FOX Sports Asia shakes off our UFC 222 hangover to bring you our verdict on the Ortega-Edgar bout.
Both fighters had an excellent entrance in the co-main event of the evening, with Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar exuding confidence on their way to the ring.
As Bruce Buffer introduced Ortega, a smirk began to form on his face, indicating he was in the perfect mindset for a battle. Opposite him was Edgar, looking all business, pacing back and forth, just itching for the bell to ring. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as this was the true main event of the card.
Round one started off with Edgar instantly pushing the pace, firing off multiple jabs against Ortega who looked an entire weight class above Edgar. The difference was actually quite surprising considering the tale of the tape only showed a two-inch height advantage in Ortega’s favour.
Edgar continued to push the pace, throwing low leg kicks coupled with lightning fast punches, all the while Ortega was using his height and reach advantage to keep the distance. Ortega continued to work on the outside seeing no problem in backing up.
As the round wore on, it became clear that Ortega was trying to time Edgar. Ortega was not having much luck effectively countering, as Edgar continued his assault with well put together combos that were consistently landing.
One thing that stood out to me is that even though Edgar was landing, he was unable to capitalise on his power due to Ortega rolling with the punches well and moving away. In the lower weights, strikes don’t usually do too much damage unless you move into them, in which case they alter reality!
— UFC (@ufc) March 4, 2018
After taking enough from Edgar and figuring out his range, Ortega began to move forward, putting power behind a series of combinations, as well as mixing in feints just to mess with Edgar’s head. The tides began to turn as Edgar was showing signs of frustration while Ortega was keeping him at range and landing his own combinations. In his frustration Edgar began rushing in more. Ortega picked up on this and started putting pressure on Edgar coming forward even more.
Edgar tried to time a takedown on Ortega who instantly locked up a guillotine attempt, Edgar letting it go. Edgar followed up with another body lock after a few combinations which failed again. Now Ortega saw his opening, he waited for Edgar to close the distance yet again, and when he did Ortega unleashed a vicious elbow that sent Edgar stumbling backwards.
Ortega instantly capitalised on this, throwing a vicious series of punches with bad intentions, before landing a perfectly placed uppercut that sent Edgar to the canvas. Ortega threw a few hammer fists before the referee stopped the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) March 4, 2018
My initial reactions as I watched this fight were, okay Edgar is getting the best of Ortega using his speed and footwork. But as the fight went on, I began to watch the genius of Ortega unfold. He was baiting Edgar in, trying to get him to move forward. Edgar either started to pick up on this or was looking to switch up his strategy a bit, since his strikes weren’t hurting Ortega. Either way, this gave Ortega the chance to move forward, which he did extremely well.
Ortega was moving forward at his own range, which negated the counters of Edgar and ultimately baited Edgar into closing the distance again. As soon as Ortega had Edgar’s timing and range figured out, he capitalised on it and worked to end the fight. This is the first loss that Edgar has suffered by referee stoppage, solidifying Ortega’s place at the top of the featherweight ranks.
Ortega showed the execution of a perfect game plan, and I am looking forward to see him continue his tear through the top of the UFC ranks as an undefeated fighter.
Tommy “WildCard” Hayden is a former UFC fighter and Head MMA Coach at Elite Fight Club, Bangkok.