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UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson

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On Saturday, February 25th, UFC lightweight champion Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar (14-1-1) will take on challenger Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson (15-2)  for the 155 pound title, in Tokyo Japan. Long suffering since the loss of PRIDE Fighting Championships, Japan could soon become one of the UFC’s most lucrative markets. The fans there love foreign fighters, and their fanaticism can turn  favourites into  multi millionaires.

A KO of Gray 'The Bully' Maynard, stacked on top of two wins versus BJ Penn, catapulted Edgar toward the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.  Benson Henderson looked spectacular in his recent wins against Canadian Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida----all decisions. Saturday’s fight could be 2012 fight of the year.

Slights on Edgar have been that he sticks and moves rather than standing in the pocket. That is an overly macho way to look at fighting, because winning is what’s important. Edgar has shown that he can stand and bang, but he’s a smaller, lighter fighter in the division and has the speed and  movement to baffle opponents.

Skillful movement worked against BJ Penn, who previously had been considered one of the UFC’s top applied boxers.  Edgar also wisely uses his unusual stand-up to work his excellent takedowns. Simply put, speed is  hard to train for: you either have it and can deal with it, or not. Edgar’s only loss was in 2008, to Gray Maynard, who he subsequently drew with and then finished in back-to-back title defenses.

Henderson is no slouch on the speedometer, though, and has stellar athleticism and wrestling too. Both men put on ferocious paces, so Henderson will be able to deal with that where BJ Penn could not. A trait of Henderson is his ability to flow from technique to technique, to transition from boxing, to kicking, to flying knee, to takedown, which makes his nickname is so applicable.

Henderson’s only recent loss was a three round decision to Anthony Pettis, back in December, 2010, when he was knocked down with a highlight reel kick Pettis threw after using the fence to project himself forward.  Henderson will the bigger fighter Saturday, and will have to use that to his advantage, and perhaps string the fight to the latter rounds to have hope.

Edgar’s in-and-out, herky-jerky style has a way of making otherwise technical fighters look stilted and awkward.  The New Jersey native also has a way of coming up with a plan for victory when not many people give him a chance, making his moniker apt, too. This fight will be decided by distance and timing, and which fighter is able to confound the other.  Considering the pounding Edgar can take, without losing one erg of energy later in the fight, my money is on the champ winning by TKO in the 4th.

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