherweight Ricardo Lamas. Since he already lost to Aldo twice already, a third fight against the Brazilian may be a tough sell. However, if McGregor defeats Aldo on Saturday night, a McGregor versus Mendes rematch is an easy sell since both fighters only had two weeks to prepare for one another. Further, McGregor fought Mendes with a torn ACL and Mendes was not in proper shape because he was not training at the time. The 30-year old is a powerful wrestler with dynamite in his fists. He was a two-time Division 1 All-American while wrestling for Cal-Poly. Mendes’ wrestling has translated very well to mixed martial arts. His blast double-leg is among the best in the sport and he finishes it with authority. From on top of his opponents, he focuses more on controlling position and landing the occasional ground and pound. Like most members of Team Alpha Male, he has a great guillotine, but you don’t see him go to it much. Additionally, his takedown defense is impenetrable, he is virtually impossible to take down. One of Mendes’ issues over the years has been his conditioning. He has gassed out in a few fights and slowed down considerably in a few others. Mendes has converted himself from a pure wrestler into a knockout artists that can go to his wrestling when he needs it. He has various setups for his overhand right, right hook, and right uppercut, all of which are fight ending punches. Mendes is also adept at using his strikes to set up his takedowns. A 1-2 combination followed by a level change into a double-leg is one of Mendes’ go-to moves. While few possess the power of Mendes, he often relies on it too much. He is not much of a volume striker and can be outstruck by more active fighters. That is a tough task though, as not many can eat Mendes’ power shots. McGregor was able to freeze him against the fence and land at will, all while eating Mendes’ counters like they were nothing. However, McGregor is the exception, not the rule. Thoughts This is a fight that fans have been wanting to see for years. Mendes is the powerful wrestler with knockout power and questionable conditioning, while Edgar is a great wrestler that throws lots of volume and possesses excellent conditioning. I think Edgar can outpoint Mendes over five rounds. However, I think he will have to eat and survive a few hard shots that Mendes will inevitably land. We all know how tough Edgar is, so I think he can survive and ultimately pull off the win. The first round or two will likely be scary for Edgar, but I think he pulls away from there. The Prediction: Frankie Edgar defeats Chad Mendes by unanimous decision
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