With his impressive title-winning decision over Frankie Edgar last February, Ben Henderson showed his three-fight streak of impressive decision wins in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was no accident.
He's truly arrived, harnessing his physicality and technique into one hell of a fighter. His standup, long a secondary part of his game, has evolved to the point where he can outpoint a dynamic stylist like Edgar over five rounds.
Edgar, meanwhile, insisted on the rematch, which will take place tonight (Sat., Aug. 11, 2012) at UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado, despite the UFC wanting him to drop to 145-pounds to provide champion Jose Aldo with a meaningful challenge. Edgar's persistence and heart carried him three title defenses, two wins over B.J. Penn, and two of the most exciting matches in UFC history with his pair of brawls in 2011 against rival Gray Maynard.
The fight axiom is that winning a title makes a guy better. If that's the case with Henderson, Edgar has some problems. But that's just how Frankie likes it.
Follow me after the jump for our breakdown of the UFC 150 main event bout pitting Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar.
Henderson's improvement curve clearly kicked in over his first UFC fights. He become more comfortable in the standup game, and rightfully guessed coming into the Edgar bout that the hard part would be catching Edgar, not necessarily hitting him. That proved correct, as Edgar, impressively, outwrestled Henderson in spots, but was battered on the feet. Frankie's penchant for high-energy movement makes him exceptionally difficult to corner and get angles on, which served him brilliantly in both Penn bouts and the third Maynard bout. Yet Henderson seems the antithesis to that style, almost designed as its foil. As a southpaw, he consistently delivered hard shots down the middle to pile up points on Edgar, whose size disadvantage was obvious when the two exchanged. Movement and volume are Edgar's key elements in outworking foes; when a guy like Henderson stymies that, it's time to go to plan B. Edgar may fall back on his wrestling more in this bout, as standup just left him outworked and bloodied. If he does, Henderson's outstanding takedown defense and uncanny ability to get out of bad positions will make for a pitched battle, because Edgar's ability to swarm and outwork people on the ground is outstanding.
Styles make fights, and all signs points to a better Henderson against essentially the same Edgar, albeit one that will definitely be looking to make tactical adjustments. The standup variables in this one are numerous; Henderson's excellent low kicks and snappy counter left are perfect weapons to take Edgar's flit-and-move style out of its groove, and impose a fight with physicality and strength dictating the terms. Edgar simply has to win the standup portion of this fight, or he won't win it. He's not strong enough to hold Henderson down, and in the tie-ups and muscle game Henderson's size advantages and grinding style will wear Frankie down. It's an exceptionally fascinating proposition to think of how Edgar approaches this one, as he adapted wonderfully in return bouts against Penn and Maynard compared to his first fights against them, but Henderson is improving rapidly with each fight, and will have added more to his arsenal. Throw in the mileage Edgar's had in recent fights and it adds up to another bruising, fan-friendly affair, with Henderson scoring big on the feet, Edgar outworking him in spots, but ultimately unable to control the fight on the mat enough to dictate rounds. Henderson will close hard down the stretch and bloody Edgar again en route to a unanimous decision win.
Henderson via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Saturday, August 11, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on PPV. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org.