The Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to its birthplace this Saturday when it storms the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado for UFC 150. Opening the card is a featherweight affair between two youngblood prospects as “The American Kid” Justin Lawrence (4-0) goes head-to-head with “Blessed” Max Holloway (5-1). Next out, former 185lbs. title challenger “Thunder” Yushin Okami (26-7) battles Buddy Roberts (12-2), and former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields (27-6-1) anchors the card in a bout against “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (20-8). The co-main will prove a face paced lightweight war as Thai boxing specialist “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (18-4) meets powerhouse slugger “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (30-10-2). The featured attraction is, as usual, what has the MMA media world abuzz. “Smooth” Benson Henderson (16-2) captured the lightweight crown from “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (14-2-1) at UFC 144 in a bout that the judges scored as a one-sided decision. The pundits and fans, however, felt the bout was much closer with many respected outlets scoring the bout in favor of Edgar. Now the pair rematch to settle their business and determine the rightful owner of the UFC Lightweight Championship belt.
At First Glance: The fans of MMA have been spoiled by the UFC in recent years. In the early days of Zuffa, even a highly contested decision rarely resulted in an immediate rematch. Now it seems that any title bout that ends in a decision that more than 10% of the fan base disagrees with warrants an instant rematch. Henderson and Edgar’s first was far more even than the official scores suggest, but a win for Henderson was in no way a robbery and it does seem to be the last in what was a long stream of immediate rematches handed out by the UFC. For better or worse, this will likely be the last time one of these men fights for the strap in the foreseeable future, so they had better make sure they bring their A game.
In Depth: The first fight between Henderson and Edgar was about as well-matched as they come. Statistically, Henderson held an edge striking, if only by literally a handful of blows each round. Edgar was the man dictating the pace on the mat with a clear wrestling advantage, but he was smartly countered by the “Smooth” One’s submission game. It was as close a fight as they come on paper and likely would have gone to a completely different conclusion had it not been for Henderson’s physical advantages. In the first two rounds, Edgar landed three of three takedown attempts and was out-landed just 42-39 in total strikes. In the third frame, Edgar scored just one takedown out of four attempts and was outstruck 19-13. The final two frames saw Edgar fight for five takedowns with only one success and a striking difference of 39-29. Even more telling was the number of strikes thrown. Henderson threw consistently around 50 strikes a round. His accuracy wasn’t as steady, but the volume was there. Edgar kept pace for two rounds but threw just over 30 total strikes in each of the final three frames. These are more than raw numbers. They clearly show the effect that Henderson’s advantages in size and athleticism had on Edgar’s ability to keep pace with the former WEC champ. Edgar’s work ethic kept him in the fight, enough so that many thought he won the final frame, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome Henderson’s natural, physical edge.
The Wild Card: Frankie Edgar is cut from the same cloth as folk legend John Henry, the steel driving man who defeated a steam-powered hammer in a spike driving contest. That story was written to teach young children how hard work and a will to never give up can overcome anything and Frankie Edgar must have had it read to him in the womb. There simply is no quit in him and he does not stop. Last time, Edgar didn’t lose so much as he ran out of time. If Henderson makes a mistake late in the fight after he has been worn down a bit himself, Edgar will find a way to make him pay for it.
The Verdict: There is a reason why people love Frankie Edgar. He wins fights he isn’t supposed to simply because he refuses to let people tell him that he can’t. This is just such a fight. Henderson works just as hard in training, is just as if not more skilled in all aspects of mixed martial arts, and is a bigger, faster, stronger physical specimen. All the same, “The Answer” will find a way to win if Henderson gives him even the slightest opportunity. Unfortunately for the former champ, though, Benson Henderson has proven flawless since coming to the UFC. Henderson via Unanimous Decision