As usual, a UFC Frankie Edgar fight turned into a war yesterday as he battled Ben Henderson in defense of his Lightweight title at the UFC 144 event in Tokyo, Japan. Edgar fights with a lot of heart, and he showed it again in spades throughout the five round war of attrition at the Saitama Super Arena. And it is understandable that Edgar may have thought he was doing enough in the fight to win, as he is in the heat of the contest. He can be excused, but any other observer who feels Edgar won that fight should be tested for drugs and suspended for a year. Edgar lost his belt, Henderson was clearly the better, more dominant fighter throughout the fight.
It is one of my old cliches, that if we were fighting German soldiers in a ditch in World War 1, I would want a guy with Edgar’s mettle and guts with me. It isn’t that he isn’t impressive, but we are five fights since we see anything different from Edgar, and that is a formula for getting stale, which we just saw.
But this past weekend, the judges that had it 49-46 probably had it right. I think you can give Edgar one round, no more in this fight. After the fight Edgar said he landed more punches and got more takedowns. That is factually true, but it is also a skewed way at looking at the scoring that affects MMA judging at all levels.
The fact is, Edgar was never once remotely close to hurting Ben Henderson, not to mention finishing him. Henderson at times got put on his butt, including with what might have been a punch in the fifth, but he was never shaken up. He always looked unimpressed and very collected.
Edgar was already swelling up in the first round and getting damaged. In the second round, he took the up kick to the face that broke his nose. Henderson tried to take him out, Edgar showed the mettle we talked about, but he was definitely in survival mode.
Round 3 was Henderson’s to win. If Edgar thinks one lame takedown with 10 seconds left will fool every judge, he is showing he is playing for points and not looking to finish the fight. Henderson would have gotten up on Edgar, and we would have had more of the same.
In round 4, Henderson had the one true submission attempt, the guillotine. Edgar did a great job defending it (and Henderson a superior job in the post fight interview describing the sequence), but the fact is that Edgar spent a good deal of time defending, while Henderson was looking to end the fight.
In round 5, Henderson wound up on his butt on a shot from Frankie, and Edgar didn’t close or try to finish. And Henderson wasn’t hurt at all. It seems to me like Edgar was content to try to steal rounds, and when you are not looking to end the fight and get it out of the judges hands, you will lose fights. Frankie Edgar’s game plan counts heavily on activity points, and not finishing the fight. Yes he closed a tough Gray Maynard out, but it does not take away the fact that he is a point player, not a finisher.
One criticism I will level on Benson, he probably spent at least a minute (say 4 or 5 percent of the fight) brushing hair out of his face. Cut your hair bro!