UFC 211 Cheat Sheet: Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez

ESPN Illustration

The UFC heads to Dallas on Saturday, with a pair of championship fights atop UFC 211 inside American Airlines Center.

Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will look to tie the all-time UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses (two) in a rematch against Junior dos Santos.

And dominant strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk will try to remain unbeaten in a title defense against Jessica Andrade.

Let's take a closer look at all the top fights on the card with ESPN's Cheat Sheets, UFC 211 edition. For full UFC 211 coverage, click here.

Frankie Edgar (21-5-1) vs. Yair Rodriguez (10-1)

Odds: Edgar -140, Rodriguez +120

Edgar feels better than ever, looks forward to proving it against young opponent

Frankie Edgar is 35 years old. Which isn't really old at all -- unless you start comparing it to 24.

There is an 11-year age difference between Edgar and his opponent this weekend, and don't think that's lost on him. It's impossible to ignore, and too many people seem determined to point it out.

"As my career goes on, that topic comes up more and more," Edgar said. "It does get kind of annoying. My performances haven't shown that I'm slowing down. I'm constantly fighting the best. Earlier in my career, I was too small. Now I'm getting old. People like to talk, it is what it is. They're saying the same thing to LeBron James right now."

Edgar makes a good point about recent performances. It's not as if he's struggled of late. The Toms River, New Jersey, native is 6-1 in his last seven, with the only loss coming to Jose Aldo at UFC 200.

That, however, was a significant setback.

Last summer Edgar was knocking on the door of a potential megafight against then-featherweight champion Conor McGregor. The loss to Aldo -- which left him 0-2 against the Brazilian -- drained any chance of securing that McGregor fight. And he admits a lost opportunity like that still stings.

"I don't know if I'll ever get over it," Edgar said about the second Aldo loss. "That was probably the hardest one to get through. I thought the Conor fight was in my future when that happened, and it was a chance to get revenge against Aldo, who is maybe the best featherweight ever. That could have made my career.

"But I still think, no matter what, one fight doesn't define you. I got a win in November [against Jeremy Stephens] and I've got this kid coming at me this weekend. That gets your mind off it. There's a lot of hype behind this kid and there are a lot of questions about him. I get to be the one to answer them."

"Why can't I knock him out?"

During Edgar's nearly 12-year professional career, no one has ever managed to knock him out -- or finish him at all.

It's a stat that Rodriguez has apparently heard repeatedly during the buildup to this fight. And it appears he's pretty much over it.

"Why does everybody think that nobody can knock him out? He's not human? Does he have some kind of special brain?" Rodriguez asked. "People are like, 'He's never been knocked out!' Oh my God. Look at that. What, does he have an iron brain?'

"Come on guys. Wake up. I don't like to be rude, but come on guys."

Rodriguez has good reason to be confident going into this test, as he's rolled to a 5-0 record in the UFC, with two spectacular knockouts. His flashy kickboxing style has turned heads during those five appearances, and he says he has no plans of toning that down -- even against a technical veteran like Edgar.

"How can you take this sport to another level if you're doing what other guys are doing?" Rodriguez asked. "You can't. In order for you to take the sport to another level, you have to do something different. That's what I'm trying to do and show you guys.

"I put myself at risk every time I fight in there for you guys to like it and for you guys to appreciate it. I don't care if people say, 'Oh, he spins a lot.' I'm creating a new style. Am I crazy? Yes, I'm crazy. I can't tell you I'm not out of my mind. It's just create, create, create. Bring new styles and become the best fighter in the world."

Key stats:

  • Edgar: 21-5-1 (15-5-1 UFC), 6-1 in past seven fights (all six in nontitle fights)

  • Edgar: Six wins by knockout, four wins by submission

  • Rodriguez: 10-1 (6-0 UFC), eight-fight win streak dating back to April 2014

  • Rodriguez: Three wins by knockout, two wins by submission

Breakdown: This matchup isn't just a clash of styles; it's a clash of philosophies

Edgar is one the most technical fighters of the past decade. At times he looks almost mechanical, as if there's some mathematical algorithm behind his movement and feints.

Rodriguez is a polar opposite. His style is erratic. He throws whatever comes to mind, repeatedly (and, sometimes, wildly). He sets a ridiculous pace -- and by some miracle, he's usually able to maintain that pace. Or at the very least, he's reorganized his opponent's vital organs with enough body kicks that even if he's tiring, Rodriguez looks more fresh than the other guy.

Based on the threat of Edgar's wrestling and top game, will Rodriguez tone it down a bit? I doubt it.

So far, he's fought with the same reckless abandon regardless of the situation. His approach for a main event against B.J. Penn, scheduled for five rounds, was pretty much the same as it was for a two-round exhibition fight in "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series tournament.

The best approach when facing Rodriguez, it seems, is to try matching his aggression. Go to him rather than have him come to you. He's a huge featherweight (he'll have 5 inches of height and 3 inches of reach on Edgar), with a rangy style. Playing on the outside seems rather perilous -- stifle him as much as possible, and take him down if you can.

Edgar's skill set seems well-equipped to execute that game plan, but it won't be easy. If you go back and watch Rodriguez's takedown defense, some of his previous opponents have run into a wall once they've engaged his hips. He's just extremely athletic, with lightning-fast reactions. And once he's stuffed a takedown, he's dangerous with knees in the clinch.

This is one of those unpredictable fights in which it's reasonable to predict extreme outcomes for either side. On one hand, Edgar is a massive step up in competition, and he's the best wrestler to ever step in a cage against Rodriguez. If Edgar manufactures takedowns, controls the fight on the floor and turns Rodriguez's aggression against him, it wouldn't be surprising.

At the same time, if Rodriguez uses his size and athleticism, stuffs Edgar's early takedowns and gets into any semblance of a rhythm on the feet, this could go sideways for Edgar quickly. Rodriguez doesn't need many opportunities to stun an opponent and suddenly make that Octagon look very, very small. His left kick from the southpaw stance carries a lot of fight ending potential.

Okamoto's Prediction: Rodriguez via decision

You make the call: