Back in 2008 Benson Henderson was looking to take his career to the next level. Coming off of a dominant win over Diego Saraiva, the 7-1 lightweight decided that the best way to the big stage was to try out forThe Ultimate Fighter 9: United States vs. United Kingdom. He fell short in his bid to be on the show, (either that or UFC matchmaker Joe Silva had other plans for him), but was instead given a chance in the UFC’s feeder league, the WEC, where he fought three months prior to and the same month that the show began filming.
It would be an understatement to call the UFC’s return to Japan triumphant. We could point to the bevy of exciting finishes as proof enough, but last night’s action seemed to go beyond that. More important to the evening’s success was the way the competitors fought. Surrounded by fans that appreciate the “bushido spirit” above all else, the fighters let it all hang out and battled their way through adversity. The Japanese prefer an entertaining performance over a cautious victory, and from the opening bout to the final bell of the evening, they got their money’s worth.
The final four combatants weren’t able to match the undercard’s highlight-reel stoppages, but the fighters knew the stakes and, to the best of their abilities, showed up to wow the fans.
Konichiwa, bitches, and welcome to our liveblog presentation of the UFC 144 pay-per-view card. We’ve got seven more fights to go at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, leading up to the headlining lightweight title bout between Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson. Along the way, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis will try to invent a new kick against Joe Lauzon, Yoshihiro Akiyama makes his last sexy stand against Jake Shields, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defends his old PRIDE turf against Ryan Bader.
Handling play-by-play for this leg of our journey is Anthony Gannon, who will be throwin’ down results after the jump starting at 10 p.m. ET. Refresh the page every few minutes for all the latest, and let your voice be heard in the comments section. As was predicted in the ancient fart scrolls, this is gonna be one hell of a night.
“Where I come from, fighters who question my motivation get smacked.” (Video: YouTube/FuelTV)
The good news is that all of tonight’s fighters will throw down as expected, but that doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing for everyone stepping on the scales last night.
Under the guise of laughter, Rampage had refused to disclose his weight in Dana’s second video blog, but as we’ve learned time and time again it’s all fun and games until someone misses weight. Jackson tipped the scales at 211lbs, missing the Light Heavyweight cap by five pounds. In a post-weigh-in interview with Ariel Helwani, Rampage cited an unspecified injury in training camp as the reason he failed to make weight. Despite a doctor’s recommendation to withdraw from the bout, he pushed through camp and managed to cut 21-pounds but was unable to shed the last five.
Though he had no harsh words for his opponent, Ryan Bader, Rampage did take the time to lash out at Rich Franklin. The former Middleweight Champ commentated the proceedings for Fuel TV and questioned Jackson’s professionalism as well as whether or not he’d taken his training camp seriously. Understandably, Rampage, who has proven increasingly impatient with his critics, took umbrage to those assertions. In addition to losing the esteem of some of his colleagues, Jackson will forfeit 20% of his purse to his opponent.
After the jump, Bader’s reaction to Rampage’s weigh-in snafu, up-close videos of the Rampage-Bader and Edgar-Henderson face-offs, and full results from the scales.
Along with the classic Anchorman scene, the video combines clips from Buffer’s introductions with a recent appearance by Ferrell at a New Orleans Hornets/Chicago Bulls game in which he introduced the starting lineup. As with many Will Ferrell movies, the clip starts off strong before kinda pitter-pattering its way to the end. Enjoy, or don’t. It’s Friday, so wacky clips are kind of our thing today.
Join us after the jump for another mashup that will make you go into full montage mode.
Check out the pre-fight press conference video above, which, aside from the occasional translation flub, goes off without a hitch. Just a warning: due to the fact that everything is being translated into Japanese as it is being said, it is difficult to understand the questions at hand every so often. But honestly, who gives a shit? THE UFC IS BACK IN JAPAN, BABY!!!
While we’re discussing how awesome Japan is, join us after the jump for the anime-style trailer for UFC 144, which is easily the coolest thing you will see all day, and possible ever.
(In the main event, actor Ryan Reynolds defends his belt against a 100% Asian version of Ben Henderson. Plus, Rampage Jackson faces off against a prime Wes Sims. The referee for this evening will be Dan Miragliotta.)
The UFC’s return to Japan this weekend features plenty of attractive opportunities to earn money without working for it. So where do the edges lie? How much better will the UFC’s Japanese stars look on their home turf? And should you really be betting money with tax season coming up? (Just kidding, that one was a trick question.) Complete UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson odds are below, via BestFightOdds, followed by our occasionally-helpful betting advice. Check it out, and be sure to come back to CagePotato Saturday night for our liveblog of the fights, starting with the FX prelims broadcast at 8 p.m. ET.
Frankie Edgar (-125) vs. Ben Henderson (+115)
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (-237) vs. Ryan Bader (+220)
Cheick Kongo (-270) vs. Mark Hunt (+270)
Jake Shields (-300) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (+269)
Yushin Okami (-331) vs. Tim Boetsch (+300)
Hatsu Hioki (-167) vs. Bart Palaszewski (+155)
Anthony Pettis (-220) vs. Joe Lauzon (+220)
PRELIMINARY CARD (FX)
Takanori Gomi (-200) vs. Eiji Mitsuoka (+175)
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (-288) vs. Vaughan Lee (+275)
Riki Fukuda (-300) vs. Steve Cantwell (+258)
Takeya Mizugaki (-200) vs. Chris Cariaso (+172)
PRELIMINARY BOUT (Facebook)
Tiequan Zhang (-250) vs. Issei Tamura (+250)
(The toothpick, the facial stubble, the long hair — I think it’s obvious what look Bendo is going for here.)
UFC 144‘s lightweight title headliner between Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson smells like an instant classic — the kind of bell-to-bell, all-over-the-cage firefight that has made both men into stars. So who’s going home with the belt on Saturday night? Check out some of our favorite animated GIFs featuring both fighters, and let us know what you think…
If your cable provider doesn’t offer Fuel and you missed the UFC 144 countdown show last night, not to worry, we got you covered again.
It’s been a quiet week media-wise for the event, mostly because the majority of the fighters on the card and the few reporters planning on attending the show have been travelling to Japan. It seems like more focus of MMA news this week has been on the upcoming Strikeforce card, which is curious considering Saturday night’s event is a decent one.
Enjoy it. After this event and UFC: Alves vs. Kampmann on March 2, there won’t be another show until UFC: Sweden on April 14. That’s a six week stretch without a UFC show. At least our wives will be happy.
Anyway, this countdown show was a decent one. It’s interesting to hear guys like ‘Rampage’ and Akiyama talk about the difference between the North American and Japanese crowds, especially when it was like comparing apples to oranges between PRIDE and the UFC. Now we’ll finally get to see the disparity first hand.
I think I was most impressed with the level of respect Akiyama showed his opponent, Jake Shields, whom he praised for his skill level and fight smarts. It’s rare to see that in a pre-fight interview. He even found a way to make boring and conservative sound better by saying that Jake “isn’t explosive.” ’Sexyama’ could sell a Kia to a BMW enthusiast.
This weekend, the UFC returns to Japan with a lightweight title fight, the homecoming of a gaijin PRIDE legend, and a whole lot of local talent. In the main event, Frankie Edgar follows up his astounding comeback win over Gray Maynard at UFC 136 with his latest title defense against former WEC champ Benson Henderson, whose rebirth in the UFC has included decision wins over top-ranked lightweights Jim Miller and Clay Guida.
Plus, Rampage Jackson looks to put on another great show for his Japanese fans against Ryan Bader, despite the fact that the Japanese used to poison his food. Meanwhile, a loss to Rampage would put Bader in a position where “his entire mixed martial arts career is in jeopardy,” according to Joe Rogan, who might be exaggerating a little bit.
UFC 144 will feature seven fights on the main pay-per-view card, following a four-fight prelims broadcast on FX. The full lineup is after the jump in case you need it; be sure to come back to CagePotato.com on Saturday evening for our play-by-play coverage of the whole shebang.