UFC 144: Why Frankie 'The Answer' Edgar Will Defeat Benson 'Smooth' Henderson

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UFC 144: Why Frankie 'The Answer' Edgar Will Defeat Benson 'Smooth' Henderson
The grave marker of Miyamoto Musashi.

On the island nation of Japan near the quiet shores of the Inland Sea, lying in a place once called Yuge, are the remains of history's greatest warrior: Kensei Miyamoto Musashi, a veteran of six wars, who was said to have killed over 60 men in single combat.

400 years later in Japan’s bustling Saitama Prefecture the fighting spirit of Musashi lives on as a new breed of warriors return to Japan’s shores to recapture the Pride of days gone by. 

In the main event, Lightweight Champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar once again puts his slip-and-strike to the test against No. 1 contender Benson “Smooth” Henderson in a fight that promises nail-biting tension and toss-the-popcorn action.

Without doubt, Henderson is the most comprehensive fighter Edgar has ever faced. Incredible cardio, diverse striking, strong wrestling, serpentine jiu-jitsu and—like Edgar—a quiet, adamant will: Henderson is a complete fighter.

 

 Edgar Will Defend the Takedown

One can only imagine the urgency and dedication that went into a 72 percent improvement in Edgar’s takedown defense.

Gray Maynard succeeded in nine of 10 takedown attempts in their first encounter, scoring a 90 percent takedown success. It cost Edgar the fight.

Three years later with 12 pounds of UFC gold to defend, Edgar had his takedown defense wired tight.  Gray only got him to the ground on three of 17 attempts, a 17 percent success rate.

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In their rubber match, Maynard, perhaps looking to their previous fight, only shot twice and failed on both attempts. It should be noted here that Benson Henderson’s takedown accuracy per FightMetric is at 48 percent, seven percent less than Maynard’s 55 percent.

 

Edgar’s Corner Will Find the Holes in Henderson’s Game…and Edgar’s Too.

In victory, Frankie Edgar routinely credits his corner, and for good reason. Edgar has one of the best corners in combat sport.

When other cornermen would have been shouting panicked expletives ( e.g. after Edgar’s first round in Edgar/Maynard II), the champion’s corner offered up calm, nuanced advice on how to adjust to what had just happened.

They noted not only Maynard’s technique (the left hook), but also when to expect it (after Edgar threw) while pointing out the adjustments Edgar would need to stage his comeback. 

The specific advice he receives about the attacks he should look to land as well as how to nullify whatever was working for his opponent will be a key to every fight the champion has.

Similarly, his corner will be watching Henderson’s technique and will note the things Frankie will need to come out and give Henderson the look that will open holes in the challenger’s game.

 

Referee Latitude

In his second and third fights with Maynard, Edgar suffered horrific first-round beatings. Both rounds were unquestionably 10-8, and many wondered why the referee did not stop the fight in the first. 

No one wonders now.

With only one-minute’s rest between rounds, Edgar came back from two of the most lopsided first rounds in UFC history to put on heroic displays of striking, grappling and determination. 

Performing the feat twice in a row proved to the world, and every referee in it, that Frankie Edgar is not out of the fight until he is out cold. That kind of recovery is an attribute of his training, will and physiology.

This will undoubtedly play into the referee's thinking when calling the fight. 

Henderson’s only chance at a referee stoppage is to knock Edgar clean out or submit him. 

 

This Will Be the Best Frankie Edgar We Have Seen

In fact, this will be the first title defense of Edgar’s career in which his focus will be solely on defending the title. 

In Abu Dhabi, after his hotly contested victory over then-champion BJ Penn, critics said that he did not earn the title. When he conclusively beat BJ Penn, widely regarded the greatest lightweight fighter in UFC history, those critics fell silent.

Of his vehemently disputed rematch with Gray Maynard, the only man to every defeat Edgar, critics said that the champion did not deserve the draw. When he knocked Maynard out in the third round of their rubber match, again, crickets could be heard where critics once chirped.

Coming into the third fight, one would not be surprised if Edgar were truly questioning whether he could beat Maynard. What could he, the smallest man in the division do against the largest, a man who had proved he could put leather on target and hurt the champion?

Now, however, we see a champion who has silenced his detractors, moved past the title defense jitters and can focus solely on the construction of his legacy.

 

Edgar’s Experience

Edgar’s last four fights have been against the best boxer and the strongest grappler in the division. He has spent the last two years preparing for nothing but the best. This champion has not enjoyed a steady slew of stylistically advantageous matchups.

This is a man as uncompromising as his division.

When Musashi—whose title Kensei means “Sword Saint”—fought Sasaki Kojirō, an equally feared swordsmen, in Ganryūjima, he rowed to shore late and unarmed.  

Like Musashi, Edgar may seem to be at a disadvantage; critics routinely cite his smaller size as a vulnerability, but beware to the man who underestimates him. 

Leaving his boat, Musashi beat dismayed Kojirō to death using the oar he rowed in with.   

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