Nobody does title rematches quite like Frankie Edgar.
After losing a hard-fought decision to Benson Henderson at UFC 144, “The Answer” quickly made his case for receiving an immediate return bout with the newly crowned lightweight champion. Since Edgar had to defend the belt against B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard (twice), why should Henderson not have to do the same against him, he inquired. Apparently the argument worked, because the Toms River, N.J., native will square off with “Smooth” for a second time in the UFC 150 main event on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Edgar has a tall task ahead of him in attempting to topple Henderson, who can cause all kinds of problems with his size and athleticism. Of course, we should all know better than to count Edgar out in any fight. Talented lightweights rule the evening, as former teammates Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard square off in the co-main event. While both Cerrone and Guillard have hardly been hostile in the weeks leading up to their bout, they should provide plenty of action once the Octagon doors close.
Here is a closer look at UFC 150 “Henderson vs. Edgar 2,” with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 150 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Lightweight Championship
Benson Henderson (16-2, 4-0 UFC) vs. Frankie Edgar (14-2-1, 9-2-1 UFC)
The Matchup: This will be the third title rematch of Edgar’s UFC career, which speaks to how closely contested the New Jersey native’s fights have been of late. After he upset Penn to capture the 155-pound belt at UFC 112, “The Prodigy” was granted a second shot at “The Answer” because many felt Penn was a victim of questionable judging. Another meeting between Edgar and Maynard was scheduled when their UFC 125 title encounter resulted in an unsatisfying draw. Edgar erased all doubt in the rematches, taking a unanimous verdict from Penn at UFC 118 and stopping Maynard with strikes in the fourth round at UFC 136.
This time, the Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu representative finds himself on the other side of the fence, having lost a five-round decision to Henderson in February in a bout Edgar thought he won. While Edgar remained competitive throughout, Henderson’s superiority in the match was well established: “Smooth” controlled the center of the Octagon for the majority of the 25 minutes and landed more significant strikes than his opponent in every frame but the first. However, there were no truly lopsided rounds and Edgar was granted an immediate rematch in the interest of fairness.
UFC President Dana White has been pushing Edgar to drop to 145 pounds, but, thus far, the former champion has not heeded his boss’ suggestion. Thanks to a seven-fight unbeaten streak leading up to the loss to Henderson that included victories against larger fighters like Sean Sherk, Maynard and Penn, there was no reason to doubt Edgar’s thought process. Those questions came to the forefront again at UFC 144, as Henderson appeared to be at least a full weight class above Edgar as the two men squared off in Japan. In the past, Edgar has been able to negate his size disadvantage thanks to solid boxing, the use of good footwork and angles and a withering pace. More athletic than Maynard and better conditioned than Penn, Henderson might very well represent a puzzle that Edgar will not be able to solve.
“The Answer” has a good sense of when to change levels and possesses a quick shot, but he was unable to maintain any consistent control of Henderson on the mat in their first encounter. In fact, the turning point of their first fight likely came in the waning moments of round two, when Edgar was crumpled by an upkick from Henderson. Later, Henderson was able to apply his trademark guillotine when Edgar slammed him to the mat for a takedown. When Edgar took Henderson’s back, the former WEC king made Edgar give up the position by countering with a standing kimura. Although the stat sheet shows Edgar had a 5-to-1 edge in takedowns, it is not the clear advantage it would seem to be, as he was never able to control the MMA Lab product.
On the feet, Edgar must connect with more volume than he did the first time around. While he does a good job of constantly moving and using angles, he lacks the one-shot power that would deter Henderson from moving forward. “Smooth” landed a consistent stream of kicks to the legs and body of Edgar, who caught many of them after they had already done their damage. If Henderson takes a similar approach, Edgar will need to do a better job of utilizing his countering opportunities. Henderson also had success landing knees in close, and any time the fight moves to the clinch, his upper body strength will come into play.
The Pick: Edgar can win this bout; he just has to do everything he usually does better than he did the first time. That means more movement, landing with more volume and utilizing leg kicks to slow his foe’s attack. He will not win the fight by scoring takedowns if he is unable to keep Henderson down for any significant portion of time. In the end, the champion will prove to be too big, too strong and too athletic to let Edgar author another underdog story. Henderson wins by decision.
Next Fight » Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard