“Business as usual” has become a phrase that we are all well-acquainted with in the MMA community, but for Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson, the night of February 26 in the Saitama Super Arena proved to be exactly that. With each man having competed in a “Fight of The Year”, fans expected non-stop excitement from the two “action fighters”; that is exactly what they got.
For five rounds the action ebbed and flowed as Edgar and Henderson showed the world why they are two top ranked 155 lb. mixed martial artists on the planet. In a hotly contested bout that saw both men get the upper hand on various occasions, both fighters went to war. While it was Frankie Edgar who used his trademark footwork and proper boxing technique to gain an advantage early on, it was the wild kickboxing and shear grit of Ben Henderson that would keep him in the fight, almost knocking out the champ with an up-kick in the second round. In typical fashion, Edgar came out strong in the third, again playing to his strengths as the challenger showed an utter disregard for his wrestling ability. In the fourth stanza, Bendo unleashed on the Jersey native, even sinking his signature guillotine, which “The Answer” was narrowly able to escape.
Dead even going into the fifth, as the now former champion revealed he knew; all the while the former WEC Champion felt he had done enough to win every round. What followed was an intense five-minute battle with Edgar playing the aggressor while Bendo countered with heavy shots. Then came the final bell. As referee Mark Goddard held both men by the wrists in the traditional fashion, Frankie would raise his arm in what proved to be a premature gesture. The smile on Henderson’s face bordered cockiness as the judges’ scores were read. They had rendered a unanimous decision with scores of 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47 for the new UFC Lightweight Champion in Henderson.
Six months later, fans are to be treated to an immediate rematch between the two in just a few hours. The Rebellion Media family has once again opted to look to the past and offer our own views on the bout. What Follows are summaries to our scorecards by MMA Frenzy editor Chris Leslie, former head writer for MMA Convert Joe Lebeau, and Myself.
When I look at Henderson-Edgar one, the main thing I notice is that you have to take it round by round. While that is technically true of all fights, this fight was a true back and forth battle where Henderson just landed the decisive shots/moves in enough rounds to seal the fight. Where Edgar landed with more volume at times, the damage factor went to Bendo.
Looking back at the first meeting between these two formerly unlikely top lightweights, it’s easy to see how so many people scored it so many ways. Personally, I score the fight very closely, but felt very strongly that “The Answer” did what he needed to do to retain his lightweight strap. Despite the obvious upkick, and the ridiculous near fatality that was the missed enziguri, I felt that this fight had very few defining moments. Most notably, as I saw then and again now, Edgar had considerably more crisp and effective striking early on, and as always, being the comeback kid as he is, Edgar only got better as he faced more adversity. In the end, I scored the odd rounds for Edgar, as he took home rounds one, three, and five.
The first meeting between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar was an instant classic, to say the least. While “The Answer” opened up strong with his superior movement, it was Bendo who would prove to have the chance to end the bout with both a vicious up-kick and his trademark guillotine, taking the second and fourth. My card saw the Jersey native take first and third round, as usual, Edgar rebound from a beating quite nicely. It’s the fifth period that seemed the closest. The former WEC Champion landed the more meaningful shots, in my opinion, giving him the fifth stanza.
While in the past, we’ve largely agreed on controversial bouts, there has proven to be dissension this time out as the “Smooth” one takes a split decision in our eyes. With a bout close enough to warrant an immediate rematch, it’s no wonder that many feel the pendulum swung the wrong way. All questions will be answered tonight, as Benson Henderson once again attempts to have his hand raised against the man he wrested the title from on Pay Per-View.