The first trip to Japan for the Ultimate Fighting Championship under the Zuffa banner did not disappoint. Fighters on this card turned out an impressive array of victories out of hard fought competition. The excitement was high leading to the main event of UFC 144: Japan; a title fight for the undisputed lightweight championship between the current UFC Champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar versus the former WEC champion, Benson “Smooth” Henderson.
The major questions coming into this fight was weather or not Edgar could deal with the size, flexibility, kicks of Henderson and ultimately finish someone who has not been finished in his last 15 professional fights. The questions for Henderson were if he could be the first person to finally put Edgar away after being “rocked.” Edgar had shown in his last two title defenses that it takes more than just landing punches on the chin. This was excellent match making of two highly skilled mixed martial arts competitors.
The entire fight was back and forth with both men giving as good or better than they were receiving. Edgar was able to time Henderson’s kicks well enough to catch them against his body. Edgar tried several times to counter off the caught leg with hand strikes, leg kicks, leg sweeps or takedowns. These attempts were very valid and frequent, but never really contributed to neither damage nor Octagon control. When Edgar got his challenger to the ground, he tried to take the back, but Henderson was able to find a small opening and escape back to the feet. According to FightMetric.com, the official stat partner of the UFC, Edgar was 5 of 12 for takedowns and Henderson was one-for-one. Anytime a fighter is less than 50% of takedowns, I award the other fighter with great defense and Octagon control.
The most telling moments of the fight came from the blue corner. Henderson landed a huge and damaging up kick at the end of the second round. That kick opened a cut on the bridge of Edgars’ nose and the blood started to flow. This of course was nothing new for Edgar and is now almost expected from fans when Edgar fights. This is part of Edgar’s charm as a fighter; taking damage and keep moving forward. Another moment was Henderson’s deep guillotine submission attempt in the middle of the fourth round. This attempt was easily the closest attempt that could have ended the fight. Edgar was calm and worked his way free to continue the fight. Again, this is what Edgar does, bounces back from being down. Lastly, was the fact that Henderson out struck the Champion in total strikes with 100 to Edgar’s 81. Henderson also won in the significant strikes department with 87 to Edgar’s 68. The damage was done to Edgar’s face with an almost swollen shut left eye and a cut on his nose that spotted blood all over the canvas. While Henderson, on the other hand, left with no visible damage and a smile on his face.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson defeated Frankie “The Answer” Edgar via a unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46)
For Henderson the talks are either an immediate rematch with Edgar or a WEC championship rematch with the last WEC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. A rematch with Edgar does not make too much sense to me because Edgar was not as dominate as a champion as BJ Penn when Penn lost the title to Edgar nor was the result of Edgar/Henderson controversial. It makes more sense for the UFC, marketing wise, to make the Pettis/Henderson II fight later on this year.
For Edgar there is a lot of talk from outside sources, including the President of the UFC Dana White, that he should drop down to 145 or even 135 and challenge Jose Aldo and/or Dominick Cruze. Needless to say that he has several options. I think he will stay in the lightweight division to try and regain his title. His next opponent could be Clay Guida or the loser of the Jim Miller/Nate Diaz fight in May.