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24th Nov 2014

OPINION: Conor McGregor closer to title fight after UFC Fight Night 57

McGregor is one step closer to fighting Aldo but Edgar's right on the Irishman's coattails

Ben Kiely

Another featherweight contender was eliminated from the title frame at the weekend. After Frankie Edgar’s dominant win over Cub Swanson, some of the fog has now lifted from the title picture leaving a certain Irishman a little closer to the coveted UFC belt.

“Yeah, it should be me. I think,” Frankie Edgar responded when quizzed about who should get the next crack at Jose Aldo’s belt at the post-fight press conference.

“Based on my performance, based on what I’ve done in my career, it should be me.”

Frankie’s right. It should be him, but it probably won’t.

Choking out the number two ranked featherweight with four seconds to go until the final bell is no mean feat. Edgar made a huge statement with that emphatic victory over Swanson, who was riding a ridiculous six-fight win streak going into the bout. According to the American wrestler, he ended Swanson’s run at the title with that neck crank in the fifth.

“This had a little more implications just because that title shot’s looming, and certain people were promised it,” Edgar said on FOX Sports 1’s post-fight show. “I just beat the guy who was promised it, so I’m hoping I take that spot.”

Edgar held the UFC lightweight belt and has fought great champions such as Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo. He has consistently improved with every fight and, at the moment, is probably the greatest threat to Jose Aldo’s belt in the 145 lb division.

However, he seems to think that a victory for Swanson would have earned him a title shot, but his dominant beat-down doesn’t guarantee him jack squat.

Is that because Swanson’s a striker? Is this an example of the UFC’s bias towards standup fighters over grapplers and wrestlers? If the promotion had been building Swanson up as the saviour of the division, the most qualified fighter to try to usurp King Aldo’s throne, then surely the man who put a halt to his meteoric rise should automatically take his place as the number one contender. That would be the logical way of deciding who the number one contender is, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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Conor McGregor has never beaten a Cub Swanson. That is not to say that he couldn’t, but he just hasn’t. The biggest scalp on McGregor’s record is Dustin Poirier who, although is supremely talented and a probable future contender, is also a little raw as a fighter. And, while he’s a relatively big name in the division, he’s not a Swanson or an Edgar, or even a Lamas.

The thing is, McGregor doesn’t have to beat a Swanson to get a shot at Aldo. What brought McGregor this far is the manner in which he has won his fights and the way he markets himself. A first-round knockout is always going to draw more attention than a 25-minute pummeling followed by the latest submission in the history of the promotion.

While Edgar utilising his wrestling prowess over five rounds to make an exciting fighter look very mediocre is an intriguing watch for the purists, to the casual fans – the ones who put the meat in the seat, who buy PPV’s, who the UFC rely on to turn a profit – it just doesn’t compare to a lightning-quick finish by a charismatic, trash-talking Irishman.

Conor McGregor during this evening's open workout 16/7/2014

The Notorious is also unbeaten in the UFC, which massively stands in his favour. He is the only fighter in the top five-ranked featherweights who hasn’t lost to Aldo. Edgar has not only lost to the champ, he has lost three title fights since 2012. The young, up-and-comer with the sparkling record getting his first chance at becoming the world champion is an easier storyline to sell than the veteran getting his fourth crack at the whip.

A win against Siver and a massive Dublin stadium event headlined by McGregor v Aldo is almost a certainty. The UFC want it to happen, the fans want it to happen and to be honest, Frankie Edgar should also want it to happen.Regardless of the outcome of a potential fight between McGregor and Aldo, Edgar will almost definitely be next in line for the belt.

And, if McGregor manages to upset the odds and win, given what people have been saying about his propensity to dodge wrestlers, that fight might suit Edgar down to the ground. Literally.