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UFC 136 Breakdowns: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian

HOUSTON -- Frankie Edgar has spent the last year of his fighting life focusing on just one man: Gray Maynard. Being forced to return his attention to the same task over and over hasn't driven him crazy, but even the mild-mannered lightweight champion has had just about enough.

"I'm sick of talking about how sick I am of talking about him," Edgar said on Thursday, a wry smile on his face.

After Saturday, win or lose, he finally gets to move on.



But the fact is, a win over Maynard is important for Edgar's growing legacy. It was a surprise when he won the championship over BJ Penn in April 2010, but whatever doubters remained were silenced when he romped past Penn in a rematch a few months later.

But Maynard (10-0-1) has been the one thorn in his side, a powerful puncher with a wrestling pedigree and a willingness to grind out opponents. The pair have fought twice before, with Maynard winning a decision in April 2008, and the duo scrapping to a thrilling draw on January 1.

Maynard's success in the respective fights came via different means. In the first bout, Edgar (13-1-1) out-landed him on the feet barely, but Maynard controlled the fight with his wrestling, scoring on eight of 10 takedown tries, according to Compustrike.

In the second fight though, Maynard's best moments came standing, rocking Edgar in the first round and nearly finishing. But his success ended there. Edgar effectively shut down his wrestling. After the 10-8 first round, Maynard managed only 1 of 11 takedown tries.

Here's what we know about Edgar: he can fight forever. He's shown it over and over. In the last fight with Maynard, for instance, he threw and landed more strikes in round five than any other round of the fight. Because of that endless stamina, he's usually going to throw greater volume than his opponent.

In Edgar-Maynard II, he threw 53 more strikes than Maynard despite spotting him a 41-strike advantage in round one.

In close rounds with little discernible damage differential, volume wins rounds. Compounding Maynard's problem, Edgar is historically more accurate than him, 42 percent to 34 percent, according to FightMetric research. If Edgar throws more volume and lands more, this fight will end up looking like Edgar-Penn II.

Maynard's best way to slow Edgar down is to take him down. When he's fresh, he seems to transition better into his takedowns. As he fatigues though, he loses effectiveness. So pacing will be important to Maynard here. If he takes Edgar down, it would be advantageous for him keep Edgar there for a while. Grind him out. Fighting Edgar in open space will always be difficult due to his speed and footwork.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Maynard win the first round or two this time around, but I expect Edgar to stay away from Maynard's heavy artillery. As the fight goes on, Edgar's quickness, movement and accuracy will begin to take over. It will be another close one, but this time, Edgar takes the decision, and the trilogy concludes with both men 1-1-1 against each other.

Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
The last time we saw Jose Aldo fight, he looked vulnerable for the first time in a long time, flat on his back for most of round five against Mark Hominick, relying on his early lead and holding on until the final bell for a decision win.

Aldo (19-1) says now that his weight cut went awry due to added muscle, and he was also impacted by a fight-week infection that was not divulged prior to the fight. During fight week in Toronto back then, he looked gaunt and depleted. Seeing him around this week, he looks healthy and energetic.

His offensive gifts are well known to most fans. He has a brilliant game which mixes power and speed. He flicks out chopping kicks with ease. He has black belt jiu-jitsu and wrestles like he's been doing it his entire life.

If there are holes in his game, they aren't very obvious.

That's the puzzle Kenny Florian (15-5) is trying to solve.

Florian might not be as naturally physically gifted as Aldo (their power, for one, is not comparable), but he's willed himself into a complete fighter. But here's the real problem for Florian: nearly all the things at which he's good, Aldo is better. That's clear from a look at the stats.

Aldo lands more strikes per minute than Florian, is more accurate overall, has better striking defense and has landed takedowns at a higher percentage. And when it comes to takedown defense, statistically at least, Aldo has no peer among active UFC fighters. He's stuffed 93 percent of attempts against him, a number that would rank him No. 1 if he had the required five UFC fights to qualify for the leaderboard (eight of his nine fights under the Zuffa banner were in the WEC).

I think Florian is smart enough to know he can't fight Aldo in space for five rounds. He will try to either take Aldo down or grind him against the cage to take away some of his explosiveness. But in a 25-minute fight, that's going to be a difficult proposition.

I don't think Florian will get blown out by any means; he's too solid a fighter to leave massive openings. But I do think Aldo's attack will find its mark over time. Aldo at his best is a matchup nightmare for any featherweight, and judging from the smile he's been carting around Houston, he's brought his A-game.

Aldo via fourth-round TKO.