What task is tougher than attempting to stop former UFC lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar?

If you’re a featherweight, it seems the only thing tougher than finding a lightweight that can finish Edgar in a fight is finding a featherweight who can look competitive for more than one round against current UFC featherweight champion Jose “Scarface” Aldo.

Aldo’s hold on the gold is so tight that it appears as though nobody can pry it from his ferociously blinding hands. Many have dreams of the day when he would contend with a wrestler possessing the hunger, hand speed, and heart of a man like Edgar, but until recently, this dream bout proved nothing but a dream. However, recent events have finally helped the UFC put all the pieces together to make this fight happen, and indeed the scrap will go down in two months’ time.

However, before we get there, gather around, and let’s relive the story of how Aldo ran this town…er, division.

It all began when Aldo defeated Mike Brown for the then-WEC featherweight title in a fight many thought WEC head honcho Reed Harris gave Aldo before he was actually ready for Brown. Remember, Brown ended the three-year-long reign of “The California Kid” Urijah Faber, defeated Leonard Garcia to retain the belt, fought five hard rounds against Faber in Faber’s stomping grounds of Sacramento, Calif., and was expected to run through Aldo by the many who remained unconvinced of Aldo’s ability to chalk up a “W” when it came in the big dance against the champ.

Not only did Aldo beat Brown in round two of that fight, but for the duration of the bout, Aldo fended off takedowns from Brown while finding openings for combinations in areas where most felt Aldo would prove ineffective against the larger wrestler.

From there, Aldo leg-kicked his way towards a unanimous decision win against Faber in his first defense, which came in the headliner of WEC 48 in Sacramento, the only WEC  event ever to air on pay-per-view. Faber asked for Aldo after submitting Raphael Assuncao, and Aldo had no problem defending his crown in Faber’s town. Though many will remember the leg kicks that sidelined Faber and saw him eventually return as a bantamweight, Aldo also managed to outstrike Faber 139-25 according to FightMetric stats. Faber showed as much of a champion’s heart as Aldo did a champion’s will, but Aldo nonetheless left no doubt that he earned a clear victory over Faber.

Finally, we come to the night Aldo blasted Manny Gamburyan in the second round of a WEC 51 headlining bout. This defense saw Aldo take a hard right hand from Gamburyan despite breaking Gamburyan down with his leg kicks, and would also mark the final defense of the WEC featherweight title before the merging of the Ultimate Fighting Championship with World Extreme Cagefighting last year. When the WEC and the UFC merged, the UFC promoted Aldo to the status of the inaugural UFC featherweight champion, and most fans of the sport of MMA know what happened from there.

For those who don’t recall, Aldo’s first and second defenses came in unanimous decision victories. The first came in an exciting “Fight of The Year” candidate against Mark “The Machine” Hominick, in which Aldo dominated all aspects of the fight for the first four rounds but found himself taken down and controlled on the ground by Hominick in the fifth stanza, despite walking away with the win and his belt.

Aldo’s second defense came in the co-main event of a stacked UFC 136 fight card in Houston. In what would prove a similar story to the fight with Hominick, Aldo took control of four rounds against former UFC lightweight title contender Kenny Florian. Florian’s best round of the fight came in the opening round, where he took Aldo down and controlled his position, but in the later rounds, Aldo found his mojo and used his head movement as well as his striking to dictate the pace of the fight.

Fast forward to UFC 142 this past January, and this is where we start to see how the stage became set for what Aldo will face when he returns to the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for UFC 153 on Oct. 13 to face Edgar, who is coming off of two very closely contested defeats to current 155-pound kingpin Benson “Smooth” Henderson.

Revisiting UFC 142 means recollecting a man by the name of Chad “Money” Mendes, who many believed had the wrestling to halt Aldo’s flurries, just as many thought Brown and Faber would. The only problem Mendes had was that he seemed to lack any killer instinct and therefore may have brought a game in which he controlled the action by holding Aldo down and delivering short shots, but also would have given up the chance to improve his position and finish Aldo whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Aldo’s takedown defense came into play again, as he shook off the majority of Mendes’ takedown attempts while dictating the action with his striking. Though many knock Aldo’s takedown defense against Mendes solely because of an instance of Aldo grabbing the fence, Aldo nonetheless found his kill-shot in the form of a hellish knee, which preceded two brutal shots while Mendes was down and an insane celebration in which Aldo literally celebrated the victory with his countrymen by running into the crowd after the referee stopped the fight.

The win over Mendes was expected to lead to a fight with “New Breeed” Erik Koch at UFC 149, but a knee injury to Aldo postponed the fight until UFC 153. Earlier this week, however, a knee injury struck again, this time with Koch being forced out. With fellow UFC title contender “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung recovering from injuries of his own, featherweight dark horse Ricardo Lamas still needing victories to earn his crack, Hatsu Hioki temporarily derailed from his path towards the title, and literally no other sensible contenders left for Aldo, who would fill in for Koch?

Enter Edgar.

Edgar might stand as 0-2 in 2012 with his two official losses to Henderson, but his star has not fallen into obscurity by any means. In addition to his fighting style, Edgar has a history which no fans have forgotten as yet. For Edgar, the story really began after his win at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale against Matt Veach.

At the time, Edgar’s rival, Gray Maynard, still held an undefeated streak with one no-contest, but Edgar appeared to make sense when Maynard’s split decision win over Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20 underwhelmed. Much like Aldo against Brown, Edgar was expected to present as anything but competitive for then-UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn, but much like Aldo against Brown, Edgar appeared to prove his skeptics wrong, though many felt it was not clear that Edgar beat Penn.

Fast forward to UFC 118, and Edgar spent all of five rounds making it clear that he could beat Penn convincingly. Penn’s corner never gave “The Prodigy” any indication that he might have been down on the scorecards, but the consensus felt otherwise, as was evident with Penn getting taken down at will and outstruck. The win over Penn proved only the second time that Penn had lost at lightweight and it marked the second time that a fighter had officially beaten Penn twice.

Edgar’s 2011 speaks for itself. Maynard defeated Florian on the same UFC 118 card as Edgar’s dominant win over Penn, and in no sugarcoated terms, fans who recalled Maynard’s win over Florian and Edgar’s win in the rematch with Penn concluded that the rematch between Edgar and Maynard on New Year’s Day at UFC 125 would downright suck. Turns out, it was quite the opposite.

Maynard rocked Edgar and nearly finished him in the first round. Though Edgar survived the first, Maynard held on strong, and most fans and experts thought Maynard won the third round. When the bout went all five rounds and was ruled as a split draw, the MMA world became divisible in thirds. A portion agreed with the draw because of how close the fight proved after the first round, despite Edgar nearly submitting Maynard in round four. The rest, however, thought the fight turned in the result of three rounds to two rounds in favor of one of the two fighters. While some felt Edgar did enough to retain the belt, others thought Maynard did enough to win it from Edgar.

At UFC 136, after Aldo’s win over Florian, Edgar and Maynard settled the score. The trilogy fight turned in another memorable affair, as Maynard rocked Edgar and nearly finished him in the first round in a hint of deja vu from UFC 125. Both men made it a close one in rounds two and three, but Edgar found an opening to rock Maynard in round four and overwhelmed Maynard to earn the stoppage and even things out. Maynard had handed Edgar his first career loss, and now Edgar had handed Maynard his first official pro loss.

Edgar’s unanimous decision loss to Henderson at UFC 144, as well as his split decision loss to Henderson at UFC 150, were both fights in which Edgar appeared to have Henderson in trouble. At UFC 144 in Saitama, Edgar appeared to outstrike Henderson, rocked him, and almost forced a tap via his vaunted guillotine choke, and he also survived Henderson’s version of the guillotine choke, as well as a fight-changing upkick from “Bendo.” At UFC 150 in Denver, Edgar survived the guillotine again, but this time, when he rocked Henderson, he looked for a finish and simply could not find it.

Both fights saw fans protest Henderson’s win, as they either felt Edgar did enough to win or questioned if Henderson truly did enough to beat Edgar. Of course, Henderson admitted he thought he could’ve done more to make it clear in the rematch. Those who felt Edgar didn’t do enough of what he needed to do to win the rematch argued that Edgar deserved to lose because he fought like a “point fighter” and needed to evolve from that style.

In a way, though, it’s that fast-paced style of Edgar that promises to deliver on such claims as “‘Fight of The Year potential” when matched up against a fighter with the speed, aggression, head and body movement, striking and killer instinct of Aldo, and it’s this clash of styles that defines why Aldo vs. Edgar will turn in 2012’s “Fight of The Year.”

Both fighters’ offensive skills speak for themselves. We’ve see what happens when Aldo turns it up with his striking and knocks a poor soul out cold. We’ve seen what happens when fighters aside from Henderson talk big games about taking everything Edgar dishes out.

Aldo has defended takedowns from wrestlers, and he’s gutted out closely-contested fights from the opening bell of round one until the dying seconds of round five, but not since coming to challenge Brown for the belt has he faced a featherweight with a notable size advantage. Like Edgar, Brown was a former lightweight who rediscovered himself at 145 pounds and used his skills to win himself a championship belt.

With respect to Brown, however, Edgar does not rely on one big shot to end fights. Edgar can and always does fight as hard as he does for five rounds because he always keeps himself primed and ready to scrap for more than five rounds.

In the past, Aldo’s conditioning has never been an issue, but some have questioned his cardio. Against Edgar, Aldo will have to prepare for a fighter who defeated arguably the greatest UFC lightweight of all time in a close contest. To the champion’s credit, however, he appears to be doing just that, as training sessions at Nova Uniao suggest.

On the flip side, the easiest claim states that Aldo is 21-1 in 22 pro fights and 20-0 in 20 featherweight fights, with his loss to Luciano Azevedo coming at lightweight. Edgar is 14-3-1 in 18 pro fights with all 18 fights coming at lightweight. Edgar has had easy cuts to lightweight because he doesn’t walk around as heavy as some lightweights have in past years. However, UFC 153 will mark the first time that Edgar has fought a professional MMA bout at 145 pounds, and let’s not forget, he hated being asked about the drop before it was announced that he would make the move.

Edgar will have to answer questions about whether he can cut to 145 without any serious issues, as well as questions about his effectiveness in all offensive-related aspects of the fight when he’s the one coming to the champ, as opposed to the champ coming to him. However, Edgar has had to answer questions about what he could do against champions before, and if his aggressive offense didn’t create believers in his abilities by the end of the fight, his heart created armies of believers, which is why he’s one of the sport’s most beloved fighters, and is indeed a fighter in every sense of the word.

Likewise, Aldo has his own questions to answer, seeing as how the 2012 version of Edgar at featherweight poses different threats from those posed by the 2009 version of Brown. But Aldo has had to contend with threats thought impossible to overcome, and his track record  demonstrates moments in which Aldo persevered and overcame every single one of those threats, through hell and high water.

Make no mistake, this fight will bring the drama, the fire, the intensity, the electricity, and the emotion that goes hand in hand with both fighters’ careers. Aldo’s composure and grit worked well enough for him in previous bouts to the point of him showing the heart and iron will of a champion in the final seconds of fights and finishing stronger than he started. In contrast to his previous encounters, however, his own iron will and his own heart will need to elevate to new realms to bring the more ferocious fire to Edgar, because Edgar’s heart and iron will take backseats to nobody.

In the end, that iron will, that heart, the questions both men must answer, and the stylistic clash that promises more in terms of excitement and a classic contest in combat sports than it ever will in terms of true winners and losers—it will all come together on Oct. 13.

When it does, make sure you don’t miss a second of it, because unlike most fights that scream “Fight of The Year,” this one is guaranteed to hit that mark accurately.

As for the man who walks out of Rio with the gold…well, you’ll just have to wait until fight time to find out.

Photo: UFC featherweight champion Jose “Scarface” Aldo (L), who faces former UFC lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar at UFC 153 (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.