UFC 144 - Edgar's 'Rubber Chin' Will Guide Him To Victory at UFC 144
UFC 144 marks the fifth time the UFC will host a show in perhaps the birthplace of Mixed Martial Arts, Japan. The UFC last visited the Land of the Rising Sun in 2002, before current owners, Zuffa LLC. had even bought the company.
Last time the UFC was in Japan, the company could barely afford to produce the event on home video after the fact. This time around, it could be the biggest show the UFC has hosted yet, featuring headliners Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, and Ben Henderson.
Edgar, the UFC Lightweight Champion, had a very successful start to his MMA career. After going 5-0 on the regional circuit, including a win over current UFC contender Jim Miller, Edgar joined the UFC. He was undefeated in his first three fights, before meeting the man that would later define his career.
He lost his first professional fight in Broomfield, Colorado at UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Lauzon. The fight, against Gray Maynard, little did he know, would later make a much bigger impact on his career.
After the unanimous decision loss to Maynard, he went on a three-fight win streak, and was awarded a title shot against then champion, and future UFC Hall of Famer, B.J. Penn. At UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, Edgar was considered a 5 to 1 underdog. He was just going to be another notch in Penn’s belt, until he shocked the world. In what was nominated for the Best Upset ESPY Award in 2010, Edgar went in and handled his business against the veteran, Penn.
Penn had trouble with his cardio as he had numerous times before. Edgar pushed the pace through all five rounds, and Penn simply could not handle Edgar’s incredible speed. He quickly opened a cut on the Hawaiian in round one, and knocked him down in round two. Through the first three rounds, it looked as if Penn was pacing himself, waiting until Edgar gassed to unleash his onslaught. The problem was that Edgar never gassed. He kept coming through all five rounds, and Penn looked lost the entire fight.
The one-sided affair was quickly booked for a rematch. The question as to why still remains to be answered. Edgar dominated Penn in all aspects of the fight, and it was not close. The rematch appeared to be homage to Penn’s legacy. Edgar had no problem with the rematch and handled Penn again, with a unanimous decision victory.
Edgar was riding five-straight victories into a rematch with Gray Maynard. Maynard had long been labeled the last threat to B.J. Penn’s title, and then Edgar sprang out of nowhere. After two straight wins over B.J. Penn, Edgar came in as a slim favorite over the undefeated Maynard.
2010’s Fight of the Year began fast paced. Maynard came out aggressive and swinging. In the first round alone, Maynard landed 47 strikes versus Edgar’s ten. In a clear 10-8 round for Maynard, he was unable to put Edgar to sleep. After that, Maynard was unable to replicate the success he saw in the first round. Edgar slowly regained his composure, and in the later rounds Maynard began desperately shooting for takedowns. Edgar began to work his striking game, mixing in takedowns of his own. In the final frame, Edgar stuffed all seven of Maynard’s takedowns while Maynard stuffed all three of his. It was a close fight, and many were surprised Maynard hadn’t been able to knock out Edgar after such an impressive opening.
Edgar’s comeback was not enough to avenge his loss to Maynard. Maynard’s first round was not enough to sweep Edgar. The bout was scored a split draw, and chaos ensued. For the third time in UFC history, a championship fight was scored as a draw. This created a lot of problems, especially in the crowded lightweight division. A rematch was scheduled immediately, and took place at UFC 136 nine months later.
To almost everyone’s surprise, the fight began almost identical to their previous meeting. Maynard came out aggressive and almost took out Edgar in the first round. Maynard seemed to hold back a bit toward the end of the round to avoid gassing. He had learned, and things were looking good for Maynard.
Again similar to their previous bout, Edgar began his comeback down one round, 10-8. He slowly clawed his way back, out striking Maynard 53-19 over the next three rounds. The cumulative damage over those three rounds, plus a powerful uppercut ended Maynard’s night before anyone could say draw. Edgar had finally bested his arch nemesis with a finish, and the Maynard chapter of his life was closed at 1-1-1.
Edgar’s next matchup is against Ben Henderson at the aforementioned UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. Henderson provides some interesting challenges for Edgar that he has not seen before, the first of which is size. Henderson stands 5’9’’, three inches taller than Edgar. Edgar, who has openly stated he doesn’t cut much weight to make the 155-pound limit, is going to have some trouble with Henderson. Henderson is easily the strongest lightweight in the UFC, and has a good ground game. If he can plant Edgar on his back, he may be able to keep him there for a while.
Henderson’s standup is getting better, but Edgar’s is miles ahead of him. If Edgar can keep it standing, this will be a one-sided affair. I don’t think that, against someone Henderson’s size, Edgar will be able to stuff takedowns as he has in the past. Expect to see Edgar on his back several times throughout the fight. His Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt will truly be tested in this one.
Edgar also has an intangible that no one can emulate: his rubber chin. Edgar doesn’t have a chin like Chris Leben, where he can run around like a zombie, eating shots, but he can take a lot of punches. As we saw in Edgar-Maynard 1 and 2, Edgar can be wobbled, but he recovers quickly. Its not as if he can’t be dazed, that seems to happen quite often, but his recovery from those shots is second to none. Because of this, I don’t see Henderson being able to end the fight, and Edgar wins a very close decision.
By Steve Cassidy