UFC's return to Japan was a rousing success, featuring exciting fights from the prelims all the way to the top pf the card. UFC 144 is now in the books, capped off by the main event fight for the Lightweight Championship that pitted champion Frankie Edgar against challenger Ben Henderson in a veritable war.
The two combatants felt one another out in the first round, with plenty of feints and strikes thrown, but few landed. The size disparity between the two fighters with enormous, with Henderson looking like he was at least one weight class above the champion. Edgar repeatedly caught Henderson's kicks, but was unable to capitalize. Edgar did manage to get Henderson to the ground in the first half of the round on a throw and executed a double leg takedown, but Henderson was back up immediately. Henderson settled in by using his size advantage, hitting kicks and strikes from a distance. Edgar's left eye was swelling up quite a bit after the round.
Round 2 was more of the same, with the two men exchanging shots and Edgar repeatedly catching Henderson's kicks. Henderson once again landed many more shots than Edgar, but the champ managed a pair of takedowns. A real turning point came in the final seconds, as Henderson landed a vicious upkick from his back. Henderson's heel caught Edgar square in the nose and Edgar crumpled, but managed to protect until the round ended. Replays showed that Edgar may very well have been knocked out for a moment following the kick.
The third round showed Edgar badly battered, but still proceeded with the same game plan as in the first two rounds. The champion was still taking plenty of shots, but landing a fair number of his own and managing an early takedown. Edgar got another takedown to end the round. Henderson was being taken down easily by Edgar, but was extremely elusive any time Edgar tried to capitalize.
Round 4 followed the same template as the preceding rounds. Henderson caught Edgar with a low kick in the first 90 seconds of the round but the champ recovered quickly. Edgar shot in and slammed Bendo with authority, but Henderson sunk in a very deep guillotine on the way down. Edgar managed to escape and the two men were back up. Standing and banging did not go Edgar's way and the round came to an end.
The fifth and final round saw Edgar needing a KO or submission to win the match and retain his title. He landed a couple of big shots, but they seemed to have no effect on Henderson. Edgar again took Henderson down, but Henderson popped right back up. A flurry of blows capped off yet another exciting round as the bell rang.
Henderson won the fight and the Lightweight Championship via unanimous decision on scores of 49-46, 48-47, 49-46.
Here are the other results from the main card:
Lightweight bout: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon
Pettis defeated Lauzon via KO (head kick & punches) at 1:21 of round 1.
Featherweight bout: Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski
Hioki defeated Palazewski via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Middleweight bout: Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
Boetsch defeated Okami via TKO (punches) at 0:54 of round 3.
Welterweight bout: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
Shields defeated Akiyama via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Heavyweight bout: Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo
Hunt defeated Kongo via TKO (punches) at 2:11 of round 1.
Catchweight (211 lb) bout: Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
Bader defeated Jackson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
For complete coverage of UFC 144, stay tuned to this StoryStream or check out SB Nation's dedicated MMA hub.