Benson Henderson celebrates winning the UFC lightweight championship with his mother after beating Frankie Edgar at UFC 144. (Photo: Tracy Lee / Yahoo! Sports)
Close fights carry with them the inherent problem of a significant group of viewers feeling that the loser will be robbed, and that is the case with the UFC 144 main event between Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson (or Frank Edgar and Benson Henderson). The two men put on a compelling, competitive scrap for the UFC lightweight championship with both having their moments of success and, depending on what you valued in what transpired, it is possible to make a case for either fighter to have taken the decision.
I saw the fight as a narrow 48-47 win for Frankie Edgar, but I can understand the official scores that placed the UFC belt around the waist of Henderson. Henderson was the "aggressor" coming forward constantly and putting pressure on Edgar while Edgar was able to capably counter off his aggression.
In the end, I'd rather not focus on the "controversy." Mainly because I don't actually think there was any controversy, just a good, close fight that someone had to win.
Instead, my focus is on the fight as the capper to one of the greatest nights of fighting I've ever seen. UFC 144 was a beautiful journey through all things that make MMA great. This was a special night and that is something we should all deeply appreciate as MMA fans. Let's take a run through the night's action for some thoughts and analysis.
- First of all, Frankie Edgar is a beast of a man. He takes punishment and keeps coming forward at all times. Henderson landed an upkick in round 2 that came close to knocking Edgar out cold and caused blood to pour from his nose for the rest of the fight. Edgar just kept doing his thing and trying to find ways to pop Henderson.
- Henderson just has such a relentless pace and style. He was throwing kicks and punches and trying to keep Edgar from ever really getting comfortable. Henderson is an incredibly tough fight for any lightweight on the planet and it sounds like Anthony Pettis secured a title shot with his knockout (according to Rogan's "inside information" at the end of the PPV). That rematch is going to be nuts.
Quinton Jackson looked awful tonight. He missed weight for the bout but people still expected him to be too much for Ryan Bader. Instead, Bader beat him up in the stand-up, took him down and just basically roughed him up. Jackson limped around after the fight ended so I assume he's going to claim that a knee injury kept him from being in shape for the fight. (Update: Jackson did say he hurt his knee in training and again mid-fight)
- For Bader, this is a great win. This is a guy who lost to Jon Jones (no shame in that) and followed that up by being the only guy in years to lose to Tito Ortiz. And he lost that fight badly. For Bader to get such a big win really should keep his career going forward instead of flaming out with the Jones fight.
Much more after the jump...
- Mark Hunt is not only fighting in the UFC in 2012, he's got a three fight win streak. Cheick Kongo decided he wanted to have a kickboxing match with a guy that hits a lot harder and that resulted in him paying the price. Hunt hits too hard to play around with.
- Let's not get ahead of ourselves about Hunt though. Kongo played into his game but Hunt isn't exactly ready to take the title from Junior dos Santos.
- I was confused as I watched Jake Shields outwork Yoshihiro Akiyama on the feet. Not because it was happening, but because Joe Rogan seemed to be ignoring everything Shields did in favor of the fact that Akiyama's takedown defense was good. Shields has unbelievably ugly striking, but he was the one landing much more often and simply deserved the win more.
- Akiyama is now a guy who lost a mostly stand-up fight to Jake Shields and got submitted on the floor by Chris Leben. That's just mindblowing.
- Tim Boetsch is an awesome human being. Yushin Okami was simply destroying him for two rounds. Okami was landing hard strikes for the first two rounds, getting on top on the floor and putting a hurt on Boetsch and just running things. Then Boetsch came out and went for broke in round three and knocked him out with a brutal inside striking game. It was a great comeback and one of many great moments over the course of the night.
- Boetsch did something more fighters should do. Did he put himself at a higher risk of being finished by coming out in the third round and going for it 100%? Absolutely! But so what? The UFC has clearly shown that there is incentive to losing fights where you're going for broke. He didn't just try to survive to the cards, he went for a win like a fighter. Had he gone out on his shield, the UFC wasn't going to punish him for trying to make something happen.
- Hatsu Hioki looked great in running through Bart Palaszewski. Hioki crushed him in round one and then recovered from a rocky second round to dominate the third round again. His transition game on the ground is just so slick but I don't think he matches up well with Aldo. Still, that's a fight that seems like it's going to have to happen in the near future.
- It sounds like Anthony Pettis earned himself a shot at a rematch with Henderson after a crushing knockout of Joe Lauzon. Lauzon was not ready for the speed of Pettis at all. From the opening bell it was Pettis who was looking for the killshot and he got it when he connected with a head kick and follow up punches on the ground just 1:21 into the opening round.
- I can't say I'm shocked that Lauzon followed his usual career path of losing to top level guys. The Guillard fight was the exception, not the rule. Pettis simply isn't as susceptible to mistakes like Guillard makes and that meant that Lauzon would have to find a way to create his own openings, which doesn't happen with him very often against top level guys.
- It was harder than it probably should have been, but Takanori Gomi's great comeback win over Eiji Mitsuoka was a special moment. The Japanese crowd had just seen Kid Yamamoto lose in ugly fashion and Takeya Mizugaki lose a questionable decision. Having the hometown superstar get a beautiful and dramatic win was spectacular.
- Kid Yamamoto just got sloppy, he was clearly on his way to picking apart and busting up Vaughan Lee but he left himself open for a knee that allowed the fight to be flipped completely. All credit to Lee for transitioning from submission to submission to lock up the fight ending submission.
- Steve Cantwell should get released from the UFC after tonight's loss to Riki Fukuda. Fukuda looked great but Cantwell has just regressed so far as a fighter. From a top level prospect to a guy who is getting dominated by Fukuda...shocking.
- Speaking of guys who can't compete in the UFC...How about Zhang Tiequan. He got knocked out badly by a late replacement opponent. It feels like the UFC is trying to find fighters for him to beat and he just can't quite pull it off. He's clearly not at the UFC level and it's time for them to give up on him.
- My last note is going to be sappy and lame...but thank you to all of our readers. Tonight was such a great show and a special night that I started to feel very lucky to be able to cover this sport for a living. I get to ramble about something I truly love and I wouldn't get to do that without you guys coming here and reading it. Tonight was fantastic and reminded me of how truly lucky I am. So...thank you!
- UFC 144 Results: Frankie Edgar Doesn't 'Need' To Drop To Featherweight - Brent Brookhouse
- UFC 144 Results: Ben Henderson And Anthony Pettis Ready For Rematch - Nate Wilcox
- UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson Results And Post-Fight Analysis - Brent Brookhouse
- UFC 144 Results: Dana White Says Anthony Pettis Will 'Likely' Get Next UFC Lightweight Title Shot - Bloody Elbow
- UFC 144 Post-Fight Press Conference Video
- UFC Japan Video: Georges St. Pierre Gets Attacked By A Mob Of Kids With Samurai Foam Swords - Bloody Elbow
- Bad Boy Presents Bloody Elbow Radio - Episode 139: UFC 144 Results Review
- UFC 144 Results: Ryan Bader Dominates Rampage Jackson To Decision - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Mark Hunt Knocks Out Cheick Kongo In The First Round - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Jake Shields Wins Hard Fought Decision Over Yoshihiro Akiyama - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Tim Boetsch Upsets Yushin Okami In The Third Round - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Post-Fight Press Conference Video
- UFC 144 Results: Hatsu Hioki Defeats Bart Palaszewski By Unanimous Decision - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Anthony Pettis Knocks Out Joe Lauzon In The First Round - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Takanori Gomi Stops Eiji Mitsuoka In The Second - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Vaughan Lee Submits Kid Yamamoto With An Armbar - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Riki Fukuda Dominates Steve Cantwell To Decision - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Chris Cariaso Defeats Takeya Mizugaki By Unanimous Decision - Matthew Roth
- UFC 144 Results: Issei Tamura Knocks Out Tiequan Zhang - Matthew Roth