The arc of a fighter’s career is interesting to watch. Some, such as Anderson Silva, have arcs that stream through promotions and years with a persistent pulse of energy and domination. Others seem to be of the “one and done” ilk, such as Hector Lombard, who not too long ago occupied sentences with Silva, but quickly steeped into another class after questionable losses and will now bounce around with Nate Marquardt in a statement. When analyzing a fight, these concentric arcs should be taken into account as their trajectory and angle indicates as much as their record. Often times, their overall career can serve as a macrocosm for a singular fight. One such example is Frankie Edgar, who despite being on a three-fight losing streak, has continually gone the distance and, like a buoy in the sea, manages to oscillate between winning and losing within a given fight, a constant rebel for or against the shifting momentum’s that happen in the cage.
Edgar (15-4-1), will face Charles Oliveira (16-3-1) at UFC 162 in Las Vegas. He is approaching a decade of fighting, and a younger, bigger opponent. These are one dimensional facts, however. One fourth of his battles have been in five-round championship fights. In these fights he has one knockout, against Gray Maynard at UFC 136, the rest joined the majority of his previous matches having gone the distance. These statistics indicate that the half-life of his “heart” extends over a period of time wherein others may dramatically decrease. Even in his losses, one can nary point to a moment where the inevitable judges scoring against him, (such as his fight with Jose Aldo) was superimposed on his face. Edgar’s fighting half-life single mindedly responds only to the bells between rounds and those book-ending the fight as a whole. This mindset is Oliveira’s true opponent.
Oliveira is a decade younger than his opponent and possesses a highly effective jiu-jitsu game, with submissions (such as his reverse calf-slicer) that are novel in the Octagon. Since entering the next tier of competition, his career has been glaringly black and white. Similar to other arguably one dimensional grappling wizards like Shinya Aoki, Oliveira has a propensity to either win via spectacular submission or lose via TKO/KO, and all decisive wins/losses occur within the first two rounds.
This illuminates the inherent advantage for Edgar in this fight. The disparity between the concentric arcs of Edgar and Oliveira is wide and revealing. Precedence indicates that Edgar will not slow down, his half-life will continue beyond the third round and into the locker room. Oliveira’s task therefore, is nothing short of a violent derailing; stopping a five-round fighter in less than three rounds is akin to stopping a horse mid-stride.
Problematic with Oliveira’s obvious game plan is his previous fights with strikers less skilled than Edgar give no indication that he can stop such momentum. Edgar possesses a pace and elusive, sharp angled boxing that will wear down and place the half-life, the conditioning and the will of his opponent front and center. Against the taller Oliveira, Edgar will have no other option than to resort to his patented in/out style of striking, no other choice than to fight the fight he excels at.
Oliveira’s one opportunity rests on the chance that Edgar will make a mistake, will grant Oliveira an opening to capitalize on and sink in a deep submission (deeper than the guillotines Benson Henderson caught Edgar in, which he outlasted). This of course presupposes Edgar will be any less quick acting and self-correcting than he has been in the past, that he will not immediately scramble out and return the unwritten rules to his game. Odds makers have Edgar as a -280 favorite to Oliveira’s +200. This concurs with precedence. The bet is whether Oliveira can do to Edgar in three rounds what could not be done in five, that Oliveira could affect the half-life of Edgar in a way Aldo, Henderson, or BJ Penn could not.
Edgar’s battles with Henderson and Penn are still controversial. In those five rounds, the victory could be argued for or against either opponent. What cannot be argued was whether Edgar ever “gave up”, whether his half-life ever occurred, or whether he could find himself in a situation he could not outlive, outlast. His greater arc indicates that his losses were simply moments where he was caught, but outlived, outlasted – that the half-life of his career has not yet happened.
Oliveira is still young and improving and has the height and weight advantage over Edgar. He will attempt to strike, hoping the match hits the canvas and he can work his submissions. I predict Edgar being too slippery, too fast, and far too determined to allow this to happen. Edgar, not having the five-round pacing issues, will fight with a fury and pace that will break Oliveira, bending both his will and his arc.
Frankie Edgar: Third Round TKO