Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its momentous return to Japan for the first time since 2005 as UFC 144 took center stage at the Saitama Super Arena last night (Feb. 25, 2012).
The gigantic card featured 12 big-time fights, including a title bout between the two best 155-pound fighters in the world, Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and number one contender Ben Henderson.
The result? A brand new and very deserving champion of the 155-pound roost.
The co-main event was somewhat marred by the fact that Quinton Jackson came in six pounds overweight for bout against Ryan Bader, complaining of an injury he suffered during training camp. Nonetheless, "Rampage" had moments where he looked like his former self, but overall, it appears as though his best days are now behind him.
Let's take a look at what may be next for the UFC 144 big winners, Ben Henderson and Ryan Bader:
Everyone knew that the fight between Edgar and Henderson would end up being an all-out war that we'd be talking about for a long time to come. The bout delivered on every bit of the promise, as the first two rounds saw both competitors come out and fight at a frantic pace that looked like it would be hard to maintain.
At first, Edgar had an "Answer" for all of "Bendo's" kicks, catching them all in the air and responding with strikes each time. But, the tide took a huge a turn for Henderson when a big upkick caught Edgar square on the bridge of the nose, causing it to gush blood immediately.
Even still, Edgar never quit. He fought valiantly and kept coming, but ultimately, Henderson was just too much for him in every aspect of the fight.
So what's next?
Let's cut to the chase. Anthony Pettis looked super impressive in his UFC 144 win over Joe Lauzon. He's also the last man to beat Henderson. If you're telling me there's a fight that makes more sense, I want to hear what it is and then I want some of what you are smoking.
Coming into his fight with "Rampage," Bader was not only the odds underdog, but also played the role of the "heel" to the thousands of Japanese fans who were cheering for Jackson with all their might.
Everyone knows that "Rampage" has the ability to put a man to sleep in one fell swoop. Bader is no dummy, and so he made a concerted effort to steer clear of any such a shortcoming. For three rounds, Bader used takedowns, effective striking and a sound strategy to gain a victory over an opponent with a huge name and following.
He's back on the road to redemption, but still should be several fights away from real contention. You don't go from being finished brutally in two straight fights to being "in the mix" without really working your way back up the ladder.
What might the future hold for a man who was undefeated before Jon Jones decimated him at UFC 126 on Feb. 5, 2011 in "Sin City?"
I'd love to see him fight Phil Davis.
"Mr. Wonderful" is not as bad as he looked against Rashad Evans at UFC on Fox 2 on Jan. 28, 2012 in "Chi-town." They're both top contenders who are still learning the game and have a lot of potential. They're also both very good wrestlers with steadily improving stand up.
It makes sense to me ... how about you?