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UFC 144 Preview – Benson Henderson Vs. Frankie Edgar

This is the UFC’s return to Japan since UFC 29, which featured the likes of Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, and Chuck Liddell. The main event of this go-around is Frankie Edgar defending his lightweight title against Benson Henderson. It’s also Rampage Jackson’s return to Japan and the card features many Japanese fighters.

We’re going to do this preview a little differently than usual. We have one writer breaking down every fight on the live card.

The FGB crew along with Stevie J from Angrymarks and friend of the website, JP, have all the predictions.

Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis

Alan: Pettis by decision
Duan: Lauzon by decision
Stevie: Lauzon by 2nd round submission
JP: Pettis by 2nd round TKO
Big D: Pettis by decision
Cactus Jim: Pettis by 3rd round submission
GG: Pettis by decision

Big D says:

Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon both have something in common. At one or two times in their career, they were seen as possible serious championship contenders. In 2007, J-Lau went on a win streak before being stopped by Ken Flo. He’s tried to bounce back but stayed in the midcard. Anthony Pettis delivered the kick heard round the world on Ben Henderson and went on to take his title (Ben is ironically getting a TITLE shot on this show). Pettis then went on to lose to Clay Guida and derail his push for lack of a better term. This fight is about redemption. Pettis is the more athletic but J Lau has always been headstrong. He fights til the end. I’m very excited to see if he can withstand Pettis’ speed and creativity in the octagon. I like Mr. J L (Not Jerry Lynn), but J is taking the L here.

Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski

Alan: Hioki by 3rd round submission
Duan: Palaszewski by split decision
Stevie: Palaszewski by 1st round TKO
JP: Hioki by decision
Big D: Palaszewski by 2nd round submission
Cactus Jim: Hioki by decision
GG: Palaszewski by decision

Alan says:

This will be a fight where Bart spends a lot of time on his back getting pounded on. But he’s tough as nails and will be able to survive for longer than most. He’ll get it back to the feet on occasion and will try to throw bombs out of desperation. If he catches Hioki it could be trouble for the hometown boy, but I think he’ll end up back on his back before that happens and Hioki will get a round 3 rear naked choke submission.

Tim Boetsch vs. Yushin Okami

Alan: Okami by decision
Duan: Okami by decision
Stevie: Okami by decision
JP: Okami by decision
Big D: Okami by decision
Cactus Jim: Okami by decision
GG: Okami by 3rd round TKO

GG says:

The thing about Okami’s style is that it allows him to be in nearly every fight, but also allows his opponent to seemingly be in every fight as well. I fully expect Okami to win in front of his home Japanese crowd and like everyone, it’s probably not going to be all that visually pleasing. I think Boetsch is the kind of guy who will give him a game fight, but in the end, isn’t talented enough to beat the former number one contender. It’s Boetsch’s third fight at 185 and he’s 2-0 since dropping down, but in fighting Okami, he’s probably going to be the smaller guy in cage. Okami’s at least 3 inches taller and come fight time, they’ll probably be similar in weight, so whatever size advantage Boetsch may have at 185 after being a 205’er, I don’t think he has it here. In addition, I’m even taking Okami by stoppage. I think being back in Pride and fighting in front of the Japanese crowd may give him that little extra to end the fight by ground and pound.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields

Alan: Akiyama by decision
Duan: Shields by 2nd round submission
Stevie: Shields by decision
JP: Shields by 2nd round submission
Big D: Shields by decision
Cactus Jim: Shields by 2nd round submission
GG: Shields by 2nd round TKO

JP says:

This seems to be an apparent “loser leaves town” type fight because both of these guys have been fairly disappointing in their UFC tenures. Akiyama never failed to bring the fight at 185 but was often undersized and simply not as talented as guys like Bisping and Belfort. He fits better at 170 but won’t get much of a break in terms of talented opponents. Shields is riding a two fight losing streak after Jake Ellenberger cleared him out with a knee in his last fight. Both guys probably need a win to keep their jobs. Akiyama didn’t show much power at 185 and Shields survived bombs from Dan Henderson so a knockout isn’t a real concern here. Jake also has excellent submission skills so being on his back against Akiyama’s top game isn’t a major problem either. But I like the American to drag Akiyama to the floor and work for the submission, which he finds in round two in form of a Kimura.

Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo

Alan: Hunt by 1st round TKO
Duan: Kongo by 2nd round TKO
Stevie: Kongo by 3rd round TKO
JP: Kongo by 1st round TKO
Big D: Hunt by 2nd round TKO
Cactus Jim: Kongo by 2nd round TKO
GG: Kongo by 3rd round TKO

Duan says:

It’s hard to believe now, but in 2001, Mark Hunt was the K1 World Grand Prix champion. This is a guy who has mixed it with the likes of Ray Sefo, Ernesto Hoost and Jérôme Le Banner. He has competed at a level Cheick Kongo has never even been in touching distance of, and with Kongo’s primary weapon being his stand up, one would be forgiven for thinking this was a tricky styles match up for the French powerhouse. To put it simply, Mark Hunt isn’t that fighter anymore.

Lets put to one side Hunt’s 2011 success, and take a look back to his last run in Japan, where he notched up five straight losses – all by first round stoppage. In consecutive fights, he was starched by Manhoef and subbed by Mousasi – both essentially middleweights at the time. The fact he has been able to rehab his career, and in UFC of all places, is 1) astonishing and 2) damning of the heavyweight division. At 37, he’s not getting any better, and I struggle to believe he’s still a UFC quality fighter. Kongo, through better and worse, has proven that he is.

Cheick will soften him up for a round/round 1/2 on the feet and then finish it with ground and pound.

Ryan Bader vs. Rampage Jackson

Alan: Jackson by 2nd round TKO
Duan: Jackson by decision
Stevie: Jackson by split decision
JP: Bader by decision
Big D: Bader by decision
Cactus Jim: Jackson by 3rd round TKO
GG: Jackson by 3rd round TKO

Cactus Jim says:

Rampage makes his return to Japan at UFC 144 and I’m sure he’ll be looking to live up to his glory days in Pride. Coming into this one, I think that Rampage has a lot of key elements in his favor. He has the better striking and counterpunching. He has a lot of fights under his belt, many of them in Japan. Size and strength are about even in my opinion as are their wrestling skills. I see Rampage’s patience and experience paying off for him here. He’ll work Bader from the outside and try to keep this fight on its feet. Bader’s probably got to get inside and grind and sling everything he has if he has a chance at taking this fight. My prediction is that somewhere after the middle of the fight, that Bader’s luck runs out and Quinton catches him with a big punch and finishes him off on the ground.

Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar

Alan: Henderson by decision
Duan: Edgar by decision
Stevie: Edgar by decision
JP: Henderson by decision
Big D: Edgar by 3rd round TKO
Cactus Jim: Edgar by decision
GG: Henderson by decision

Stevie J says:

First rule of thumb – don’t underestimate Frankie Edgar. There aren’t many people who can say they’ve beat BJ Penn twice (GSP is the only other man I can think of) and he’s already avenged the only draw OR loss he ever had in his career (both to the same man). Clarion might not have the wrestling reputation of Penn State or Iowa State, but given he was a high school and college standout, that means he had a solid skill set BEFORE his full-time MMA career. That’s only improved with time, he owns a few submission wins, and if his last win tells us anything, he added KO power to his arsenal. Second rule of thumb – don’t underestimate Benson Henderson. Donald Cerrone is a bad dude, and he beat him twice. Bocek and Miller are as tough as they come in jiu-jitsu, and Clay Guida is a human dynamo with awesome grappling AND striking. Take away one Showtime Pettis Matrix Kick and his undefeated streak would run backward to 2007.

Vegas has Edgar as a slight favorite as of my writing this preview, and it’s so narrow that gets me thinking these two are even more evenly matched than Edgar vs. Maynard (Maynard may have had the first win, but Edgar looked every bit the better man going into II and III). At the end of the day this is one of those “10 gets one man 6 and the other 4 wins” scenarios, but if I narrow it down to just one reason one man will win, Edgar already knows Ben is the human Gumby when he comes to submissions and since they’re not his strongest card in the deck, he’s not even going to waste time on them. Ben’s only got two TKO wins, and none against the UFC elite lightweights. Now picture a scenario where one man doesn’t fear the other’s striking, is a good enough wrestler to stuff the other’s takedowns, and won’t burn up his cardio going for futile submissions if he did wind up on his back. He might lose a round, even two, but like Condit vs. Diaz he’ll find a way to win 3 out of 5 – and that’s all it takes. Edgar wins a close and possibly controversial fight by unanimous decision.

We’ll have play by play of UFC 144 tomorrow.
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