UFC 144 Rewind: Henderson tops Edgar

Published on Feb. 26 at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson improved to 4-0 in the Octagon and became The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s new lightweight champion by defeating Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 144 in Tokyo.

With lots of late money coming in Saturday on Edgar, many Henderson backers cashed tickets for a plus-125 return (risk $100 to win $125).

Gamblers taking underdogs made a killing, as the hounds cashed at an incredible 8-4 clip.

Henderson was in control from start to finish, winning the stand-up exchanges in the first round that ended with Edgar’s left eye swollen. After Edgar scored a takedown late in Round 2 and appeared capable of winning the round, Henderson landed a beautiful upkick that appeared to break Edgar’s nose.

Going into the third round, Edgar was bloodied and battered but not yet beaten. On the other hand, Henderson looked fresh, composed and confident. The third stanza was tight and when Edgar executed a takedown in the final minute, he stole the round on BrianEdwardsSports.com’s scorecard.

Heading into the championship rounds, BESports had it in favor of Henderson by a 29-28 count.

In the fourth and fifth rounds, Henderson continued to pound Edgar’s face with power shots. Although Edgar did land a lot of strikes and score some takedowns, he never caused any significant damage and couldn’t maintain top position or deal out ground-and-pound punishment.

By the end of the fight, the courageous Edgar was bleeding profusely from his nose and his left eye was swollen shut. Meanwhile, Henderson didn’t have a mark on his face and appeared ready to go run a marathon.

Nevertheless, Edgar’s corner lifted him up on their shoulders as if he were victorious. Furthermore, several MMA scribes, including ESPN.com’s Josh Gross, tweeted that they scored the bout in favor of Edgar, 48-47.

To this notion, I thought, ‘what the hell were they watching?’

BESports had it for Henderson, 49-46.

Edgar told Joe Rogan, ‘I thought I won the fight, landing more strikes and getting more takedowns.’

This space has all the respect in the world for Edgar, who is tough as nails and enjoyed an outstanding run as champion. But any thinking that he prevailed over Henderson is complete nonsense.

In the co-main event, Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader dominated Rampage Jackson in a unanimous-decision victory that was scored 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. Jackson missed weight for the first time in his career, tipping the scales at 211 pounds.

The fight went on nonetheless with Jackson forced to forfeit 20 percent of his paycheck to Bader.

Jackson was clearly in poor condition and looked slow all night. He had one big moment when he slammed Bader on his head early in the second round. Jackson landed a few big shots afterward and Bader appeared to be in trouble.

However, the Ultimate Fighter 8 winner was able to get a takedown midway through the second round and dealt Rampage steady ground-and-pound treatment. The third and final round was all Bader and VI gave him the fight, 30-27.

Jackson didn’t give Rogan a post-fight interview in the Octagon. When interviwed on Fuel TV later, Rampage claimed a knee injury during his camp was the reason for his weight issue.

In a heavyweight battle, Mark Hunt KO’d Cheick Kongo at the 2:11 mark of the Round 1 for his third consecutive win in the UFC. Hunt hooked up his backers with a generous plus-220 payout (risk $100 to win $220). Kongo, fighting for the 16th time in the Octagon, had gone 3-0-1 in his four previous fights.

Tim Boetsch pulled off an incredible comeback win over Yushin Okami with a third-round KO as a monster plus-325 underdog (paid $325 on $100 wagers). Okami, fighting for the first time since losing to Anderson Silva in a middleweight title fight in Brazil last August, dominated the first two rounds.

Okami looked flawless over the first 10 minutes, but Boetsch hurt him early in the third and then went to work with a slew of uppercuts that eventually finished the Japanese native.

Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis began the pay-per-view card by returning to form with a thrilling KO of Joe Lauzon. Pettis landed a left head kick right on the button to floor Lauzon. Then Pettis pounced and finished the job with four punches to the face before referee Leon Roberts jumped in to end the carnage just 81 seconds into the match.

The victory puts Pettis back into the title picture with a 2-1 record in the Octagon since coming from the WEC as the lightweight champion. He lost his UFC debut to Clay Guida before winning a split decision over Jeremy Stephens.

Takanori Gomi hooked up his backers as a minus-240 favorite by scoring a second-round KO of Eiji Mitsuoka, who had dominated the first round. Mitsuoka got the better of the stand-up exchanges and nearly finished Gomi in the final seconds of the opening stanza when ‘The Fireball Kid’ nearly tapped.

But in going for the finish, Mitsuoka gassed himself out and his fatigue was evident early in the second round. Gomi took advantage immediately, landing big shots and a knee to the body that hurt Mitsuoka. The former PRIDE 155-pound kingpin then finished the bout by dealing out vicious ground-and-pound punishment.

In the first four fights on the card, three underdogs prevailed for nice payouts. Issei Tamura (+210) defeated Zhang Tiequan by second-round KO, Chris Cariaso (+250) won a unanimous decision (29-28 three times) over Takeya Mizugaki and Vaughan Lee (+300) submitted Norifumi Yamamoto late in the first round.

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