Prior to every event, Under the Radar will cast the spotlight on an up-and-coming talent who shows the potential for growth in their division and isn’t getting enough attention as they head into battle.
- Name: Te Edwards
- Record: 6-1 overall, UFC debut
- Division: Lightweight
- Team: The MMA Lab
Collegiate wrestling background? Check.
Training with a great team? Check.
Demonstrated finishing abilities? Check.
Charisma and confidence for days? Check.
Te Edwards is the complete package and someone with legitimate superstar potential in the UFC.
The 28-year-old MMA Lab product made a tremendous impression on Dana White and the UFC matchmaking tandem of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard this summer with his 28-second knockout of Austin Tweedy on the third week of the Contender Series in Las Vegas, but it wasn’t just the swiftness of the finish that stood out.
Right before the bout began, Edwards’ head coach John Crouch directed his charge to “relax and have fun” and that is precisely what “Tango” did. He looked comfortable circling in the cage with Tweedy and spinning through a low leg kick he absorbed right out of the chute. There was no nervous energy, no unnecessary movements and no feeling like he was rushing — he just circled, waited and then uncorked a right hand that ended the fight in a heartbeat.
It was only the second punch he threw in the fight and the first one he really committed to throwing after presenting one at half-speed and half-force seconds earlier to get a read on Tweedy’s reaction time and movements. That first offering was naked — just a right hand over the top with no setup — and Tweedy saw it coming, so Edwards added a subtle feint to the sequel and then thumped that right home down the pipe for the finish.
From there, his star-power ratcheted up to 11 as Edwards pantomimed signing a contract and walked into the corner of the cage to talk to White, Shelby and Maynard as they sat cageside, picking their jaws up off the floor.
“If we’re giving out contracts, I’ll take one,” he said in the cage, smiling ear-to-ear, and not long after, the UFC President presented him with the paperwork.
While his charisma and personality should help Edwards garner a little more attention this weekend in the Martimes given that the card is light on chutzpah, it’s the items listed on his curriculum vitae that make him stand out as someone with the potential to make a rapid ascent in the loaded lightweight division.
The MMA Lab has done an outstanding job of delivering talented prospects in the early stages of their career to the highest levels of the sport and this is no different.
After being an occasional presence in the gym earlier in his career, Edwards has been working with the seasoned professionals and hungry, young fighters in the highly respected gym consistently for the last couple of years. Competing in rooms like that has a way of weeding out those who are really cut out for this life and to make it through the grind immediately says a lot about Edwards and anyone else coming out of the Glendale, Arizona fighter factory.
But even amongst the strong collection of talent that has graduated from The Lab to the Octagon, Edwards stands out.
His wrestling background, hand speed and power make him a threat on the feet and on the ground and unlike some of his contemporaries, he’s a clear “plus athlete” who has the speed and fluidity to be a problem for other hopefuls and more than a few established names as well.
This weekend in Moncton, Edwards takes on fellow promotional newcomer Don Madge, who arrives in the UFC from South Africa’s EFC Worldwide organization, where he defeated Dave Mazany to capture the lightweight title and run his winning streak to four in what turned out to be his final appearance with the company.
The 27-year-old “Magic Man” has fought in 18 months after signing with the UFC in March and having his withdraw from a scheduled bout in May due to injury, which could lead to him showing up a little rusty in his first foray into the Octagon.
It’s the right kind of matchup for the relatively inexperienced newcomers, but one that feels like it should favor Edwards.
While replicating his performance from inside the TUF Gym this summer on Saturday night at the Avenir Centre would be asking a lot, it’s not out of the realm of possibility and an impact showing from the talented neophyte wouldn’t be unexpected.
Edwards has all the pieces to be a star in the UFC.
Now it’s time to sit back and see if he can put it all together and turn that potential into positive results.