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UFC 144 Aftermath Part I: Playing to the Crowd

If you’re only going to do one thing, make sure you do it well. (Photo: Getty Images/

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.

Quinton Jackson’s hopes to turn back the clock and revive his fan-focused style in Japan faded as quickly as his PRIDE walkout song. Just minutes into his bout with Ryan Bader, as he was pressed against the cage, it was clear that he was battling an opponent whose wrestling prowess promised to stifle whatever energy he’d hoped to bring to Saitama Super Arena. What’s worse, he must have known that there was little he could do about it. Overweight and under-trained, this was the worst Rampage we’ve seen to date. As the second round kicked off he looked slow, sluggish, and outgunned. And that’s when it happened. As Bader delivered a knee toward his head, Rampage caught the leg and scooped him up for a brutal slam. No, it wasn’t as high nor as swift as we’ve seen in the past, but for a man desperately hoping to thrill his fans it was an important moment, and moments like that are hard to come by. Bader was wobbled, but while the effects of the [pretty much illegal] slam were fleeting, Rampage had delivered what was unquestionably the most memorable action in the bout.

Unfortunately for the former Light Heavyweight Champion, that highlight would be his first and last. Bader quickly regained his composure and with it control of the fight. It was a dominant performance that scored him an obvious unanimous decision. Rampage cites a knee injury in training as the reason for his lack of preparation, and while his love of fighting has certainly waned in recent years I’m inclined to believe him. His assertion that he looked better than ever prior to the injury, probably not. At the end of the day, it was a very disappointing performance from Rampage and a notable victory for Bader. The former TUF’er notched a big win against a legend of the sport, and he did so on an important stage.

Before we begin quarreling about the outcome of the main event, let’s all do ourselves a favor and go watch the fight again. Not to see who scored more takedowns in round two, not to count who landed more significant strikes in round four, but to enjoy a damn good fight. In the latest installment of back-and-forth Lightweight title fights, Frankie Edgar showed the heart and determination that earned him the belt in the first place. Those disappointed that he didn’t survive a near-death experience in round 1 got their wish as the second frame wound down. A perfectly placed up-kick dropped the champion, opening his nose like a spigot. But it wouldn’t be a Frankie Edgar fight if he didn’t prove his mettle, and “The Answer” proved once again that he doesn’t have an ‘off switch’, only a ‘reset button’. The champ battled back and looked no worse for wear in rounds 3-5 (aside from his battered face, of course), but at the end of the fight the scorecards didn’t add up in his favor.

For those of you upset at the decision, of whom there are undoubtedly many, take comfort in the fact that Benson Henderson fought like a champion last night. While you may not agree with the judges’ tally, there can’t be any disappointment in having a champion that performs like he does. Henderson exhibited powerful, dynamic striking from the opening bell and he never stopped moving forward. He brought the fight to Frankie standing up and on the ground and was fighting for the finish; it’s not his fault that Edgar can’t be put away. Both men fought beyond expectations and together they earned the $65k “Fight of the Night” bonus.

Edgar’s reign was hallmarked by closely contested battles and instant rematches, and that streak shouldn’t end now. You can argue who won but you can’t argue that it was close, and if anyone deserves a chance to win back his belt it’s Edgar. Dana seems to be leaning toward a different rematch for Henderson in the form of Anthony Pettis. That bout too has an interesting storyline and would yield a night full of fireworks. Either way, the fans will be treated to a blockbuster fight between two competitors that go for broke. If the Japanese fans taught us anything last night, it’s that there’s little else we could ask for.


- Chris Colemon


Cagepotato Comments

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J-Dog- February 28, 2012 at 6:45 am
I had it as a draw, Henderson v. Edgar. It was close for sure. Good fight, that was.
Xanderschultz- February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm
@Fletch V Stretch: I would love same day weighins as well, so these guys couldn't kill themselves to fight smaller people. However, we don't have that yet, and Edgar would remain a lot smaller than his opponents. Hell, he's going to be a lot smaller than the guys at 145. Him and Aldo would be great
SnackDaddy- February 27, 2012 at 10:03 am
I wasn't exactly convinced with the decision of the main event. It's just that Frankie fought his heart out. It's not his fault that there were two weight-classes of difference between him and Henderson. Humbug! :(
darkstarrocketship- February 27, 2012 at 9:45 am
@Fletch the V Stretch: I concur. Given the choice, I'd forbid drastic weight cuts altogether. It makes little sense and only perpetuates itself (note how Rogan asked Edgar if he himself was considering to cut to a lower weight class - it's redonkulous.)
paskhl- February 27, 2012 at 8:42 am
I can and I do understand...But thats not how you expressed yourself the first time!!!
Loll...Far fr it!
Have a good one.
Fletch the V Stretch- February 27, 2012 at 7:45 am
@Xander - 155 is Edgar's natural weight class. What people need to do is stop cutting fucking 30 pounds and fight in their own damn natural weight classes. UFC wants to talk fighter safety but they left people cut fucking retarded amounts of weight and then balloon up to 30 lbs before the fight. This is the case in most divisions.
CrushCo- February 27, 2012 at 4:31 am
@Scrambled Eggs & Grease Me Up: I may backtrack from that line at this point. During the match the slam looked like a pretty blatant spike to me (driving your opponent down on his head is illegal). Last night I saw a massive, slowed down GIF of the slam that gave me a bit more clarity. I don't think Rampage deliberately spiked him; I think the spike was more the result of Bader trying to brace himself with his arm to lessen the impact, which changed the angle of the slam. (I'll leave the quote in there to show everyone how foolish I am).

@EST: Thank you, good sir.
Dagnut- February 27, 2012 at 2:45 am
Had Edgar before the fight but he didn't come close IMO..Henderson is too rangey for him he has no shot in a rematch..probably why white wants Pettis in there..Henderson was class
Xanderschultz- February 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm
Give Edgar- Aldo and Pettis - Henderson. This is as good as time as any to let Edgar get to a more natural weight class and Aldo/Edgar is the only fight at 145 that could serve as a main event on a big card. Also, Pettis is at least semi-justifiable right now and Pettis/Bendo 1 was an amazing barn burner. Don't forget Pettis was lined up for a shot and took one for the company when he signed up to fight an on fire, wrestling centric Guida instead of wait for the title. Immediate rematches suck when they're so many interesting matches to make. Shogun/Machida 1 was a rare example where a decision leaves the world on fire and they need to settle things. Otherwise, keep the ball rolling.
Grease Me up Woman- February 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm
Im with Scrambled Eggs, what exactly was illegal about Rampage's slam? Please explain.
ElSuperTerrible- February 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm
Colemon is the best writer on this site by a factor of about a fucking thousand. Nice article.
darkstarrocketship- February 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm
As much as I wanted Edgar to win, he demonstrably lost. It started getting pretty ominous when he couldn't capitalize on the leg catches that only seemed to manifest as off-target head kicks, failed sweeps and prolonged awkward moments of Benderson hopping on one leg. Throughout the fight, I had an overbearing sense that Benderson wasn't even combating at full capacity and were he, he'd have bullying Edgar to a more extreme and brutal extent. Benderson exuded a confidence denoting very little true respect for Edgar as an opponent. At times, this fight even felt mismatched whether this be to the perceptible size difference in terms of physicality or again, the absence of indicative struggle on Bendersons annoying shit face. Yes, I'm butt-hurt that Edgar lost.
pinkyslayer- February 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm
Benderson won that fight hands down.
scrambled eggs- February 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm
"the effects of the [pretty much illegal] slam were fleeting"

Is it illegal to slam people in the UFC?
danomite- February 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm
If you have an opinion then you should be able to defend it. that doesn't mean there are not clear right and wrong sides of an opinion. Some people used to have the opinion that black people shouldn't be allowed to have the same rights as white people. Obviously they were wrong, but it was still their opinion. Not all opinions have merit. Last night's fight was such an obvious victory for Henderson that anyone who was of the opinion that Frankie won clearly has no clue what they are talking about. Benson won every measurable aspect of the fight. He landed more strikes, he was more aggressive, he attempted more submissions, he hurt Frankie more than Frankie hurt him, he won by the Unified rules, stockton rules, queensbury rules, and prison rules. It wasn't even close. If you can't understand that, I feel sorry for you.
Sopapo- February 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm
the way i felt watching edgar benson was really strange. After the first two rounds i had em 1 to 1 but then i couldn't judge no more. I just enjoyed the rest of the fight.
This must have been the hardest fight to judge because if u were beign objective edgar landed more shots and got more takedowns but on the other hand benson just made them look powerless and it seemed that his hits hurted twice as much. Edgar's face showed it while Benson looked like it was still round one.
At the end of the fight i think everyone thought benson had won except those that are counting shots and takedowns, they argued that edgar had won. I think the winner is Benson, close fight thou. great fight.
NomadRip- February 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm
Wow, I didn't look at any MMA sites after the fight last night, and had no idea anyone believed Edgar was even close in that fight. I only remember being surprised that they gave so many rounds to him, and that Frankie seemed shocked to lose. I was only shocked it was scored so closely.
SonOfSerbia- February 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm
give edgar the rematch....him and diaz got screwed over...ufc needs some better judges
k-onda- February 26, 2012 at 1:37 pm
"They enjoy an entertaining performance over a cautious victory." Really? Those silly Japs.
paskhl- February 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm
"I'm sorry if I offend anyone here, but goddamn it if you had Frankie Edgar winning that fight you have absolutely no fucking idea what the hell you are talking about. That goes for all of the fighters tweeting their opinions."

Well...that was an heck of an arrogant and patronizing comment!Almost comical too...
Its a judged sport,so their will be multiple diff opinion out there!
But to say,that you,Sir(!!!),possesses THE truth,that YOU represent the truth,and all the other (including all the fighters) that dont agree with you "dont know 5h1t abt the sport"...that,Sir,is pretty ridicule.

Your opinion is not better than most of the average fan.But you,as arrogant ant condescending as you are,did not write an opinion...but facts!!!!
Based on ????

That was my opinion of your comment!And you're a real keyboard warrior,IMO.
Have a good one.
Get Off Me- February 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm
Not all of us had Kongo, I actually suggested staying away from that bet because of both price and precisely what ended up happening. Agreed that Hunt showed great improvements in the Rothwell fight that others missed.
@Dim Mak
Unfortunately I suggested replacing Kongo with Zhang and look what happend there, but at least Zhang looked better than Kongo. Props for throwing a caution flag on Zhang as I kinda left him out of alot from exactly what you said in the enabler.
Duh Ogre- February 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm
How anybody had Edgar winning that fight I'll have no clue. So he had more takedown's, who cares. He didn't do a single thing with them. Bendo landed way more effective strikes and controlled the tempo the entire 5 rounds. Edgar had one decent shot the entire 25 minutes and that was at the end of the fifth.
mt59801- February 26, 2012 at 11:58 am
Who in their right mind(C Peeples, Maz?) scored this for edgar. He had one decent power shot in the whole punch. Look @ their faces, the jersey kid got clowned for 5 straight rounds. Catching kicks after absorbing the blow and then not being able to capitilize on it means nothing. I like Edgar, I think he won the 1st title fight with maynard,but this time he clearly lost.
Sopapo- February 26, 2012 at 11:16 am
I said it well before the fights, Kongo has no way of defeating Hunt. Hunt had defended Rothwell takedoens and Kongo has a glass chin. You all picked him to win, i never could see why. Now that u have seen the fight, could u tell me if they fought a 100 times if the outcome would be different? hunt landed one punch and dropped him, landed a second one In CONGOS Wrist and wobbled him. its the end for kongo , he can't take a punch no more.
Im pretty confused as to how score those takedowns drom edgar, he got them but benson would stand back up so fast... its hard to say edgar had any power to dictate the fight.
haus66- February 26, 2012 at 10:58 am
Mark Hunt is the King Hippo of MMA.