Benson Henderson had to sweat through a narrow verdict on the scorecards to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown.
Henderson (17-2, 5-0 UFC) captured a controversial split decision over former champion Frankie Edgar in the UFC 150 headliner on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Two of the three cageside judges, Dave Hagen and Mark Van Tine, scored it 48-47 for Henderson. A third, Tony Weeks, cast a dissenting 49-46 ruling in favor of Edgar (14-3-1, 9-3-1 UFC).
“I was a little confused,” Henderson said. “The scoring on that one was a little weird, I thought -- 49-46 -- but the judge was up close, so it is what it is. You always have to be concerned when it goes to the judges.”
Henderson’s game plan centered on kicks to the challenger’s lower leg. The tactic was effective early, but Edgar grew wise to it as the fight deepened. He countered beautifully with right hands, one of which planted Henderson on the seat of his shorts in the second round. Rounds one, two and five were relatively clear, with the first going to Henderson and the second and fifth to Edgar. Rounds three and four appeared far more competitive and difficult to call.
“Frankie’s tough,” said Henderson, who dethroned Edgar at UFC 144. “We all know how tough he is and his team is. They always bring it in rematches. I knew he would be tougher than in the first fight. I had to come in here and lay it on the line.”
According to FightMetric figures, Edgar bested Henderson 70-65 in total strikes and 66-62 in terms of significant strikes. He also delivered four takedowns in the five-round affair and threatened Henderson more than once with the guillotine choke. Those statistics will only add fuel to the critics’ fire. Edgar did not hide his lack of satisfaction with the decision.
“It don’t matter,” he said. “I thought I brought it to him, but congrats to Ben. I’m upset, man. What are you going to do? I did [think I won]. I thought I brought it to him.”
Cerrone Dismisses Guillard in 76 Seconds
Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts mainstay Donald Ceronne knocked out former teammate Melvin Guillard with a head kick and straight right hand in the lightweight co-main event. Cerrone (19-4, 6-1 UFC) wrapped it up in 76 seconds, as he recorded his sixth win in seven UFC appearances.
Guillard (30-11-2, 11-7 UFC) fired the first salvo, as he staggered Cerrone with a short left hand and swarmed him in an attempt to finish. The notoriously durable “Cowboy” recovered and went on the offensive. He delivered a glancing head kick that set a dazed Guillard on wobbly legs and sealed it with a straight right hand that sent “The Young Assassin” to the mat.
Shields Succeeds in Return to Middleweight
Former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields won for the 17th time in 19 bouts, as he captured a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 finalist Ed Herman in a middleweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Shields (28-6-1, 3-2 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Herman (20-9, 7-6 UFC) held his own in the clinch, but Shields was relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. The Cesar Gracie protégé grounded Herman in all three rounds, moving to mount in the third. He threatened Herman briefly with a kimura and an arm-triangle choke but elected instead to rely on his trusted top game to carry him to victory.
“Fighting at middleweight I like, but the altitude definitely slowed my pace down,” Shields said. “It was a little embarrassing, but props to Ed Herman. He’s a great fighter. Hopefully next time it won’t be at altitude, and I can come here and give a lot more and show the kind of fighter I was when I fought Dan Henderson. [I only spent] seven days [at altitude]. If I could do it again, I’d spend like three weeks. I underestimated it.”
Okami Takes Out Roberts
Former middleweight title contender Yushin Okami won for the first time in nearly two years, as he stopped Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Buddy Roberts on second-round punches. Okami (27-7, 11-4 UFC), who entered the cage on a two-fight losing streak, closed it out 3:05 into round two.
Roberts (12-3, 1-1 UFC) connected repeatedly with left hands, but he was no match for the Japanese judoka on the ground. Okami grounded and mounted Roberts in both rounds. In the second, he passed to full mount and ultimately transitioned to Roberts’ back. The New Mexico-based middleweight offered no resistance, and Okami finished it with a series of unanswered punches. Roberts replaced the injured Rousimar Palhares on short notice.
Holloway Body Shot Finishes Lawrence
Max Holloway, the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, put away “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 alum Justin Lawrence with a wicked body shot and follow-up punches in a featured featherweight matchup. Holloway (6-1, 1-1 UFC) finished it 4:49 into round one.
Lawrence (4-1, 1-1 UFC) found a home for his overhand right and left hook in the early stages, but his inability to get the 20-year-old Hawaiian to the ground proved costly. Holloway opened a cut near his opponent’s right eye with a left hook and slowly made his reach more and more of a factor. In the second round, with Lawrence pinned along the cage, he landed a crippling left hook to the liver and trailed the stricken American to the ground, finishing it with punches.
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