The UFC’s return to Japan had a lot of hype behind it and it certainly didn’t disappoint! A seven-fight pay-per-view card was assembled for the first ever, with some of the greatest names in the sport today, competing in one of the most historical venues in MMA history.
In the end, we saw a new UFC lightweight champion crowned as Benson Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision, but not without controversy.
“I don’t wanna take anything away from Ben. He did a good job, but I do feel I won that fight,” Edgar said. “He came hard, I knew it was gonna be a tough fight but I thought I did enough to win those rounds.”
In the co-main event, Ryan Bader spoiled Rampage Jackson’s return to the Land of the Rising Sun, dominating him for most of the fight, on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
“If I’m gonna to be critically honest, I’m not surprised I lost that fight,” said Rampage in his post-fight presser. “I almost didn’t make it to the fight but I didn’t wanna pull out for the Japanese fans. I injured my knee pretty bad and my doctor told me not to fight. But, it wasn’t real serious, I didn’t need surgery or nothing, but he told me it wasn’t a good idea to fight. I decided to fight anyway and I reinjured the knee when Bader slammed me.”
In other action: Mark Hunt defeated Cheick Kongo via first round TKO, Jake Shields grinded out a unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Akiyama, Tim Boetsch mounted a furious comeback and knocked out Yushin Okami and Anthony Pettis knocked out Joe Lauzon with a brutal head-kick in very first round.
As far as the fight bonuses go, Fight of the Night went to Edgar vs Henderson, Knockout of the Night went to Pettis, and England’s Vaughan Lee was awarded with Submission of the Night. Each fighter cashed in with an extra $65k for their efforts.
Like most decisions these days, there was some controversy as far as how the judges scored the main event – 49-46, 48-47, 49-46 — which many thought would lead to an immediate rematch between “Smooth” and the “Answer”. However, the UFC didn’t quite see it that way, as it appears Showtime will be next in line at a title shot.
Pettis was the last man to defeat Henderson when the two faced off at WEC 53 for the belt back in December of 2010. Highlighted by the kick heard around the world, Pettis believes he will be the next 155-pound king. After disposing of J-Lau in spectacular fashion, the last WEC champ ever, believes Henderson will be a one-hit wonder in the UFC.
“I’m the last to beat him, so it makes sense for us to have a rematch,” he said of Henderson. “I’m the last guy to beat him in the WEC, took his belt there and looks like I’m bound to do it again.”
But the loss actually motivated Bendo to evolve and improve as a fighter, evidenced by the fact that he has gone 4-0 since then, with all og his victories coming against UFC talent. There’s no question that a rematch with Pettis makes complete sense from a financial, as well as a competitive standpoint. These guys are two of the most athletically-gifted fighters in the division and the fact that they have history already certainly doesn’t hurt the marketing aspect.
For Pettis, this would be a perfect time to show the world that, like Henderson (4-0 in the UFC), he has also become a better fighter since their first encounter. Unlike the newly crowned champ, Pettis hasn’t been able to duplicate the success he enjoyed in the WEC since the merge. After last night’s win over Louzan, Showtime is now just 2-1 in the UFC, losing to Clay Guida before earning a Split Decision over Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136 last October.
“It really doesn’t matter to me. I wanna defend it, however many times Anderson Silva defends his, plus one,” said a late-arriving Bendo when asked who he preferred to fight next. “So, who ever happens to be, whether it’s Frankie again, I’m down for that. Anthony Pettis, I see you doing big things, making waves, great fighter! Very spectacular! If it happens to be Anthony, so be it. Whatever it is, I’m okay with it.”
As far as Edgar goes, the UFC will surely persuade him to move down to Featherweight and challenge reigning champion, Jose Aldo. When asked about it after his fight, Edgar didn’t seem too excited about the idea, but that could change in the near future.
“Yeah, I don’t know, that’s not something I’m thinking about right now, to be honest with you,” Edgar said.
For years, Aldo has been highly regarded among the top-5 best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, not to mention the fact that he’s unbeaten in 14 encounters. With no one else to challenge him at 145, an Edgar vs Aldo megafight is certainly a very interesting matchup for UFC fans.
Stylistically, the bout may favor the American because of his boxing, wrestling, heart, and ironically his size, believe it or not. One has to believe that Edgar, who would actually be a big, powerful Featherweight, could present a lot of problems for Junior should this fight happen in 2012. Not only do I believe it will, I think it must!
Other UFC 144 Results include:
- Hatsu Hioki defeated Bart Palaszewski by unanimous decision
- Takanori Gomi TKO’d Eiji Mitsuoka at 2:21 of Round 2
- Vaughan Lee Submitted Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto by Round 1 Armbar
- Riki Fukuda defeated Steve Cantwell by unanimous decision
- Chris Cariaso defeated Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision
- Issei Tamura KO’d Tiequan Zhang at 0:32 of Round 2