HOUSTON -- When it was finally over, all Frankie Edgar could do was stand in the center of the Octagon and scream.
In a sport where it is often said that anything can happen, it was as honest and candid an outpouring of emotion as you will ever see. He had certainly earned it.
Edgar had just pulled off yet another improbable comeback, bouncing back from a perilous first round against Gray Maynard on Saturday at UFC 136 to craft a fourth-round TKO victory, retaining his lightweight title and likely calling to a close the feud and the trilogy of fights that had come to largely define his career up to this point.
“It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Edgar said at the postfight media conference. “After every fight, when you've been thinking about someone for that long, it’s weight off your shoulders. Obviously it's that much more when I’ve been thinking about this guy for the last 10 months.”
There were indeed 10 months’ worth of frustration in that triumphant postfight scream. There were hundreds of hours of training in it, too, not to mention countless questions about Maynard, who Edgar admitted had become something like his nemesis after they fought to a draw at UFC 125 in January.
Maybe in there somewhere was even a career’s worth of being underestimated, short-changed and discounted by his many doubters. Edgar was bloodied and battered, his left eye blackened and rapidly closing, but he was still the champion.
In the beginning, it was uncanny how much the pair’s third bout resembled their second one. Maynard once again dominated the first round, dropping Edgar with an uppercut, then again with a straight right and again with a knee during a stanza at least one judge scored 10-8.
Somehow -- again -- Edgar weathered the storm and sprinted back to take Rounds 2 and 3, when his movement inside the cage appeared to frustrate and freeze Maynard. In the later three rounds, the challenger wasn’t able to find a home for his power shots.
As they went to the fourth round, the fight was tied on at least one of the scorecards and it was hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu building around cageside. This time, however, the judges were not needed. With just over a minute remaining in the fourth, Edgar stunned Maynard with a short uppercut during a scramble, dropped him to the canvas with a barrage of right hands and then finished with his left once Maynard hit the mat.
Perhaps the most remarkable performance yet in Edgar’s extraordinary career, it was good enough to have UFC president Dana White claiming afterward that he considers the undersized lightweight champion to be the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, behind only middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Edgar doesn’t know about all that. He’s just happy to have Maynard off his mind for the foreseeable future.
“I just think it puts some closure on it,” Edgar said. “Obviously the last fight ended in a draw, so it didn’t have a definitive winner. This one, I ended it with a bang. It’s good to go home and be done with it.”