Sunday, 26 February 2012
Henderson Wins Lightweight Title in Five Round Thriller
The second arrival of UFC in Japan sees Ben Henderson claim the Lightweight Championship and Ryan Bader smother Rampage to victory at UFC 144.
One fight that shouldn’t be overlooked was the Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch contest.
Okami was coming off a devastating loss to Middleweight champion Anderson Silva from back in August. Tim Boetsch was riding on a three-fight-win streak, making the fight that much more exciting.
Okami made a statement in round 1, executing his much improved striking and vicious knees to the body. Boetsch had little success, securing the round for Okami.
Round 2 saw pretty much of the same - Okami bossing it on the feet and picking apart Boetsch, leaving him with bloody eyes and cheeks. Okami did land a takedown and managed to get full mount, raining down punches to a tough-as-nails Boetsch, after several submission attempts.
Round 3 didn’t look great for Boetsch, being two rounds down and bloodied up. However, you can never write off the Barbarian.
Boetsch landed a couple of right hands, seeming to stagger Okami, then came a head-kick. A flurry of punches from Boetsch hurt Okami even more so, making him retreat. Boetsch was after Okami and landed more and more uppercuts, proving too much for Okami as he slumped down on the mat. A great comeback for a force in the middleweight division.
Joe Rogan claimed it was one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history - and who can argue? Boetsch said after his win, “I knew nothing less than a knockout or finish would win that fight for me”.
Co-main event time and one of Japan’s adopted sons, Rampage Jackson took on fellow wrestler and knockout artist Ryan Bader.
Rampage happened to be carrying an injury but chose not to reveal what kind, in case Bader used it as a target.
Bader kept the distance with leg kicks to Rampage, using speed rather than power with his punches, getting the better of the PRIDE veteran.
Jackson was the first man to shoot for a takedown, but Bader easily stuffed it.
Bader stayed busy on the feet, pressing forward against the cage and to slowly wear Rampage down.
Round 2 saw Bader use good head movement and footwork, avoiding anything dangerous from Rampage.
The most exciting exchange came in this round when Rampage connected with a huge slam on Bader - landing on his head and arm awkwardly in the process.
Bader fought back and locked on a takedown. Rampage did manage to get back to his feet, however Bader slammed him back to the ground to end round 2.
Bader did what he had to do in round 3, landing more takedowns and being the far more dominant fighter.
It was a torrid year for Bader in 2011, having lost twice but he proved why he was a big deal in the light heavyweight division with a knockout of Jason Brilz in November and now a decision victory over one of the greats.
As Dana White said, “No matter who wins, this will be controversial”. Frankie Edgar didn’t agree with the judges decision, but that doesn’t matter. The UFC have a new Lightweight Champion in Ben Henderson.
It was a fast-paced bout with both men letting their hands go. Henderson ‘s low kicks were frequently caught by Edgar, however it just showed the quality balance Henderson has staying on one foot, still throwing punches.
Henderson used his size to his advantage throughout the entire fight, picking apart Edgar with a well-rounded attack. Henderson also staggered Edgar with a vicious up-kick in the second round, paying dividends to Donald Cerrone.
In the final round, Edgar was the aggressor but Henderson fought straight back with an uppercut and some powerful shots. The fight ended and it truly was anyone’s fight.
The judges gave the win to Henderson - 49-46, 48-47, 49-46. Edgar claimed he thought he did enough to win but that wasn’t the case.
Rumours are now circling that a rematch between Anthony Pettis (who knocked out Joe Lauzon earlier that night) and Ben Henderson could take place, this time for the UFC Lightweight Championship.
The two fought in the last ever WEC event, when Pettis beat Henderson for the WEC Lightweight title back in December 2010.
Personally, I’d love to see another bout between the two. Come on, Joe Silva…
Anthony Pettis def. Joe Lauzon via KO (head kick & punches) in round 1.
Hatsu Hioki def. Bart Palaszewski via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
Tom Boetsch def. Yushin Okami via TKO (punches) in round 3.
Jake Shields def. Yoshihiro Akiyama via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Mark Hunt def. Cheick Kongo via TKO (punches) in round 1.
Ryan Bader def. Rampage Jackson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Ben Henderson def. Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46) to become the new UFC Lightweight Champion.
Fight of the Night: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson
Knockout of the Night: Anthony Pettis
Submission of the Night: Vaughn Lee