Written by: Joshua Hughes
If you’re going to watch one fight this weekend, watch Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon. However, if you’re going to watch two, make the second one Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson.
For the UFC’s first show in Japan in many, many years, they certainly seem to have pulled out all the stops. They are having former Pride stars, beloved by Japanese fans, such as Mark Hunt, Quinton “Rampage Jackson”, and Takanori Gomi, as well as big name UFC stars such as Jake Shields, Cheick Kongo, and Ryan Bader. Headlining this card will be the much anticipated Lightweight Championship fight between Edgar and Henderson. They have wins over common opponents and have similar wrestling backgrounds and BJJ experience. They have six “Fight of the Night” awards between the two of them. Will this make seven?
Here is the breakdown:
Frankie Edgar (14-1-1 MMA; 9-1-1 UFC):
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar is the current UFC Lightweight Champion and is probably most known for back to back wins over the legendary BJ Penn, and for his rivalry with perennial LW Contender, Gray Maynard. However, if you look further into his resume, it is a list of wins over a “who’s who” of former top-ten LW fighters including former champion Sean Sherk, Spencer Fisher, Mark Bocek, Tyson Griffin, Hermes Franca, and the soon-to-be contender, Jim Miller. Though Edgar stands at an unimposing 5’6, the size of his heart has surpassed all others in UFC history. His ability to fight back from seeming defeat and knock out Gray Maynard in his last fight was an epic moment that should have cued “Going the Distance” from the fight at the end of Rocky.
Keys to victory: Frankie’s stick and move tactics and crisp boxing technique surpass the striking of Henderson, but Frankie will have to beware the size and reach advantage of his stronger opponent. Frankie’s wrestling pedigree allowed him to avoid the takedowns of BJ Penn, Gray Maynard, and Sean Sherk, or to get back to his feet if taken down, and he should not have any problem with Henderson’s wrestling ability. He may also need a small amount of time to adjust to Henderson’s southpaw stance. Edgar’s biggest disadvantage in this fight, as with most of his fights, is in size and strength.
Ben Henderson (15-2 MMA; 8-1 UFC/WEC):
Former WEC LW Champion, Ben Henderson, is always exciting to watch. One of his most notable highlights was a jumping off the fence kick to the face like something out of a Jet Li movie, albeit he was on the receiving end of that kick…hmmmm. Look, the point is, there’s just something about this guy that promises action. Maybe it’s the hair. It seems to work similarly for Clay Guida. He has multiple wins over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, which is bragging rights on its own, but he has also used his sick BJJ to secure wins over Anthony Njokuani and former WEC LW Champion Jamie Varner. With three “Fight of the Night” awards between UFC and WEC events, and two “Fight of the Year” awards, Henderson is sure to put up a solid fight, win or lose, against Frankie Edgar.
Keys to victory: Henderson will have to capitalize on key moments where he senses that Frankie is hurt. He will also have to not tire himself out. This has not been a problem before, but Gray Maynard fell prey to this TWICE against Edgar. Henderson must ensure that he makes his punches count, though it is more likely that he will not box Edgar. Henderson will be throwing combinations followed by takedown attempts and he can be successful if he uses his size and strength to his advantage in the way Maynard did early in his fights with Edgar. However, he will be attempting what BJ Penn failed at twice.
Prediction: Edgar will be tentative early in the fight and may lose the first and possibly second rounds. This fight will be primarily on the feet with takedowns being attempted but very little time spent on the ground. Henderson will control the fight early with size and wrestling, but will have problems putting Edgar away. Edgar will mutter to himself “I didn’t hear no bell…one more round…” and will come out hard in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds to retain the LW title.
Result: Edgar by Unanimous Decision.