While a fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre will always remain a pipe dream until the ink dries on the sport’s most fabled of contracts, fans should take stock and realize that Saturday’s UFC 156 featuring Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar from Las Vegas might very well end up being this year’s real super fight - a Fight of the Year candidate and a matchup against two stars of their craft. After all? How could it not?
Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar
Firstly, let’s look at Edgar [14-3-1], a man who basically camped out in the lightweight division and beat all comers at will. Sure, Edgar elevated his status even further by fighting lightweights often bigger than him, but the New Jersey native was much more than a David fighting Goliaths. His two losses against Benson Henderson may have shown that there was a new ruler at 155 pounds, but the fact that in their second fight Edgar could have rightly argued he deserved the nod against everyone’s unanimous Fighter of the Year shows just how much of a force Edgar will still be at 145 pounds. Dropping ten pounds means he’ll be automatic favorite against anyone in his class - except that is against Jose Aldo, the man he’ll be fighting on Saturday.
While Edgar was a small lightweight, Aldo [21-1] is a large featherweight probably destined to rule Edgar’s old pastures. So they’re evenly matched in that regard. But the Brazilian is favorite for a reason. With an unblemished record in UFC/WEC fights and a distinct speed advantage over Edgar, Aldo is rightfully favorite. There’s no doubting he could have been more active, having only fought once in the last year, and with few five round fights under his belt, but a fight against his toughest opponent to date is likely to push one of Dana White’s high hopes even further.
While it’s not quite a toss up fight, fans shouldn’t be surprised if a bout of such calibre goes to a decision. Either way, Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay could be the seen for one he year’s first Fight of the Year candidates.
Rashad Evans vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
It must be pretty unpleasant to be Rashad Evans [17-2-1] right now. For a while Evans had it all and was the top dog at light-heavyweight. He had a care free existence beating up all comers. Then he was forced to fight his training partner and friend Jon Jones. When Jones revealed himself to be part man, part fighting robotic octopus Rashad Evans at 205 pounds ceased to exist. Sure, he could have kept on fighting, but to what end after receiving a first class, comprehensive whooping from Jones.
So now Evans is plying his trade at 185 in what could prove to be a shrewd move, both for his wallet and more importantly career. A Rashad Evans - Anderson Silva card would leave the world of MMA salivating and would give Evans a chance of upset given his previous size advantages.
But for now Evans has to get past the obligatory gatekeeper to the likes of Silva in the shape of Nogueira. For a start Nogueira [20-5] is 36 years old and has not fought since UFC 140 when he easily dispatched Tito Ortiz. But beating up an over the hill Hall of Famer more than a year ago is nothing compared to fighting a still relatively prime Evans who still has realistic title aspirations. Nogueira may claim he has a wrestling game to trouble fighters of Evan’s ilk but he was outwrestled by Phil Davis and with Evans’ speed a counter takedown will be that much harder to come by.
Evans will be a distinct favorite against his Brazilian opponent and will likely end the fight early after consistently moving out of Nogueira’s range. Failing that, fans might expect a dominant decision from a man who dreams of a showdown with another Brazilian - Anderson Silva.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.