In a battle of unpredictability and consistency, it’s advisable to side with what you know. So here’s what we knew heading into tonight’s (May 13) featherweight fight between Frankie Edgar and Yair Rodriguez at UFC 211: we knew Edgar would look for takedowns and seek to stifle the flamboyant urges of his younger opponent; we knew Rodriguez would look to use his height and reach to keep Edgar at bay and then pepper him with strikes and hopefully end his night with a head-kick; we knew Edgar had been here before; we knew Rodriguez hadn’t; we knew Edgar was a former champion; we knew Rodriguez could be a future champion.
Fast-forward to a minute into round one and it was clear consistency would win the day, as Edgar, the smaller man, secured his first takedown and put Rodriguez on his back. It acted not only as a takedown – the moving of a dangerous striker from his feet to his backside – but as a statement. It let it be known Edgar hadn’t come to box. He wasn’t out to beat Rodriguez at his own game and trade kicks in the middle of the Octagon. Edgar hadn’t come to do any of that because he knows better than that. He, unlike Rodriguez, had been here before, done it before, won fights like this before.
Next came the elbows. Aimed at Yair’s face, they quickly made an impact in the form of a large swelling below the 24-year-old Mexican’s left eye.
Five minutes down, round over, he pulled himself upright and checked the extent of the damage on one of the big screens dotted around the American Airlines Center. It was an image of a prospect coming to terms with something new, something foreign to him, something he’d hoped to avoid. It was adversity in the form of a haematoma. Another statement of sorts.
By the time round two was underway, the pattern had been set. The respective motives were clear. Rodriguez was now unable to commit to his strikes the way he had planned, which is to say with gusto and spite, while Edgar, 35, was content to forget about striking altogether and just go hunting for the very thing that would help him win the fight: the takedown.
He got another one early in the second round, after which Rodriguez, in a kind of last stand, attempted to secure a knee-bar, only to see his dream quickly evaporate. Worse still, Edgar, as savvy and as seasoned as anyone on the ground, transformed a moment of peril into a full mount and continued to go to work on Rodriguez’s face, peppering it with a further stream of punches and elbows; so full-on was the beating, Rodriguez had no option but to simply try and survive.
He did that. He survived. He made it out of round two. But he wouldn’t go much longer, mind. Not with the area around his eye deformed and his vision impaired. Not with the doctor shaking his head and the referee doing the same. Not with another five minutes of Edgar’s takedowns and tenacious ground attack on the menu.
Indeed, they ended it there, between rounds two and three, and Rodriguez, 10-2, gutted to have experienced his first UFC loss, seemed thankful for the reprieve. The lesson was over.
Edgar, 22-5-1, dominant for near enough every second of the fight, did exactly what he said he’d do. He halted the progress of a man he believes will one day be good enough to become a UFC featherweight champion.
Just not yet.