Who should UFC champ Jose Aldo fight next? Frankie Edgar is 'The Answer'

BY Elias Cepeda • November 23, 2014

Given how many unpredictable variables exist in the world of MMA — fighter injuries, promoters deciding which matchups can sell best, etc. — it is impossible to know if Frankie Edgar did enough Saturday night in Austin, TX against Cub Swanson to receive another shot at UFC featherweight gold.

The one thing the New Jersey native did manage to establish quite clearly, however, is that he is at least the second best 145-pound fighter in the world.

Edgar became the UFC lightweight champion by beating the best that division had ever seen in BJ Penn, twice. After losing the belt in a razor-close decision, Edgar eventually moved down a class to featherweight and took the unquestioned king of the division, Jose Aldo, the distance before losing another close decision.

Now, Edgar is sitting on three straight wins since the Aldo fight, each more impressive than the last. But his UFC Fight Night main event Saturday against Swanson was no guaranteed win.

Other than Aldo, Swanson was the hottest fighter in the featherweight division, having strung together six consecutive wins. In fact, in the early moments of Saturday's fight, Swanson stuffed Edgar's takedowns and was quicker to the punch.

Unfortunately for Swanson, Edgar did what he does:€“ make adjustments, and get better as things go along.

By the time they headed into the fifth and final round, Edgar had managed to show just how much distance lay between him and Swanson.

Edgar's combinations were crisper, more frequent and more solid. "The Answer" took Swanson down over and again, and once they hit the ground, he kept Cub there — not just grinding him down, but bludgeoning and bloodying him.

Impossibly, Edgar managed to turn it on even more in the fifth round, battering Swanson into submission with punches, and finally, a brutal neck crank. By successfully going so wholeheartedly for the finish in a fight he was winning anyway, and earning the latest submission in UFC history, with four seconds left, Edgar showed he still possesses a contender's heart and desire.

He also appears to be getting better. "I'm steady improving. That's always my goal," Edgar said in the post-event press conference. "There's no ceiling yet."

Has Edgar improved enough to beat Aldo in a rematch? That remains to be seen, but no one else appears to be a more worthy or compelling challenge for the champ.

Who has beaten Swanson that way in the past three years? Nobody.

What fighter not named Chad Mendes (who lost a thrilling fight to Aldo last month) has fought as competitively against Aldo as Edgar did? No one has.

To be sure, there are other fascinating fighters in the division. Conor McGregor, for example, is a legitimate superstar who has not yet faced Aldo.

The young Irishman is undefeated in the UFC, wants the belt and could no doubt sell the fight better than anyone else in the division. In comparison to Edgar, however, McGregor has done virtually nothing to deserve a shot at Aldo.

What's more,€“ he would appear to stand a poor chance at dethroning "Scarface."

Sure, McGregor is an excellent fighter and a real rising contender. However, he does not match up well against either Aldo or Edgar and likely would have his star deflated a good deal were he to be rushed into a title shot as he so desperately, and laudably, desires.

McGregor has his next fight booked:€“ against Dennis Siver on Jan. 18. That's a real test for both men, and should determine who moves forward in the top 10 of the 145-pound category.

As it stands right now, Aldo, Mendes and Edgar seem to be in rarified featherweight air. Edgar has done enough to earn a second shot, and more importantly, he looks like the only man in line who has a decent chance at beating Aldo.

What's more, when it comes to the hype game, Edgar is done being nice and humble. He wants what's his.

"Yeah, it should be me [who gets the next title shot]," he said flatly at the post presser. "Based on my performance, based on what I've done in my career, it should be me. That's it."

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