UFC 144 Results: Sunday Morning Perspective

Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com.

It's the morning after the UFC Lightweight Title changed hands from Frankie Edgar to Ben Henderson at UFC 144, and I'm bursting with things to say about the UFC's return to Japan. It was a night in which pretty much all my picks went awry and I didn't care even at all because the card was just that good.

Seeing the UFC in Japan was a lot of fun, but to me this doesn't seem like a move the UFC is going to repeat any time soon. Historically, big American spectacles in Japan have huge opening nights but after that have diminishing returns. This event certainly proved there's enough of a hardcore MMA fan base in Japan for the UFC to go back there, maybe in a year or two and do another solid show. But I don't expect a TUF Japan or any of the moves the UFC is making Brazil.

But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy and revel in what happened last night. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts and musings on UFC 144.

  • Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar was a fun fight. I'm not sure what to make of Edgar on the feet: clearly he is an excellent offensive striker but he gets hit and hurt in every fight. True, in this fight he wasn't hurt by Henderson except by an up-kick, but this is the third title fight in a row where Edgar has been clearly rocked. This is going to catch up with him at some point his career, so I'd like to see Frankie work on ways to not get hit -- be it head movement or just carrying his hands a little higher. Henderson did a wonderful job on the feet, a place many people thought he would get picked apart, and Henderson's cardio looked excellent. In WEC title fights, Henderson slowed down in later rounds, but that was not the case tonight; he looked ready for seven rounds (hint, hint UFC).
  • Tim Boetsch's comeback was awesome. In that third round, Boetsch did what few fighters do when they are down 2-0: he came out like a madman looking to win or be carried out on his shield. He used the most interesting delivery position for uppercuts I think I've ever seen and it clearly generated power. I'm fairly sure that Joe Rogan's mind got blown right in front of his face as the man went completely insane on the mic.
  • On a side note, before that third round Okami looked outstanding. He was moving well, jabbing well and was in clear control of the fight. The only thing I'd like to see from him was more takedowns. In the past Okami won fights as a ground-and-pound specialist and seemed to get away from that somewhat.
  • Speaking of absolute blitzes ... Takanori Gomi. The Fireball Kid had a vintage Gomi stoppage over an underplayed Japanese MMA veteran in Eiji Mitsuoka. That said, he looked just awful in that first round. It was a very fun fight and awesome finish but I don't think Gomi can be tossed back in with the sharks at lightweight.
  • Speaking of looking both good and bad in the same fight -- Yoshihiro Akiyama looked very good in the sense of his movement, his cardio looked improved and he had two really nice takedowns. But Akiyama did not do much of anything in his fight as Jake Shields out-landed him more than 2-to-1. I saw some scorecards for Akiyama, and I think that could be a product of Akiyama exceeding lowered expectations and stopping Shields' takedowns. He kept the fight standing but then did nothing in a phase of the fight he should have had the advantage in. Then again, does anyone else love the irony that a Cesar Gracie fighter just won a fight with superficial volume strikes?
  • Rampage's showing was just sad. I'll withhold judgment; there appears to have been a legitimate injury. Despite his reputation for not training as diligently as he should, Rampage has always been fairly professional when it comes to making weight and this fight cannot be blamed on Rampage's weight. The fact of the matter is Rampage only has one range at which he can fight -- in close where he can land hooks and uppercuts -- but he makes no attempts to close distance. He stands on the outside and waits for his opponent to come in and as a result Rampage only landed 30 strikes against Bader. When Rampage was a beast in the light-heavyweight Division he was taking guys down and beating them up on the ground, and he has clearly moved away from that to his detriment.
  • Mark Hunt is on a three fight winning streak in the UFC and that was an awesome KO win over a pretty durable heavyweight in Kongo. Matt Mitrione seems like a decent matchup for Hunt going forward. This fight put the cherry on top of Hunt's wins for all my Pride-fan friends and made this their favorite for years to come.
  • Fighter's cardio all around looked quite good tonight. Benson Henderson, while never having serious issues with his gas tank, looked very fresh after five rounds. Akiyama, who has had a lot of trouble with cardio, looked pretty solid through three rounds, as did Ryan Bader, a notorious gasser. I think, for both Akiyama and Bader, the difference was that they lost quite of bit of muscle bulk, which looks great on the beach but is just dead weight after a single round.
  • Anthony Pettis looked like a beast. He set up that head kick wonderfully and he put some hard shots on Lauzon after he dropped him. I can't wait to see Pettis get in the cage again and all signs point to a title-fight rematch with Henderson which, in my opinion, is a must for a Fox card.
  • Vaughan Lee's triangle to armbar from guard on Kid Yamamoto made me happy. I love good guard play and armbars from the back are so rare these days. It was a great job by Lee to attack when he had a dazed Kid in his guard and not let him recover. It stinks that it had to happen to Yamamoto, but it's still an awesome submission.
  • Hatsu Hioki looked excellent. I want to see this guy in there with Jose Aldo. I don't know if Hioki will be able to win but I think he represents the best chance to submit Aldo at featherweight.
  • Steve Cantwell is still young, but maybe Strikeforce or Bellator is the place for him. His skills have just not come together and the UFC is clearly not the place for him to learn on the job.
  • Tiequan Zhang does not appear to be a UFC level fighter, but we've known this for some time. He has a nice Guillotine Choke, but he needs to train in the States and a week at Xtreme Couture isn't going to cut it. There just isn't enough MMA in China right now to produce elite, well-rounded fighters.
  • The crowd there was awesome. Yeah they booed a little at times, but you gotta love a crowd with that much appreciation for technique and strategy.
  • Rogan and Goldberg had an off night last night, and it was real bad at times. Jet lag isn't just something that affects fighters and I think that might have played some role in the poor commentary last night. Props to Joe Rogan though for walking back his "greatest upset ever" comment. Sure Frankie Edgar's KO over Maynard is up there but what about Brock Lesnar's arm triangle on Shane Carwin after getting almost KOed in round one? Or, gee I don't know, Anderson Silva's epic triangle armbar over Chael Sonnen just seconds before Sonnen would claim the belt?
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