- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - After finishing Chad Mendes in a cool 2 1/2 minutes, Frankie Edgar is at the front of the line to fight the winner of Conor McGregor’s featherweight title showdown with Jose Aldo.

And if the UFC needs a contender for that belt a little sooner, Edgar is cool with that, too.

“If someone doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’m ready,” Edgar said Friday night.

Edgar stopped Mendes with a vicious combination midway through the opening round, winning his fifth straight fight on the eve of Aldo’s long-anticipated bout with McGregor at UFC 194.

Edgar (18-5-1) absorbed a handful of early kicks before abruptly staggering Mendes (17-4) with a right and flooring him with a left. Edgar celebrated after referee John McCarthy stopped the fight and angered Mendes, who thought he could have continued.

“I always prepare for battles,” Edgar said. “I always get my mind right that I’m going to walk away with a bloody nose and stitches. It was nice to walk out of there unscathed and with a KO.”

The former UFC lightweight champion had been frustrated by his inability to get a shot at Aldo since his drop to 145 pounds. After his third stoppage victory in four fights against big-name competition, UFC President Dana White confirmed Edgar is next in line.

“Nobody can deny Frankie anymore,” White said. “He looked amazing tonight, and he’ll get whatever he wants.”

Although Mendes fell awkwardly from Edgar’s blow, he was angry that he didn’t get a chance to recover in his first fight since losing an interim lightweight title shot against McGregor in July. Mendes, who has lost three of his last four bouts, also thought his second-round loss to McGregor was stopped too early.

“Everybody was talking about Chad’s power,” Edgar said. “It’s something I had to worry about, but I’ve got a little bit of juice, too.”

Edgar thought the stoppage was right, and he’s eager for his next assignment: He will be cageside to watch UFC 194.

“I just feel like I’ve been knocking on this door for this title shot for quite a while,” said Edgar, who doesn’t care which featherweight holds the belt. “I know if I just kept putting myself in this position, I couldn’t be denied, and here I am. I got it.”

Edgar’s stoppage put a dramatic finish on the second of three UFC fight cards in three nights on the Las Vegas Strip. The big week concludes Saturday night in the MGM Grand Garden Arena with UFC 194, headlined by Aldo’s meeting with McGregor and Chris Weidman’s middleweight defense against Luke Rockhold.

Tony Ferguson also choked out Edson Barboza midway through the second round of a spectacular lightweight bout at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Earlier, Ryan Hall beat Artem Lobov by unanimous decision to win the 22nd season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s long-running reality show.

Ferguson (21-3) won his seventh straight fight and established himself as a clear 155-pound title contender after finishing a bloody fight with a D’Arce choke. Ferguson won despite losing a point in the first round for hitting Barboza with an illegal kick to the face.

Both fighters bled early in the second round, but Ferguson finished with his trademark choke. Ferguson hasn’t lost since May 2012, while Barboza (16-4) performed well despite taking the fight on short notice after Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out of the matchup with an injury.

“I said I was going to take apart this entire division, and that’s what I’m doing,” Ferguson said.

Evan Dunham also won a clear decision over Joe Lauzon in a meeting of veteran lightweights. Dunham peppered Lauzon with 146 strikes in three rounds to earn his third victory in 2015 after a three-fight losing streak.

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