When the UFC returned to Japan for the first time in a veritable lifetime back in February, they brought a solid card headlined by two of their elite lightweights. Then-champ Frankie Edgar, building a Rocky-calibre legacy with each surprise victory, against 155-pound man-mountain and top contender Benson Henderson.
The results didn’t disappoint.
The hulking Henderson stuck to his game plan of low kicks and trying to overpower the diminutive Edgar when it was practical, while Edgar worked on catching the kicks and returning fire. He occasionally broke things up with his (even now) underrated boxing from the outside, touching up the challenger whenever he could.
What ensued was a great five-round battle—one that pitted the raw power, athleticism and unpredictability of Henderson against the caginess, grit and gameness of an Edgar who many felt was just coming into his own.
At the end of the night it was Henderson who was declared the winner, though not without some controversy. Many felt Edgar had won (this writer included) and was mostly being victimized by the cuts and swelling that the sheer power of a man like Henderson often provides (this writer not included).
However Edgar’s championship legacy had been built on giving rematches, often to guys who didn’t deserve them.
He beat BJ Penn at UFC 112 and had to fight him again at UFC 118—a fight he won in one of the more underrated beatdowns of 2010.
He didn’t lose his title to Gray Maynard despite suffering through one of the worst rounds in combat sports history, but he had to fight him again anyway. He KO’d the burly challenger in the fourth round.
So, needless to say, he hadn't been off the plane from Japan for long before he started campaigning for a rematch on the grounds of “what’s fair is fair.” He wasn’t wrong, and no matter how much Dana White wanted to turn him into the only relevant featherweight challenger left for his buzzsaw 145-pound champion, Edgar was having none of it.
He wanted Henderson.
At UFC 150, he’s got him.
The only thing left to see now is how the two will clash in the cage during their rematch. They’re a great stylistic matchup, with Edgar’s slick style and reliance on speed coming up against the wild strength and aggression of Henderson. When one factors in the subtle changes rematches often see, it’s hard to envision it not being a barnburner.
It’s unfortunate that Edgar lost the title just as his star was rising. He was winning fans over with his gutsy displays and incredible ability to survive the fight. Since being in the title picture, he’s never once been in a boring fight, and those are the guys that sell tickets when they’re on the marquee.
Benson Henderson will have a chance to cement himself as the next guy to do it with a win Saturday. He’s got the look, style and skill to draw eyes.
The intangibles of both men, coupled with the abilities each has in the cage, guarantees another epic clash. It’s only a matter of Monday morning quarterbacking as to whether or not it’s this one or the first one that was more epic.
The world will find out in Denver.