Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just had its hand raised, yet again, as UFC 144 emerged victorious in front of a host of pleased fans at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Sat., Feb. 25, 2012.
The main event between UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and number one contender Ben Henderson treated mixed martial arts (MMA) fans to five rounds of thrilling action.
After 25 minutes of war, neither fighter could finish the other, leaving it in the hands of the judges. Like many decisions from the past, this one was met with some controversy and even had UFC President Dana White questioning if the right man had been given the nod.
The co-main event featured a rebounding Ryan Bader taking on former Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson in front of the Japanese fans who originally helped "Rampage" make his name.
After the jump, we'll talk more about that fight and all the other noteworthy moments from UFC 144: "Edgar vs. Henderson."
When the fight between Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson was signed on the dotted line, everyone knew "The Answer" was going to have his hands full with what would likely be the toughest fight of his life.
That's saying something considering that Edgar has been in two ridiculous battles with MMA legend B.J. Penn and also three thrilling epic wars with "The Bully" Gray Maynard.
Still, fans who have been watching "Smooth's" mercurial rise over the past year knew what he was capable of. They knew he was on a three-fight win streak against a list of very tough lightweights. They knew he was a cardio freak, just like Edgar, and probably was not going to be out-worked or out-hustled. They knew he was (and continues to be) one of the biggest lightweights in the game and that his size may have presented a problem for Edgar.
The fight was neck and neck for most of the first two rounds, but things changed near the end of the second frame when "Bendo" caught Edgar with a violent upkick that broke his nose instantly and opened the floodgates of blood.
Edgar toughed it out like the warrior that he is. He kept coming forward and threw every shot he had in his arsenal. But he was not landing power strikes and was entirely unable to take Henderson to the ground.
Ultimately, the judges in Japan felt that Henderson had done enough to edge out the champion and to take his belt.
You can read about what a couple of our "experts" think may be next for Henderson here and here.
As usual, who Henderson fights next will be up to the Zuffa bigwigs and matchmakers. There are some options floating around and all of them are potentially exciting.
Read a full recap with in-depth analysis of the Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson fight at UFC 144 here.
The co-main event was somewhat blemished from the start when Quinton Jackson failed to make weight by a whopping six pounds.
As soon as it happened, pundits and fellow fighters alike were quick to questions "Rampage's" motivation and whether or not he was taking his fight with Bader seriously.
Though there were moments during the fight where Jackson looked like his old self, on the whole, he looked overmatched and overwhelmed; a sight that MMA fans are getting a little too used to nowadays.
Bader won the decision victory, as well he should have, and is now back on the right track with his career after two nice consecutive wins.
The loss left "Rampage" with some soul-searching to do. But he was quick to say afterwards that he feels he still has many years left in the Octagon.
Only time will tell if he's right.
Check out an informative synopsis of the "Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader" fight at UFC 144 here.
Mark Hunt was one of the names on this card who was more than glad to return to Japan for an event after doing much to develop his reputation as a fighter there.
The task in front of him was no cakewalk as he was faced with the always tough Cheick Kongo, who was looking to cement his third consecutive victory.
Apparently, "Super Samoan" had different plans, as he essentially walked through everything Kongo had to throw at him, picked his shots wisely and then, eventually, put Kongo on his back with the referee having to step in and save him in the first round.
The TKO victory showed that Hunt's not quite done yet. It also showed that if you're foolish enough to let him get on the inside and strike with you, it's going to be a short night.
Hunt, never one to shy away from the microphone, said after his win that he not only felt good about his TKO win, but that he also feels he can do similar things to Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos.
Nothing wrong with a little good old fashioned self-promotion.
Read a detailed recap and fight analysis of the Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo fight at UFC 144 here.
The entire main card was full of top level action and fireworks. But the prelims weren't too shabby either. Five of the eight preliminary competitors hailed from "The Land of the Rising Sun."
Unfortunately, only two of them were able to secure victories in front of their compatriots, but the fans didn't seem to mind as they were treated to some very exciting fights.
For a top-to-bottom review of the prelim portion of the UFC 144 fight card, click here.
Five of the twelve fights ended by way of submission or (technical) knockout, and the finishes we did see were certainly worth watching and then re-watching again on the DVR.
Perhaps most exciting of them all was a brilliant head kick knockout by Anthony Pettis over Joe Lauzon in the first round of their match up.
Read the list of fight bonus award winners, including "Knockout of the Night," "Submission of the Night," and "Fight of the Night" here.
That's the list we were able to come up with, but we get tired of listening to ourselves. We want to hear what you Maniacs have to say. What does your list of highs and lows from UFC 144 look like? Be sure to weigh in in the comments section below.
For complete UFC 144 results and a detailed recap of all the action click here. To check out a recap of the UFC 144 prelim fights that were seen on Facebook and FX, click here.
And just in case you want to get up to speed on the entire 144 fight card from top to bottom click here.