The UFC lightweight title was on the line last night (August 11, 2012) as champion Ben Henderson took on the man he beat for the belt, former champ Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado.
Henderson started strong, landing brutal low leg kicks and kicking Edgar's feet out from under him repeatedly, but "The Answer" responded with a big series of punches, kicks, submission attempts and overall point-scoring measures.
It was a close fight, but by the end of the fifth round, a large majority of the fans and media had scored it for Edgar, which of course meant that the judges would see it the other way.
So what helped Henderson convince two of the three judges to side with him and officially earn the split decision? And what happens next for both talented 155-pounders?
Follow me after the jump for our Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar UFC 150 post-fight review and analysis.
Early on, it was all Henderson as he was landing some extremely effective leg kicks. He repeatedly caught Edgar with them whenever he was in the orthodox stance, landing to the lower calf and knocking "The Answer" off balance on multiple occasions. Henderson put an exclamation point on the round by going for a guillotine choke in the final 20 seconds, although he couldn't finish it.
The second started with more of the same, but Edgar started hopping away and avoiding Henderson's low kick. I'm not sure if this made Henderson frustrated or not, but he went away from the low kicks which was a really bad idea. At the midway point of the round, both men exchanged punches but Edgar landed a beautiful right hand over the top which sent Henderson to the ground.
This was where Edgar made a huge mistake, however, as instead of following up the big punch with more strikes, he tried to lock up a guillotine choke on Henderson, a fighter that is as hard to submit as any competitor in all of mixed martial arts. This allowed the "Smooth" one to recover, although Edgar took the round.
Rounds three four and five were all extremely close, but on my scorecard, I gave them to Edgar. It seemed like once Edgar started countering effectively, Henderson's offensive output diminished. This forced Edgar to lead the way in attacking and the statistics-keepers were not counting all of Edgar's punches to the body to start off combinations or on the exit of the clinch.
In the fifth round, Edgar basically won the first four and a half minutes, but he ate a huge head kick at the end of the fight (pictured above). Regardless, on my scorecard, I had him winning 49-46, but only one judge agreed with me as Henderson was awarded the split decision.
Yes, the fight was close, but that doesn't mean that Edgar deserved to lose. A fight can still be close in multiple rounds and still almost certainly go in one specific fighter's direction, and that fighter should have been Frankie Edgar.
For Frankie Edgar, there's not much more he could have done. Henderson's offensive output diminished as the fight wore on, which limited his opportunities to counter effectively. He did a good job of getting out of the way of Henderson's punches and he adjusted his footwork to avoid the heavy leg kicks which plagued him early in the fight. Edgar pushed the pace in the final three rounds, mixing up his attack with kicks, body punches and blows to the head. Yeah, he doesn't look like his strikes hurt as much as when Henderson landed, but he scored the only knockdown of the fight and in my opinion, landed more overall strikes too.
If there's any criticism of Edgar's performance, it's that he allowed rounds three through five to be very close and that opens the door for the opponent to be granted a few of them. He also should have never tried to submit Henderson as that was a waste of time and energy.
I think the most intriguing potential match-up for Edgar (if he stays at lightweight and I think he will), is former UFC lightweight title challenger Diego Sanchez, who's returning to 155 pounds soon. Other potential match-ups would be a rematch against Jim MIller or they could feed Melvin Guillard to him.
For Ben Henderson, I really was not that impressed last night. He started great, but he completely went away from what worked and instead was content to repeatedly switch his stance and throw ineffective kicks like the axe kick and side kick. He talked about how he "always brings it" in his post-fight interview, but I didn't see a fighter who brought it last night during that fight. It looked more like a fighter who was trying not to lose.
What I'll give Henderson credit for is the fact that whenever he did land some offense, it looked like it hurt. Edgar was bleeding from a jab and all of Henderson's regular body kicks and leg kicks were nasty. Why he went away from the low kicks is a mystery left for another day.
There's no mystery for Henderson's next opponent. He'll be facing Nate Diaz next in an attempt to defend his title for the second time. Hopefully he comes out a little more aggressively with his offensive wrestling or pressure because if he fights Diaz like he fought last night, he's not going to be champion for much longer.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did the judges get it wrong, or do I just have sour grapes? Should Edgar move to featherweight or did his performance last night prove he'll be fine at 155 for the time being? Will Henderson remain champion for much longer?