SAITAMA, February 26 – In one of the most exciting fights in UFC history, Ben Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision to win the UFC lightweight championship in the main event of UFC 144 at the Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo, Japan.
At two separate points, Henderson had Edgar on the brink of defeat, once sending blood flying from the champion’s nose with a brutal upkick in the second round and later locking him in a guillotine choke from the mount mere seconds before the end of the fifth round.
One recurring theme was Edgar catching his opponent’s kicks but not being able to capitalize on the situation. Another was Edgar taking Henderson down over and over and the challenger getting right back up within seconds.
The fighters set a frenetic pace right from the onset of the bout, exchanging hard punches, leg kicks and knees. In the second round, Edgar landed the fight’s first combination when catching Henderson’s leg after a kick, only to be hit himself with a hard counterpunch by the challenger.
The pivotal moment of the second frame came after Edgar had taken down his adversary and postured up in order to deliver a hard shot. Henderson landed an upkick to Edgar’s face that sent the champion spinning mere seconds before the end of the round, and it could have ended the fight had there been a few more seconds in the round.
How Edgar recovered enough to start strong in the third round will likely forever remain a mystery, but he managed to engage his challenger with good striking combinations before failing to secure a takedown. Henderson managed to take down the champion but was unable to capitalize. Edgar got back to his feet and hit his opponent with a hard right followed by a combination that found its mark.
In the fourth round it seemed like Henderson had hurt the champion - first with a kick to the ribs near the beginning of the round and again later when delivering a hard kick to Edgar’s sternum. Henderson also managed to secure a guillotine choke on a takedown attempt during the round.
Edgar and Henderson kept going at an extremely fast pace in the final frame. They kept trading kicks, striking combinations and takedown attempts. The difference maker in the round was Henderson landing a hard knee and then securing a guillotine choke in full mount before transitioning to elbow strikes from the mount as the time limit expired.
As the fans at Saitama Super Arena gave both men a standing ovation, Bruce Buffer announced Henderson as new UFC lightweight champion by scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 49-46, making Henderson only the second person to ever defeat Edgar.
With the win, Henderson’s record improves to 16-2, while Edgar’s record drops to 14-2-1.
UFC 144 Main Event Results: Bendo Defeats Edgar in Classic, Wins 155-Pound Crown
By Oliver Copp February 25, 2012