In a back-and-forth battle of attrition that went five championship rounds, Ben Henderson emerged victorious, besting Frankie Edgar to gain possession of the coveted UFC lightweight title.
Both men displayed the qualities and talents that brought them to this epic showdown as the main event of UFC 144. Henderson started early with blistering leg kicks, many of which the champion caught and tried to counter with right hands over the top. Edgar stayed light on his feet, getting in and landing his combinations, while evading and avoiding major exchanges with the aggressive Henderson through the first round. The champion would also manage a takedown later in the round, but was unable to keep Henderson grounded to mount any kind of sustained attack. After an exciting first round, it was evident that this fight would have it’s share of momentum changes.
Henderson came out moving forward to start the second round, evading the combinations of Edgar early. Both fighters again showed off tremendous footwork as they battled to implement their gameplans on each other. Edgar listened to the advice of his corner between rounds, firing off kicks to the legs and body of Henderson. Again, Henderson was able to score with more kicks, as Edgar continued to catch each of them as they came. The challenger briefly caught Edgar on the cage and scored with a scorching knee to the midsection. Edgar as usual, stepped out of trouble and then got a quick takedown. Henderson quickly made his way back to his feet and engaged in a nice exchange, landing the more significant strikes on the inside. A late takedown for Edgar seemed to turn the tide, but a relentless Henderson kept busy on his back, landing a staggering upkick that floored the champion. Henderson followed up with a flurry but ran out of time as the second round came to an end.
Amazingly, the champion looked fully recovered to start the third round, as he connected with a big right hand early. Henderson got back on track with his kicks, and much of the rest of the round was a back-and-forth affair. Edgar again was able to secure a late takedown looking to steal the round, as the fight counted down and headed toward the championship rounds.
Henderson looked fresh coming out for the fourth, while the champion looked bruised and battered. Both guys landed leg kicks, and it seemed that Edgar got the better of a big exchange before the fighters separated and reset in the center of the cage. Edgar countered a knee by Henderson and ducked in for a big slam, but landed in an arm-in guillotine attempt by Henderson. The champion showed off his tremendous submission defense, escaping the choke and implementing a flurry of strikes from the top. Henderson was able to get to his feet and flurry as time ran down on the fourth round.
The final round proved to be much like the previous rounds, as both fighters tried to put an exclamation point on their efforts to emerge victorious. Edgar again got another takedown, but Henderson’s ability to get back to his feet quickly seemingly nullified much of Edgar’s work. The challenger then scored with a late jumping knee, then followed Edgar to the ground working on a guillotine choke as time expired on an exciting main event.
In the end, it would be Ben Henderson (16-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC) that would be crowned as the new UFC lightweight champion, with scores of 49-46, 48-47, and 49-46.
A dejected Frankie Edgar (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) disagreed with the decision.
“I thought I did enough to win,” Edgar said. “That’s what my guys told me. But those are the breaks, man. Congrats to Ben, but I thought I landed more strikes and got more takedowns.”