The UFC’s 155 pound champion prepares for his first title defense against the very opponent he won the title from just 5 months prior. Which fighter’s skill-set will prove more adaptable in the upcoming rematch between lightweight champion Ben Henderson and former title holder, Frankie Edgar?
UFC 150 Breakdown: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben
The last time these two squared off it was for
the lightweight championship in which, on my card, Ben Henderson narrowly edged
out a 3-2 decision at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Right out the gate, Henderson begins doubling
his jab to keep Frankie off balance, while Edgar is the one looking to find his
range behind a straight right. Henderson then lands a hard outside leg kick –
the first of which Frankie begins catching and winging glancing counters off.
From there, we see a steady pattern of
Henderson landing the harder kicks to the body while Edgar connects with the
longer punch combinations. Up until now, Henderson has done a perfect job at
staying just outside the range of Edgar’s straight right, which has clearly
been his most routinely delivered punch of the round. In the final minute,
Edgar manages a split-second takedown but Henderson has an equally strong finish
due to a few glancing knees and left body kicks.
Tough round to score, but I lean Edgar
simply for being the more effective counter puncher while landing the harder
strikes the head. Henderson’s most significant strikes landed in the
round, meanwhile, were mostly delivered to the legs and body of Frankie.
Henderson comes out more assertive in the
second as he lands a stiff jab followed up by a hard left kick to the body.
We’re now seeing Henderson’s lead hand begins to look much more accurate, whether
he’s timing a counter or leading out with the jab or straight. At around the 45
second mark, right when it appears as if Edgar may be able to steal the round
with a late takedown, he instead eats a huge up-kick from Henderson that
absolutely solidifies the round for the challenger.
Round 3 opens up and Frankie’s right eye is
beginning to swell shut. For the first minute or so neither man is able to land
anything cleanly until Edgar finally connects with a beautiful counter to
Henderson’s jab, which up until that point was possibly the best strike Edgar
had landed in the match. Edgar then pulls a page out of his fight with Gray
Maynard where he shoots in for a weak single leg and connects with a short
right hook on the break. Those same straight rights from Edgar that
Henderson had been avoiding in the first two rounds are now beginning to slowly
find their mark.
Outside of a few body kicks and a brief
takedown, Henderson was unable to mount the same consistent offense he landed
in the first two frames. In a somewhat close round, I think Edgar’s takedown in
the final few seconds, and him landing the cleaner strikes in the round, should
have been just enough to secure the frame.
In the 4th round, Henderson wisely
goes back to utilizing a successful routine of stiff jabs and hard left kicks.
While Frankie was able to raise his connect % with his right hand, I have to
give the round to Henderson based off his constant pressure, his nearly
successful guillotine attempt and his ability to land the more damaging
strikes in the round.
Round 5 is one of the more openly disputed
rounds to score of the fight.
In the first minute it’s relatively close, but
Edgar takes it based off a cleanly landed uppercut in the clinch, and a
perfectly measured straight left that he decides to deliver as a southpaw. Simply
based off of timing, technique and clarity of the shot, this was Edgars best
punch of the entire fight
At the 3 minute mark, Edgar gets Henderson down
for a brief second while nearly threatening to take his back. He then knocks
Henderson down with another short right hook, but fails to follow up with any
other significant offense.
From around the two minute mark on, it’s all
Henderson as he lands a jumping knee and threatens with hard elbows in the final
seconds of the round. This is where Henderson was able to steal the fight in my
eyes. Had Edgar been able to continue his early success in the round, I would
have clearly scored the fight 48-47 in his favor; instead, I had to score the
exact opposite for Henderson.
Closing Prediction for UFC Lightweight
What I took from the first fight was that
Henderson was able to win rounds by landing the harder kicks and pressing the
action a lot more with his lead hand – particularly his jab. He also
finished the rounds stronger with Edgar seemingly unable to match his intensity
in the final minute in several of the close rounds.
Edgar, meanwhile, was able to implement the
more diverse boxing combinations while landing the best punches of the fight.
He also surprisingly appeared to be the stronger of the two in the clinch as he
had more success getting Henderson down throughout the fight.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Edgar looked back at
the match and was wowed by how easily a few of his takedowns appeared to come.
An improved game plan from Frankie, in my eyes, would consist of mixing in a
few more random takedowns while being a lot more conscious of timing and
countering Henderson left kicks instead of wasting so much energy and time
trying to catch them.
Truth be told, I actually give Edgar around a
45% chance to once again outpoint Henderson for another 5 rounds in the
rematch. However, I also expect the aggressive kicking game and constant
pressure of Henderson to be wrongly favored by this sport’s increasingly
More importantly than figuring out exactly how
this rematch is potentially going to play out, is figuring out the judges
are going to perceive the flow of action given their resume for scoring close
fights, so considering Henderson will likely be the one pressing the action
again, I favor him to squeak by once again in another close, controversial
UFC Play: Ben Henderson -160 @ pinny
Rousimar Palhares vs. Yushin Okami
On paper, Yushin Okami possesses several clear
advantages which lead to his -260 UFC odds over Rousimar Palhares.
Outside of a fluke knockout against Tim Boetsch
back in February, Okami’s only losses in the last 6 years have been at the hand
of UFC champions and former number one contenders. Going 11-3 in that period in
unmatched by any other middleweight aside from champion.
The only real concern with backing Okami here
is the fact that he’s recently been brutally knocked out in back to back fights
against Boetsch and Anderson Silva. Trying to gauge his confidence and
remaining mental and physical resilience from there is no easy task.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous breakdown, the
biggest issue with Palhares seems to be his propensity to mentally break down
and freeze up anytime he’s equally pressed on the mat.
We’ve seen it twice now, against Nate Marquardt
and with Alan Belcher, where Palhares refused to respond in a defensive
manner once his opponents were able to slip his leg locks and proceed to unload.
Simply put, his constant mental breakdowns and
subpar fight IQ make him an increasingly dangerous bet going forward.
However, he still possesses the strength and
raw grappling ability to take down just about anyone in the division, so you
can never completely rule out him locking up a devastating leg lock within the
opening minutes of the fight. I think we can assume that as long as Okami
stuffs the early attempts his rangier jab and more equipped boxing arsenal will
be more than enough to secure at minimum a 29-28 decision.
UFC Play: Yushin Okami -245 @ pinny