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UFC 144 Musings - Part One

UFC 144 is in the books. In part one of his post-fight musings column, Michael DiSanto looks at the main event and co-main event...
<a href='../event/UFC-Silva-vs-Irvin'>UFC </a>144 - Henderson vs. EdgarHENDERSON PROVES THAT SIZE DOES MATTER

Benson Henderson looked like he was at least one full weight class bigger than Frankie Edgar during their championship fight. Joe Rogan made a comment during the bout that we may be watching a future welterweight, Henderson, fighting a future featherweight.

The late, great Evan Tanner once told me that, all else being equal, the bigger man will win more often than not. He was explaining why he decided to drop from light heavyweight to middleweight in search of his first UFC championship. Those words seemed to ring true on Saturday night.

The fight was, by all accounts, a very close contest. Edgar seemed to land on the feet with more frequency. He also scored more takedowns. But it was clear that he wasn’t able to hurt the challenger with his punches, and he certainly struggled to control him on the ground.

Henderson, by contrast, might have landed fewer strikes, but he definitely landed the far more damaging blows. He appeared to move Edgar with every blow, even those that didn’t land on the button. At the end of the fight, Henderson didn’t appear to have a scratch on his face, whereas Edgar looked like he had gotten into a car wreck, with his left eye completely swollen shut, bumps and bruises around his face and a deep gash above his nose.

Henderson also got up at will following each Edgar takedown. It was the first time that I can recall Edgar completely failing to control an opponent following a takedown. Plus, Henderson dismissively shucked off several Edgar takedowns, something that Edgar certainly isn’t accustomed to experiencing.

Landing fewer shots. Scoring fewer takedowns. Not really dominating with jiu-jitsu, despite one close submission attempt. Yet, he won the fight. It seemed like size was the difference on Saturday night.

I have no idea what is next for Henderson. I do know that a rematch with Anthony Pettis, the man who snatched his WEC 155-pound strap, is a fight that I am clamoring to see. Or maybe a bout with Gilbert Melendez, arguably the best fighter under the Strikeforce banner. Of course, we can’t forget the winner of Jim Miller versus Nate Diaz on May 5. There are lots of interesting first defenses for the new champion.

By the way, rest in peace, Evan. We haven’t forgotten about you.

WAS THIS THE FIGHT TO CAUSE THE MOVE?

Joe Rogan often asks Edgar if a move to featherweight is in his future. After all, Edgar is one of just a very few non-heavyweight elite who barely cut any weight. The truth is that Edgar probably should fight at featherweight.

Cutting weight is a necessity to avoid fighting much bigger guys. But another truth is that only two men have ever defeated Edgar, and every man he has faced in the UFC is physically larger than the now former champion. I seriously doubt that Edgar will drop to featherweight for that very reason.

I think he will campaign for an immediate rematch, and the fight was an entertaining, competitive scrap. But there were no doubts outside of Edgar’s own head about who won the fight. It was about as clear as a close fight can be, if that makes any sense.

It seems much more likely, therefore, that Edgar will need to win one or two more fights in order to secure a rematch with the champion.

RAMPAGE NEEDS TO FIGURE IT OUT

I excoriated Anthony Johnson for missing weight at UFC 142, less than two months ago. I’m not going to give Quinton “Rampage” Jackson the same level of criticism. Why? This was the first time in his PRIDE or UFC career that he slipped up on the scales. It is no big surprise that ‘Page blows up between fights. Shedding unneeded weight is a major issue in virtually all of his camps. So it makes perfect sense that he would miss weight after suffering an injury in training that prevented his normal road work.

But I’m not letting Rampage of the hook that easily. Healthy or not, Rampage has absolutely become a one-trick pony in his UFC career. Make no mistake about it: that one trick is savagely effective. Yet, there is nobody at the top of the sport who is a one-trick pony – nobody.

Rampage needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out what he wants to do with his career. I know that sounds harsh. It’s not. Those are words of love, trust me.

Rampage is one of the most gifted fighters in the 205-pound division. Notice that I wrote “one of.” Jon Jones is THE most gifted fighter in the division. Nevertheless, Rampage isn’t that far behind.

The problem, however, is that ‘Page no longer competes as a complete mixed martial artist. I’m not talking about him focusing solely on his standup. That is OK. Chuck Liddell was a standup-only fighter when he elevated himself to heights that no other American-born mixed martial artist has achieved. Yet, Liddell knew the value of the jab. He knew the value of mixing in committed kicks. He understood that he couldn’t just follow an opponent around the cage looking to throw bombs. That is exactly what ‘Page does at this point in his career.

The former champion has all the tools to return to the top of the sport, but that is never going to happen, unless he changes up the way he competes. Again, I’m not criticizing him for missing weight. Everyone gets one pass. I’m quite sure that ‘Page took Ryan Bader seriously. It is his game plan that I’m criticizing. And I will continue criticizing it, until he remembers that jabs and punches thrown with less than bad intentions are acceptable, if not preferred.

BADER COULDN’T HAVE SCRIPTED IT ANY BETTER

I’m sure Bader saw himself stopping Rampage in his dreams. Whether by knockout or submission, I know for certain that knew this was his best opportunity at scoring a dramatic win over the former champion, due to Rampage’s training camp injury that prevented him from making weight.

Nonetheless, Bader’s effort, particularly in light of the fact that he was fighting basically in Rampage’s hometown, was nothing short of spectacular. He won every aspect of the fight—standup, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. The win definitely erases the bad taste left in his mouth after the Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz losses. I’ll actually take it one step further. This win advances Bader’s career more than any fight on his resume, including winning “The Ultimate Fighter.

I’ll be honest. I’m still a bit uncertain whether Bader is a legitimate contender or if Rampage is just on the downside of his illustrious career. We’ll find out in his next fight, because my guess is that Dana White and Joe Silva will give him another marquee matchup. And that will tell us all we need to know about a fighter who has as much potential as anyone in the division not named Jones.

Tune in to UFC.com later today for thoughts on the rest of the stellar UFC 144 card…

Saturday, August 30
10PM/7PM
ETPT
Sacramento, CA

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