“The most boring UFC Champion”, that’s what one of my friends call Frankie Edgar. I happen to agree with him. Among all those who hold a UFC belt, Frankie Edgar is the one I liked the least. You can say the same for UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominic Cruz.
A true fighter finishes fights. Georges St.Pierre has lost quite a few fans because he started trying to win rounds instead of finishing his fights. Other than his last title defense againt Gray Maynard, Edgar has not finished his fights. He does not have knockout power, he has no ground and pound and his submission skills are mediocre. He does have good cardio and has good accuracy with his punches and leg kicks thought they do very little damage. The end result is most of his fights always goes to a decision. Most people say he fights a weight class lower (He walks around at 155 and does not cut any weight) and I agree. Unlike Edgar, Benson Henderson has never been accused of trying to win rounds. He always tries his best to take his opponents out and finish fights.
Former WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson is one of the biggest lightweights around. He cuts a lot of weight, similar to Edgar’s previous foe, Gray Maynard. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters and has no holes in his game. His striking is his biggest weapon, he has very good submission defense. Since moving on to the UFC from the WEC, Henderson has been on a tear, taking down top contenders Jim Miller and Clay Guida. Despite his huge weight cuts, his cardio is top-notch. He seems to be the better match-up with Edgar than with Maynard.
A big part of Henderson’s game are his kicks. He is a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. Seeing them in the cage together, they do look like a weight-class apart. It reminded me of the time when Jon Jones faced Shogun Rua last March for the UFC Light Heavyweight title.
First Round: Henderson threw a lot of leg kicks with Edgar catching a few of them. The leg kicks do land and does damage before being caught by Edgar. Joe Rogan says that this is a popular move in Muay Thai and something that Edgar has definitely practiced with his Muay Thai coach Phil Nurse, who happens to be the same Muay Thai coach for Jon Jones. This seems to be a big part the champion’s strategy as he repeatedly does this throughtout the entire fight. Henderson also lands several knees to the body and at the end of round one a big welt can be seen on the left eye of Frankie Edgar.
Second Round: Round two starts pretty much the same as round one. Henderson lands powerful leg kicks and knees to the body with the Edgar catching a bunch of them but he fails to land counters. Edgar does take Henderson down with a couple of minutes left and attempts a guillotine choke. He switches position and tries to take the challenger’s back. Henderson counters with a standing kimura and Edgar lets go. Henderson will employ this tactic for the rest of the fight. With a minute left, Edgar takes Henderson down again and they trade elbows. Henderson tries to go for an armbar and Edgar tries to stack him up and employ some ground and pound. The challenger then lands the most devastating upkick that I have ever seen. This staggers the champion and the challenger ends the round with a flurry of elbow strikes to the body. On to the third round!
Third Round: The upkick that Henderson landed has broken Edgar’s nose and his left eye is almost swollen shut. It is not looking good for the champion. The size difference is very evident when they trade and land strikes. Whatever Edgar lands has very little effect on the challenger. Henderson continues to land leg kicks and knees to the body and even gets a takedown in the middle of the round. He lands a couple of shots but they do get back up. Before the round ends, Edgar takes Henderson down but lands nothing. Edgar looks damaged and tired while Henderson looks the exact opposite, unmarked and untouched. We now enter the championsip rounds!
Fourth Round: Henderson continues to employ the double right jab and a leg kick. With two minutes gone, Henderson lands a knee with Edgar going for the takedown. Henderson goes for his favorite submission move, the guillotine choke. The champion stayed calm and composed and is able to escape and winds up on top. Edgar tries to go for Henderson’s back and again Henderson counters with a standing kimura and again Edgar is forced to let go. Henderson keeps on landing the leg kicks and Edgar keeps on catching them but does nothing afterwards. It looks impressive but Henderson makes sure he pays for continuing to employ this tactic. This round goes again to Henderson for landing more significant strikes and for the guillotine choke attempt. Now heading to the fifth and final round!
Fifth Round: As the round is about to start, Henderson’s corner asks him if he has five good minutes and he responds by saying he has 15 more and he was exaggerating. Edgar’s corner, on the other hand, tells him to stop catching the kicks. He did continue catching the kicks. It figures as it would be very hard to stop doing something that you have trained to do and judging by the accuracy of Edgar in catching the kicks, it’s pretty safe to say that he did spend a lot of time training to catch the kicks. I do question employing this tactic as it does not score you points unless you land counters after catching the kick. Edgar does land a couple of hard shots in this round. He tries to take the challenger’s back and again Henderson counters with the standing Kimura and Edgar is forced to let go. Less than two minutes left in the round, Edgar staggers Henderson but Henderson just shakes it off. Edgar looked before wobbly and tired as the round is about to finish. Henderson winds up on top with a couple of seconds left in the fight and lands a few more powerful shots as the horn sounds.
After five rounds, the judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, 49-46 for Henderson. Benson Henderson is the new UFC Lightweight champion!
Frankie Edgar said in the post-fight interview that he thought he did enough to win it. Dana White echoed the same sentiments in the post-fight news conference. Having seen this fight for five times now, I cannot recall a time when Edgar really put any threat to Henderson. Henderson, on the other hand, landed the more powerful kicks and knees, he also landed that powerful upkick at the end of the second round and his guillotine choke in the fourth round were the highlights of this fight and it showed off is well-rounded game. Judging from the pics below it’s not that hard to see clearly who won the fight. Henderson’s face was pristine after 25 minutes while Edgar had a busted nose, his left eye badly damaged.
Who Henderson faces next has been the big question since this fight. Dana White seems geared to giving Edgar a rematch but he has also said that he will give a title shot to the winner of the Nate Diaz-Jim Miller fight in May. I personally would like to see Anthony Pettis face Edgar and the winner of the Diaz-Miller fight face Henderson in his first defense. As for Frankie Edgar, a move down to featherweight seems like the best move for him.
The Lightweight division is indeed the deepest and toughest division in the UFC right now. Henderson is more than capable of reigning for a long time but it surely will be no walk in the park.