UFC 144: Henderson new lightweight champion, and he deserves it
Former WEC lightweight champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson put on a dominating performance at UFC 144 and took a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) over former champion Frankie Edgar to win the UFC lightweight title. Henderson (16-2, 4-0 UFC) pressured Edgar (14-2-1, 9-2-1 UFC) throughout the fight and landed several big leg kicks in every round in the main event at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Lately it seems that every UFC main event decision has come with controversy. UFC president Dana White along with many fans believes Edgar won the fight. “I had it even going into the last round and I give the last round to Frankie (Edgar)," White said.
I disagree. I thought Henderson put on a championship performance and clearly looked like the better fighter for four of the five rounds.
I spoke to Henderson a day before the fight and asked him what sets him apart from Edgar. He said, “I’m as confident as any fighter on the planet. I feel as though I have the advantage everywhere. Whether it’s boxing or wrestling, or cardio or anything.”
It was clear to me after the fight that Henderson had the better cardio and he out-boxed, wrestled and kicked his way to victory over Edgar. It also was Henderson's octagon aggression that set him apart and the deciding factor in the win. Henderson landed the most-devastating kicks and finishes. Henderson landed the biggest hit of the fight with an upkick that dropped the champion.
Despite the fight having a controversial decision, I was glad to hear after the fight that White did not call for a rematch. Edgar has had a rematch against his last two opponents, Gray Maynard and BJ Penn.
Henderson and Edgar shared “Fight of the Night” honors.
In the co-main event, a confident Ryan Bader (14-2, 7-2 UFC) out-fought a slow and overweight fighter in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-10, 7-4 UFC). Ryan won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), and clearly looked like the better fighter throughout. Rampage's one bright spot was in the second round when he lifted Bader into the air and slammed him. It was Jackson’s only damaging move throughout the fight. Bader was the faster and more complete fighter.
I was surprised at the end of the fight that Rampage didn’t get on the microphone with ringside commentator Joe Rogan and announce his retirement. But leading up to the fight, Rampage let it be known that he really disliked talking to Rogan. Veteran fighters BJ Penn and Nick Diaz both announced their retirement after losses in the octagon. It just felt like Rampage would call it quits in the country he had some of his most memorable moments of his career.
It was also fitting the Bader would receive 20 percent of Rampage's purse, for Rampage not making weight. Several days before the fight UFC's White asked Rampage about his weight and he said, “You don’t want to know,” and White said, “I didn’t ask.”
Since the A-Team movie that Rampage starred in, he really hasn’t been the same fighter.
After the fight, Jackson said to mmafights.com that he hurt his knee during training and took the fight because he didn't want to disappoint his Japanese fans.
Below are the full undercard results:
Mark Hunt won by TKO (Punches) over Cheick Kongo at 2:11 of the first round.
Jake Shields won by unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Tim Boetsch won by TKO (Punches) over Yushin Okami at 0:54 of the third round.
Hatsu Hioki won by unanimous decision over Bart Palaszewski.
Anthony Pettis won by KO (Head Kick and Punches) over Joe Lauzon at 1:21 of the first round.Takanori Gomi won by TKO (Punches) over Eiji Mitsuoka at 2:21 of the second round.
Vaughan Lee won by Submission (Armbar) over Norifumi Yamamoto at 4:29 of the first round.
Riki Fukuda won by unanimous decision over Steve Cantwell.
Chris Cariaso won by unanimous decision over Takeva Mizugaki.
Issei Tamura won by KO (Punches) over Tiequan Zhang at 33 seconds of the second round.