Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar UFC 144 – Feb. 25, 2012, Saitama, Japan
On February 25, the UFC will make its long-awaited return to the Land of the Rising Sun. Headlining the main event will be UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, who will square off against former WEC Lightweight Champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson. With a supporting cast of Quinton Jackson, Ryan Bader, Mark Hunt, Anthony Pettis, and Joe Lauzon, the UFC’s triumphant return to Japan is sure to get the Saitama Super Arena rocking. If you can’t make the trip to Japan, round up your favorite armchair corner-men, restock your dwindling supply of beer, and get ready for some lightweight fireworks, because here’s a breakdown of what’s to come in the main event.
From a grappling standpoint, Henderson brings a number of tools to the table. With a BJJ brown belt and a killer arsenal of chokes (six of his eight submission victories are via choke), Bendo is more than comfortable on the canvas. When combined with his college wrestling experience, the 2x NAIA All-American from Dana College presents a well-rounded package that would trump almost any lightweight under the Zuffa banner.
Enter Frankie Edgar, who is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler from Clarion State University and the former assistant wrestling coach at Rutgers University. A long time student of jiu-jitsu, Edgar is currently a BJJ brown belt under Ricardo Almeida. With an arsenal of slick takedowns in his bag of tricks, Edgar earned a living in his early UFC fights by grinding out wins against wrestlers and BJJers. With victories over jiu-jitsu aces BJ Penn and Mark Bocek, along with successful performances against wrestling powerhouses Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin, and Gray Maynard, it’s safe to say that Edgar has a well-rounded ground game.
Bendo’s background in taekwondo is evident in the striking style that he exhibits in the cage. He’s perfectly comfortable throwing roundhouse kicks and snap kicks as part of his stand-up battery. When Henderson throws punches, he throws them in bunches, and he particularly shines with his striking in transition from the clinch. Look for Henderson to use his hands to set up powerful kicks while attempting to bully Edgar against the cage. Henderson’s most dangerous strikes come when he is able to pin an opponent against the cage and force a takedown, while posturing up to unleash his vicious ground-and-pound.
Training with Muay Thai guru Phil Nurse, Edgar’s striking has quickly developed into the most dangerous aspect of his game. With what seems to be a limitless gas tank, Edgar moves more than Kurt Pellegrino’s Shake Weight (YouTube “Amazing Secret MMA Training Techniques”). Nurse’s work with Edgar has been paying off over the last few years, as his footwork is mindboggling. There are very few fighters—if any—who can manipulate distance and angles as well as Edgar. Both offensively and defensively, Edgar has developed a keen habit of giving more than he receives. He landed 311 strikes in his last four fights, while only getting hit 220 times. His 3.49 strikes landed per minute is significantly higher than Henderson’s 2.45 strikes landed per minute. Over a 25-minute fight, that could amount to 25 more strikes in Edgar’s favor, which is significant in the judges’ eyes. Although some pundits have questioned the power of the champ, Edgar has proved his ability to stand and strike with the best. His iron chin cannot be doubted—just ask Gray Maynard.
Edgar is a small lightweight who could easily drop down to featherweight and wreak havoc in that division. Conversely, Henderson is a huge lightweight, looking more like a welterweight when he steps into the cage. Don’t be surprised if Bendo’s fight weight is closer to 175 lbs., which would give him a huge size advantage over Edgar’s approximate 155-pound fight weight. Edgar will need every bit of his quickness to elude Henderson’s smothering size superiority.
Two good guys, two great fighters, only one can win. Both fighters have superb gas tanks, which is evident from their performances in the closing rounds of their previous fights. Henderson took Anthony Pettis the distance in five rounds and looked remarkably fresh during his three-round battles with Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and Mark Bocek. However, the edge goes to Edgar for his championship-round wars with Penn and Maynard. If Edgar has taught fight fans one thing, it’s to not bet against him. To be the man, Henderson is going to have to beat the man. Right now, Edgar is the man.
FIGHT! Staff Picks
Eddie Kleid, Co-President: Edgar
Ladd Dunwoody, EIC: Henderson
Jim Casey, Managing Editor: Edgar
Paul Thatcher, Photographer: Henderson
Carolyn Namey, Associate Editor: Edgar
Jason Finnell, Writer: Edgar