Tomorrow night, Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar (14-1-1) will defend his UFC Lightweight Belt against former WEC champion, Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson (15-2). UFC 144 is taking place in Saitama, Japan at 7p.m. PST tomorrow night and will be live on Pay-Per-View. When I weigh the matchup between Edgar’s speed, quickness, and punching agility against Henderson’s fluid movement and superior BJJ skills, I feel like I might as well flip a coin to predict the outcome.
While both fighters have faced (arguably) equally tough opponents, Edgar has faced top contenders in one of the most crowded weight classes in the UFC. Edgar has defended his belt only three times in two years, albeit against two extremely tough opponents (B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard). Henderson, worked to defend his belt three times in a year, losing his last title defense in a unanimous decision to Anthony Pettis. Henderson submitted nearly every opponent until he joined the UFC in April of last year; he has since convincingly won all three matches by unanimous decision. Edgar has only faced one opponent (Gray Maynard, in two separate fights) in the last year and a half, one of those was a draw and the other was his first KO since 2007.
When considering these facts, I consider the psychological edge that one may have over the other. It leads me to believe Henderson has been improving, while Edgar has been struggling to perfect his game. This thought makes no sense to me when I see them fight, however. Henderson has yet to submit anyone in the UFC, and Edgar’s recent KO shows that his game is improving. Once again, these facts balance the potential outcome. What about their skill sets?
Edgar is a balanced stand up fighter that is quick, powerful, and agile enough to take opponents to the ground and consistently dominate them. A hair slower, Henderson is the bigger fighter with a longer reach that he uses to subdue and submit his opponents in convincing fashion. Henderson has the edge with his BJJ brown belt, but being a former freestyle wrestling All-American, Edgar has superior wrestling skills. In my opinion, Edgar has the better standup game with his hit n’ move style and ability to throw punches in bunches, while Henderson has gotten much better with his standup since joining the UFC. So what will happen when these two gladiators meet tomorrow night?
I think the fight will start similarly to the Condit/Diaz fight, but may not end the same way. Henderson should push the action in the first round, while Edgar keeps him at bay with counters and leg kicks. In the second round, Henderson will likely work to take Edgar down; it will be a series of attempts, sprawls, and quick reversals. By the third round, both fighters will be toe to toe getting a feel for each others rhythm, tempo, and strategy. If one of them doesn’t hit the button by the third round, I think Henderson will feel the need to end it before goes to decision. Henderson will set up takedown attempts, or even allow himself to be taken down so he can attempt submissions. If it goes to the fifth, Henderson will have either found Edgar’s weakness and choke him out, or it will go decision and Edgar will win. Coin flip says…based on the recent history of both fighters, I’d have to predict that Edgar will get the decision; yet as I write this, my gut’s telling me that Henderson will choke Edgar out.