While it feels rude to focus on his opponent in an article about Benson Henderson’s first Ultimate Fighting Championship title defense, in many ways their rematch in the main event of UFC 150 feels more like the end of Frankie Edgar’s championship run than anything else.
“The Answer” had perhaps the strangest title reign in UFC history. On paper, he won the UFC lightweight title and then defended it three times, which would place him comfortably among the greatest fighters of his era. While all of those things are true, the madness is in the details, as Edgar was nearly incapable of engaging in a “normal” title fight. In April of 2010, as a red-hot 12-1 contender, he challenged B.J. Penn for the belt and won a unanimous decision in one of the most egregious title fight robberies of all time. When they rematched a few months later at UFC 118, however, Edgar won in uncontroversial and frankly dominant manner, sweeping all fight rounds on all three judges’ scorecards.
With Penn in the rearview, at least for the moment, Edgar then faced Gray Maynard, the author of his lone professional defeat. At UFC 125, Maynard absolutely thrashed the champ for the entire first round, earning mild surprise that the fight wasn’t stopped and 10-8 scores from all three judges. Edgar rallied back, winning most of the rest of the fight on his way to a split draw, and while that is a rare result, it is worth noting that most professional observers saw it as a draw, and Sherdog’s three scorers were split as the official judges were. With a rematch a foregone conclusion, the two met again at UFC 136 and once again, Maynard beat the bejeezus out of Edgar in another 10-8 first round, knocking the champ down twice, bloodying his nose and whaling away on him at the horn. Once again, however, Edgar came rallying back—really, the second and third Maynard fights are where the legend of Frankie Edgar was written—and this time, there would be no controversial draw, as Edgar put the fading “Bully” away in the fourth round.
For his fourth title defense, Edgar faced Henderson, a former World Extreme Cagefighting champ who had come over with other WEC standouts such as Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis, and remained a top contender. At UFC 144, Henderson edged out Edgar by unanimous decision in a fight that was close and difficult to score, but appeared to have gone to the rightful winner.
However, the closeness of the decision and the UFC’s growing propensity for immediate title rematches meant that a second Henderson-Edgar fight was inevitable. It also meant that Edgar was about to have a six-fight stretch of title bouts against three men. The rematch was booked for UFC 150, and in an ironic reversal of Edgar’s fights with Penn, the second Henderson fight was a robbery the other way. Edgar fared far better the second time, losing a split decision in a fight which the media overwhelmingly saw as an Edgar win.
Just or unjust, there would be no trilogy. Henderson defended the belt twice more before running into the buzzsaw that was 2013 Anthony Pettis, but remained a contender for years to come, at lightweight as well as welterweight and in the UFC as well as Bellator MMA. Edgar, always undersized and scrappy, dropped to featherweight, where he gave three valiant shots at the 145-pound belt against Jose Aldo (twice) and Max Holloway.