In a year that already has proved to be massive for the UFC, with one major card after another, UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York looks to be the biggest and most important of them all. In honor of such a marquee event, ESPN.com is providing dedicated previews to all 13 bouts on the card, breaking down what's at stake and projecting who will win, along with quotes and statistics for each fighter.
Featherweights: Frankie Edgar (20-5-1) versus Jeremy Stephens (25-12)
Odds as of Nov. 4: Edgar -335; Stephens +275
Dana White's thoughts
"Edgar getting a win over a tough, hard-hitting guy like Jeremy Stephens is the right fight for him right now. For Jeremy, this kid has been on the grind for a long time and is finally getting his shot against a guy like Frankie. A win over Frankie is so huge for Jeremy Stephens. I'm a big Jeremy Stephens fan, I love the way that kid fights. I don't think he gets overlooked, it's just about you've got to be at the right place at the right time and when you are, you've got to win. You've got to win those big fights and this is a big one for Stephens."
What's at stake?
Edgar finds peace in not worrying about title situation
This isn't what Edgar wanted to close out 2016. He wanted to be on UFC 205 in New York, for sure -- but he wanted to headline the card, against featherweight champ Conor McGregor.
Instead, it will be Edgar's teammate and lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the main event against McGregor. Any shot of Edgar's dream fight at UFC 205 disappeared in July, when he lost to Jose Aldo in an interim featherweight title bout.
Over the past two years, Edgar's fate has been out of his hands. Many felt he should have gotten the opportunity to fight McGregor before now, but the Irishman always had other plans.
Even now, the top of the 145-pound division is in disarray, with McGregor fighting at a higher weight and Aldo claiming he no longer wants to fight at all. Edgar isn't worried about any of it.
"I've been told in the past I was getting a title shot, only to be told the very next day, 'Eh, no you're not,'" Edgar said. "I've been worrying about things like that for years and in a way, it's good to not have to worry about it. It's not that I don't want the title anymore, that's always what I want -- but let's just see what happens in this fight."
Ultimately, Edgar says he doesn't believe McGregor will ever return to the division. He does expect Aldo to come back, "sooner or later."
The reality is that both still have an impact on Edgar's future, but at least for his own mindset, he has separated himself from them. He has told the UFC he would drop to bantamweight, but only for an immediate title shot. Regardless of what comes next, Edgar says he won't let things out of his control affect future performances.
"Everything we prepared for [against Aldo] I felt I executed, but I didn't adjust well," Edgar said of that five-round decision loss. "That's something I usually do. I think I'm a smart fighter but in that fight, I was trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Aldo was just smarter and picked his shots better.
"I wouldn't say I wanted it too much, but that's kind of almost what it felt like. I wanted it so bad, I thought there was only one way to get it done. The best fighters always find a way. If a guy wants you to go right the whole time, you've got to start going left. That night I just kept going right."
Stephens' mindset: #ResultsWillDoTheTalking
On Oct. 28, Stephens tweeted out that "media won't stop calling." But the 30-year-old veteran has no desire to answer his phone.
There has been a shortage of quotes coming out of Stephens ahead of this fight, and those close to him say that's not an accident. He has posted video of him working alongside coaches Jhanex Alviz and Darryl Christian.
Stephens made a huge splash during the UFC 205 news conference on Sept. 27 in New York, although probably not in the way he had in mind. Just as McGregor was asked a question on who his greatest challenge would be, Stephens jumped in and answered for him, while also claiming he possessed more knockout power.
McGregor reacted by claiming he had no idea who Stephens was. The moment went viral on social media.
Although that exchange didn't go Stephens' way, his media silence is more likely due to the focus he's putting into this bout. Training out of San Diego, he will fight for the 23rd time in the UFC. He has enjoyed tremendous longevity in the world's top promotion, but he has also never risen into serious title contention. A win over Edgar, plus a victory over former bantamweight champion Renan Barao in his previous fight, would do that.
Edgar: 20-5-1 record (14-5-1 UFC); 5-0 in non-title featherweight fights
Edgar: 1,871 total strikes landed in UFC competition, fifth most in UFC history
Stephens: 25-12 record (12-11 UFC); 17 of 25 wins by knockout
Stephens: Allowed six takedowns in past four UFC fights
Stephens' reputation is very much tied to his knockout power and although he has put in work to elevate the other areas of his game, it's no secret that power is his best attribute. Even he wouldn't deny that.
And against a former lightweight champion and two-time featherweight title challenger, that power is his greatest equalizer. Edgar had his wrestling neutralized by Aldo his last time out, but that's lightning that shouldn't strike twice here. Stephens doesn't have a hole in his defensive wrestling, but the feints, footwork and timed shots of Edgar will give him a lot to think about. And Edgar has never been finished his entire career.
Prediction: Edgar by third-round TKO.