Speed or power. What wins? Is it the fastest animal or the strongest? Age old question. No real answer because the real answer is complicated: it depends.
On Friday night, the UFC will present the closest thing to an answer on Speed vs. Power as we’ll see for some time, at least in terms of cage fighting. Chad Mendes. Frankie Edgar. One is a power wrestler with devastating KO power in his hands. One has become a borderline legend by using his speed. Edgar mixes his quick boxing with off balanced takedowns better than anyone in the sport.
In college, no doubt Mendes was the higher credentialed wrestler. In MMA? That tag belongs to Edgar. Edgar is the man who with a few different judges would still be the UFC Lightweight Champion. Who managed to take down, and keep down, the legendary BJ Penn. Who made the All-America Gray Maynard break under his pressure. Throughout his career, Edgar has allowed his speed to kill.
Mendes is quick, sure, but he’s powerful. Where Edgar lands three or four shots to hurt someone, Mendes has shown the ability to land one big, solid punch and end a fight. Couple that with wrestling that – again, it is quicker than shit – can assist any lack of quickness with pure power and you have one of the strongest featherweights in the world. If the initial burst of speed doesn’t get you, the sheer raw power will.
Edgar has kept every one of his opponents – even in his losses – guessing with his incredible movement. His ability to disguise shots as punches and punches as shots is second to none. Chad, to his credit, does much of the same. By being so proficient at take downs, he’s able to land devastatingly hard punches, almost at will. He keeps everyone on their back foot, lest they experience his unfurled power.
On the mat itself, neither guy plays well off their back, but neither stays there long either. Edgar’s top game is primarily defensive and cautious: he will strike a bit but if his opponent wants to stand, he doesn’t fight them too much. His Renzo Gracie, by way of Ricardo Almeida, jiu-jitsu is stifling more than attacking. Mendes is a bit different. While he’s also cautious on top, he’s far more willing to stay inside the guard, mind his Ps and Qs, and pop up with a trademark Team Alpha Male elbow. And, on top of all that, he – like Urijah Faber and so many others at that camp – has learned at the hands of multiple time world-champion Fabio Prado the most dangerous guillotine on earth. We’re used to individual fighters being adept at certain submissions (Rousey with her armbar; Paul Sass with his triangle) but this is an entire camp that is masterful at a submission.
And so they meet, a day before the biggest fight in featherweight (if not UFC) history, the two men who are unquestionably numbers 3 and 4 behind the 1 Aldo and 2 McGregor will fight. And they’ll fight during the finale of The Ultimate Fighter. That’s kind of a shame. TUF isn’t a big deal but this fight should be. This should headline a major show. This is a multiple time champion vs a man who has earnestly challenged for the title numerous times. This is as high level of a fight as one can imagine. And it headlines a show coached by Urijah Faber and Conor McGregor.
No, Speed vs Power will not have a definitive answer on Thursday night, but the UFC’s featherweight division will have a definitive #1 contender. Be it Mendes or be it Edgar, the winner will more than give Aldo/McGregor a run for their money.
And don’t forget, all month long we’ll be featuring our 27 UFC Gifts for the Fight Fan in your life post just for you so you can make Christmas easier on yourself while also being a hero!