UFC on FOX 4 will be a hard act to follow. It gave fans everything they could ask for. Dramatic exchanges, brilliant grappling, and rousing performances. It was a great show made more impressive by the economy of it all, with FOX doing a great job with the mini-profiles for the competitors. With the exception of Mike Goldberg's prerecorded voiceover, the show was flawless.
Thankfully, the meeting between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar for the UFC LW title is relevant in addition to being compelling on its own. If you have a problem with this fight, then you don't know what awesome things are. A rematch can either be an illustration of a stagnant division, or can be another chapter in what is potentially a compelling rivalry between the divisions' very best.
Edgar vs. Henderson is the latter. While some of the former may be true, it doesn't take away from the magic of their first encounter nor the interest of what their sequel entails. What fights should you be watching to best predict the outcome?
1. Benson Henderson vs. Jim Miller UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle August 14 2011
Miller is more dynamic in the grappling department than Edgar, but both are quick, relatively undersized LW's who get by on speed and grit, in addition to supreme talent.
A few things stand out that should be a pause for concern for those that feel like Henderson is a lock. Benson is as strong as an ox, but he still finds himself in lulls where he's content to just stand and trade. Miller did a good job of winning by being more active in the first round. However, this fight also displayed Benson's strengths.
He's punishing from top position with a unique ability to actively ground and pound from different angles. It's his specialty, and it's by far his best asset. Even though the striking was mostly even in his fight with Edgar, he still gets outboxed from time to time, leaving himself wide open. Edgar isn't a power puncher, so it's not something he has to worry about, but if he can't land anything dramatic, perhaps he'll be best served taking the fight to the ground.
2. Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn UFC 118 August 28 2010
If there's a wild card in this fight it's something we saw in Edgar's fight with Penn in their rematch: his ability to adapt. Many fans and observers took issue with Edgar's win in the first match, but Frankie left no doubt as to who the better fighter was that night in Boston.
The biggest victory for Edgar in this fight was rattling Penn's confidence with an early slam: something nobody expected to happen against the supernatural balance of the Prodigy, and by a fighter certifiably undersized at LW. I'm of the potentially ridiculous opinion that nobody has a faster, and more effective double leg in MMA. His timing, quickness, and core strength have combined to put fighters like Maynard, Penn, and even Henderson on their back when lesser (but bigger) men struggle just to get inside.
Edgar straight dummied Penn with those early takedowns, and it's an accomplishment that shouldn't be ignored. If he can make adjustments, he'd be wise to keep Henderson guessing instead of allowing Benson to get into any discernible rhythm.. Donald Cerrone vs. Ed Ratcliff WEC 45 December 19 2009
Cerrone can be an enigma in the same way his opponent this weekend can. His fight with Ratcliff is a good example. Cerrone had opportunities to put Ratcliff away on the ground, but didn't seem interested. And on the feet, he wasn't bothered by the combinations that were landing (though to be fair, Ed was and is quick to draw).
Much is often made of Guillard as "wasting his potential", but whereas Guillard has clear deficiencies in other areas, Cerrone is well rounded, offensively vicious, and doesn't lose much steam in later rounds. Yet he can be frazzled. Melvin's power could very well be a factor if the Ratcliff fight is any indication.
Which leads us to this particular atrocity. Despite the title, no, you shouldn't watch this fight. However, as I consider it "informative", I suppose it belongs.
It's common knowledge that Melvin's weakness is on the ground. Sure, he has great balance, but what good is extraordinary balance when fighters are able to get deep enough into a single or double leg that they end up putting you on your back anyway? And what use does scrambling serve when your only instinct is to retreat instead of to counter and be patient? This is why Guillard gets "caught" time and time again. His body is unable to make these distinctions.
However, the Stephens fight is a good example of his limitations on the feet as well. Melvin won a relatively questionable decision backpedaling because he was intimidated by the predictable windmills Jeremy continued to throw. And in a few of his submission losses, like against Stevenson and Lauzon, the defeats were setup with strikes (Guillard got caught with a jab no less in both). He won't benefit by being conservative against Cerrone, and thus would be wise to not replicate his performance from the Stephens fight.
Shields is in a tough spot. He needs to win, and to win impressively. Casual UFC fans may not be familiar with why Shields was so highly regarded before he ever entered the spotlight of the MMA underground.
Rumble on the Rock 9 was a big night for Jake. Not because he beat Carlos Condit. But because he beat Carlos Condit on the same night he beat Yushin Okami and Dave Menne. Remember, shows like Rumble on the Rock and IFC Global Domination were still doing the one night tournament stuff. While Jake didn't do much to earn a victory over Okami (which consisted by nothing by the odd leg kick by Jake, and a stuffed takedown attempt every ten seconds), he was very impressive in a high octane grappling war against Condit.
Condit had yet to be hated by Diaz fanboys who wouldn't appreciate a gameplan if it was for a heist to successfully steal a Honda factory outlined for them in a bowel of milk with fruit loops made of THC (leave as many nasty comments as you want: you'll still look silly defending Nick's performance against Condit as the fault of anyone other than Nick Diaz). And he made Shields work every step of the way. It was a gritty performance, and the kind Shields will need to score a victory over a tough, and very game Ed Herman.