New Jersey native Frankie Edgar just turned the UFC lightweight division upside down. Edgar dethroned lightweight champion and pound-for-pound great BJ Penn today at “UFC 112: Invincible” by combining a rapid-fire work rate with crisp striking and technical footwork.
A massive underdog in this fight, Edgar came out of the gate at a clip and never slowed down. He stayed in the champion’s face the entire fight and scored with punches and kicks that left Penn looking battered. Edgar also managed to succeed with a couple of takedowns; a feat not accomplished by any previous challenger to Penn’s lightweight crown.
Despite what one judge’s baffling score of 50-45 for Edgar indicates, this was a very close fight. “The Prodigy” showed flashes of his usual brilliance but seemed to be a step behind Edgar. Penn shrugged off the majority of Edgar’s takedowns and landed with some very heavy counter-punches but he always seemed to be chasing Edgar and falling just short of catching him. It will be interesting to see where the former champion goes from here; Penn’s recent dominance had rekindled talks of a move up to welterweight but this stunning loss could keep him in the lightweight division, fighting to get his title back.
Also of note is the fact that Penn wore a knee brace in the fight. An injury would explain why the former champion seemed a bit slower (and softer) than he has in his previous title defenses; or maybe it was Frankie Edgar that made Penn look slow.
Edgar was understandably emotional after the fight but he was all class in his post-fight interview; thanking his training partners and giving props to the fallen champion.
“I love you guys,” “The Answer” told his cornermen. “This is it. B.J. is the greatest lightweight ever and I just beat him. I just hope I can be half the lightweight champion he was.”
Edgar’s ascension to UFC lightweight champion serves as a shot of life to the UFC’s 155lbs. division. Penn had stifled most, if not all, of the division’s legitimate contenders’ attempts at taking his crown; creating a stagnancy in the division similar to what Georges St. Pierre has done at welterweight.
With Edgar now at the top of the lightweight heap, doors have opened to several interesting match ups. Gray Maynard was leapfrogged for a title shot by Edgar, despite beating Edgar at UFC Fight Night 13. Maynard can make a very legitimate argument that he deserves the first shot at Edgar’s belt.
Also cleared for a title shot is Kenny Florian; this one being his third. Florian came up short both times he challenged for the title, against Sean Sherk and BJ Penn, respectively. Florian was unlikely to get another shot at the belt as long as BJ Penn stayed champion. Being widely regarded as the number two in the division and having just decimated Takanori Gomi, we could see Florian in line for a title shot soon.
Other interesting match ups have opened for Penn, should he stay at lightweight. A rematch against Takanori Gomi is fun to consider and would likely provide Penn with a springboard back into the lightweight title picture. A rematch against Kenny Florian also holds intrigue; as does a scrap with Nate Diaz.