UFC 144 delivers in Japan
By: Matt Marcone
The UFC’s first event in Japan since 1997 had everything we were hoping for; a new champion, close decisions, tough fights, knockouts and even a vintage Rampage slam.
The main event saw Benson Henderson win a close decision against three-time defending lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. I have watched the fight twice, both times having it three rounds to two for Henderson. The champ disagrees.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Ben, he did a great job but I thought I won the fight,” says Edgar. “I thought I did enough to win those rounds.”
Judges scored it 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 in favour in Henderson.
Significant moments in the fight included a hard up-kick in the second that dazed Edgar and a very deep guillotine in the fourth that the champ craftily escaped.
Edgar was able to catch many of Henderson’s low kicks, but they were still doing damage. After five rounds, Edgar looked like he had been in a brawl while Henderson looked relatively fresh. UFC President Dana White is among those who believe Edgar won the fight.
White did not seem interested in an immediate rematch with Edgar, likely due to the marketability of a potential Anthony Pettis rematch with Henderson. Pettis landed perhaps the most spectacular kick in the sport’s history in their first fight for the WEC lightweight title.
“He’s probably going to get it,” White says about Pettis being the next title contender.
Anthony Pettis also won knockout of the night with a high kick on Joe Lauzon early in the first round.
The co-main event saw Ryan Bader out-wrestle crowd favourite Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for a unanimous decision. Rampage missed weight by five pounds and says he was injured a couple weeks before the fight.
Never one to quit, Rampage opted to go against the doctors and put a show on for the Japanese fans.
“I was really happy with all the cheers when I came out to the Pride music but I was very disappointed at the boos when I was on my back getting my butt kicked,” Rampage explains. “I felt really ashamed. Next time I want to have cheers throughout the fight but I was really happy to be fighting back in Japan again.”
Mark Hunt landed a string of hard uppercuts to finish Cheick Kongo at 2:11 of round one. Hunt is showing the MMA world he is still a deadly force on the feet, winning his third consecutive UFC fight. Hunt is a former Pride veteran and former K1 Grand Prix champion.
Jake Shields rebounded from two consecutive defeats to beat Yoshihiro Akiyama by unanimous decision. The fight was closer than the scorecard suggests and Akiyama looked very strong at 170 pounds. He also landed a beautiful judo throw on Shields that had the crowd buzzing.
Other main card fights saw Tim Boetch knockout Yushin Okami in one of the great comebacks in UFC history. Okami controlled the striking and grappling for the first two rounds but Boetch caught him early in the third.
Hatsu Hioki defeated Bart Palazewski via unanimous decision, and Takanori Gomi finished Eiji Mitsuoka with punches in round two.
Check out my predictions or get in touch with me on twitter @MattMarcone. Listen to mountaineers sports on INDI 101.5 FM on Mondays at 6pm for the MMA recap