<
>

Mendes-Edgar makes perfect sense

Let's just lay the cards out on the table here: Frankie Edgar is probably not the UFC featherweight title contender.

It's OK. I think he knows it. After dominating Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night in Austin, Edgar (18-4-1) said a lot of the right things ("This is just the beginning," he told "doubters"). But at the postfight news conference at Frank Erwin Center, he didn't look like a man who had just claimed the No. 1 contendership in his division.

He looked as if he knew all too well about a featherweight named Conor McGregor (16-2), who, if all goes well in a January fight against Dennis Siver, will vie for the title next.

Personally, I'm all right with that. Even though I rank Edgar (No. 3) ahead of McGregor (No. 6) at 145 pounds, I do think that Edgar's loss to Jose Aldo in February 2013 comes into play here. This is a sport that caters to rankings and wins and losses, absolutely, but also to matchups -- and Aldo (25-1) vs. McGregor is a legitimate matchup more people want to see.

And after an injury-plagued 2014 (particularly the fourth quarter), I don't expect the UFC to pass too much on marquee matchups right now. Booking Aldo-McGregor is defensible.

So, what next for Edgar then? I'd like to throw a suggestion into the hat: Chad Mendes 16-2).

Immediately after he lost to Aldo last month, I pegged the loser of Swanson versus Edgar as a potential next fight for Mendes. Looking at the current landscape of the division, however, I think it actually makes sense for Mendes to fight the winner instead.

Here's my thinking on this:

A. It's a great fight. Simple as that. We like great fights, right? That's why we're here.

B. It makes sense. A fighter coming off a win against one coming off a loss is a rarity in the UFC, but Mendes was so impressive in his loss to Aldo that he's maintained his No. 2 ranking, in my mind. Edgar is No. 3. Doesn't make much more sense than that.

C. I can't think of any particularly good reasons against this fight. It's a potentially tough draw for Edgar, forcing him to navigate another tough hurdle while McGregor could punch his title ticket against a nonranked Siver. There would be some truth to that, but that's not a good enough reason not to do it. Edgar is a big boy. He can handle a tough schedule.

The other question would be: Does it make sense to book Mendes to a fight like that, coming off a title loss? I think it does. Mendes has never looked better. He gave Aldo his toughest fight. We've seen Mendes blow through easy fights in first-round finishes on his way back to the title. Why go back there? I'd rather see him in a fight against a former lightweight champ.

Basically, I'm in favor of not overthinking this one. Mendes versus Edgar is a home run. We don't know what's going to happen with the title. Maybe Aldo loses the belt to McGregor, shaking up the entire division. Maybe Aldo beats McGregor and finally jumps to 155. Maybe injuries cancel fights and backup plans come into play. Who knows?

In any and all of these scenarios, I don't see much drawback in having the Nos. 2 and 3 featherweights in the world fight one another in early 2015.

Without further ado, here are the grades from a pretty solid UFC Fight Night 57 in Texas.