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Frankie Edgar could be the UFC’s most underappreciated champion

Edgar enters UFC 136 main event in the unfamiliar territory of being a favorite

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Justin M. Bowen

Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar takes questions from the media during UFC 125 open workouts Thursday, December 30, 2010, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

UFC 125 - Edgar vs. Maynard

Gray Maynard reacts to the announcement of a draw against Frankie Edgar in their lightweight title fight during UFC 125 Saturday, January 1, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Launch slideshow »

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No notable set of mixed martial arts rankings list UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar better than the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Many have Edgar (13-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC), who defends his title against Gray Maynard (10-0-1 MMA, 8-0-1 UFC) in the UFC 136 main event Saturday in Houston, out of the top five all together. UFC President Dana White struggles to understand that logic.

“Frankie Edgar, really, is a 145-pounder and he’s beat everybody at 155 pounds, including B.J. Penn twice,” White said recently. “He should be higher in the rankings.”

The consummate underdog rising to a championship is a familiar storyline in sports. Edgar is mixed martial arts’ version of the tale. Despite all of his accomplishments, doubters and a lack of credit have accompanied Edgar constantly.

He was a 5-to-1 betting underdog on the night he captured the belt from Penn at UFC 112. When the UFC granted Penn an immediate rematch, Edgar was still considered a long shot at 3-to-1.

Maynard was also a slight favorite before UFC 125, when he and Edgar fought to a draw. That means UFC 136 will be the first time oddsmakers have ever sided with Edgar before a championship bout.

He’s currently around a -150 favorite (risking $1.50 to win $1), a sign that maybe Edgar is finally receiving some of his due acclaim.

“The respect is coming,” Edgar said. “It’s going to keep growing the better I do and the longer I keep the belt.”

It’s ironic that Edgar witnessed his most significant jump in respect after a draw instead of one of his impressive wins. It was the nature of the UFC 125 matchup with Maynard that gained Edgar new followers.

Maynard did nothing short of destroy Edgar in the first round. Maynard used his punching power to put Edgar on the ground numerous times. All three judges scored the round 10-8, but it was so lopsided that a 10-7 wouldn’t have looked unjustified.

What Edgar showed next was one of the most remarkable displays of perseverance ever seen in the UFC. He won at least two of the four remaining rounds and as many as all of them, depending on the judge.

“I thought I did enough to win,” Edgar said. “But a close fight like that, you never know.”

Maynard also strongly believed he won on the night of the event. Although Maynard still thinks he deserves the belt, he began to understand why judges scored the fight so closely after re-watching it.

Even Maynard was impressed by Edgar’s resolve.

“They scored it how they did, it’s okay,” Maynard. “He was hurt. He’s a tough kid.”

If Edgar can win over his foremost rival, it shouldn’t be long before any other holdouts give the champion his recognition. A victory over Maynard would probably ensure it.

“I try to come into every fight with a chip on my shoulder,” Edgar said. “Not for any reason, just because I’m eager to win.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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