Event: TUF 22 Finale Date: December 11, 2015 Location: Las Vegas, Nevada Venue: TBA Broadcast: Fox Sports 1 UFC Featherweight Contender Frankie Edgar The closest fighter the UFC has to a real-life Rocky Balboa, Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (19-4-1) has surprised everyone with his never-say-die attitude and come-from-behind ability that has led him to career-defining victories over B.J. Penn (three times) and former arch-nemesis Gray Maynard. Winner of seven “Fight of the Night” awards, Edgar comes out of Renzo Gracie’s East Coast fight team with a Jersey attitude that has turned him into one of the most impressive lighter-weight fighters in the world. Opponents can never count Edgar out, and the soon-to-be 34-year-old former lightweight champ has fought for the 155-pound strap six times and the featherweight title once, fighting competitively in each and every single one of those fights, win or lose. After losing three competitive decision losses in a row against Benson Henderson (twice) and Jose Aldo, Edgar defeated Charles Oliveira at UFC 162 to jump back into title contention at 145lbs. He then coached TUF 19 opposite Penn, and at the TUF 19 Finale TKOed Penn for a third win over “The Prodigy.” Following the win over Penn, Edgar took on top contender Cub Swanson and finished him in the fifth round via submission before besting another of the legends of lighter weights in MMA, Urijah Faber by unanimous decision. UFC Featherweight Contender Chad Mendes One of the top featherweight fighters in the UFC, Chad Mendes (17-3) bounced back from his first career loss to UFC champion Jose Aldo at UFC 142 with a dominant first-round knockout win over Cody McKenzie at UFC 148. He didn’t stop there, however, as he took out Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins, Clay Guida and Nik Lentz in successive fights to earn a five-fight win streak as well as another crack at Aldo and his featherweight crown, ultimately losing a close five-round decision at UFC 179 in a 2014 Fight of the Year candidate. A powerful wrestler with improving standup and knockout power, Mendes is a beast and with his increased confidence in the striking department, he was able to go toe-to-toe with the champ for 25 minutes. Despite the loss to Aldo, though, Mendes remains one of the top 145lbers in the game, and after knocking out Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night 69, he was once again given the chance to fight for the featherweight title, this time on short notice against Conor McGregor. Mendes was finished at the end of the second round by McGregor, but found success with both his striking and wrestling before McGregor’s vaunted striking caught up with him. TUF 22 Finale Opening Odds Breakdown: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Edgar a slight -150 favorite (bet $150 to win $100) over Mendes (+120) at Several Bookmakers, in a bout that almost seems too close to call. Mendes has the edge in knockout power here, but Edgar has the superior cardio and volume, not to mention more experience going deep in five-round fights. If this turns into a striking battle, I tend to think that Edgar will win the rounds, but Mendes has the better chance of scoring a finish. The toughest part of this fight to gauge is how the wrestling will play out between these two, should either pursue that sort of gameplan. Mendes is still yet to be taken down in his MMA career, but Edgar has a knack for timing takedowns perfectly, and masking them with combination striking. Will that be enough to finally take Mendes off of his feet? Or will ‘Money’ be able to put Edgar on his back? Edgar has always mixed takedowns into his repertoire, but he has become particularly effective from top position of late, so it will be interesting to see how he functions without that weapon at his disposal. No matter where the fight plays out, it should be a fascinating contest between two of the truly elite fighters in MMA, and I cannot wait.