Monday, February 27, 2012

UFC 144: Bigger in Japan

Benson Henderson (R) beat Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight title proving size does matter.
Frankie Edgar's title run has been magical. Two defeats of BJ Penn and three classic fights against Grey Maynard, and Frankie was the underdog in all of them. It wasn't until UFC 144 in Japan that Frankie was the favorite against Ben "Smooth" Henderson, the former WEC Champ before that title was Showtime Kicked from him in the last fight in WEC history.

Aside from beating a seemingly more talented fighter in Penn and a much stronger and bigger fighter in Maynard, the most talked about aspect of Frankie's game was how undersized he was for the lightweight division. In an industry where dropping 20, 30, or even 50 pounds leading up to a fight is a norm for a competitive advantage, Edgar walks around right around the required weight limit of 155 pounds.

The talk was that the lack of dehydrating his body and putting it through a grueling drop in weight is that it fueled his energy, later round strength, and speed that fueled his boxing game and movement. Sure, that worked, and it sounds great, but what Edgar ran into Sunday morning (if you're in Japan) was a man in Henderson who had all the speed, cardio, and energy Edgar had, only the size to boot.

Henderson showed no concern in throwing everything and anything Edgar's way. Knees, kicks, subs were all on the menu as Henderson's cardio matched Edgar's, and his size and wrestling background negated any other weapon Edgar had.

With that said, Frankie and Henderson had a great back and forth battle that was tightly contested. Ultimately, Henderson did enough for the win, but credit should be given to both fighters for a great 5-round fight.

There are no talks of a rematch as the lightweight division is stacked and a dynamite match-up of Henderson versus Anthony Pettis of the aforementioned Showtime Kick seems to make the most sense (I can't wait to see that kick on replay about 3,000x). While Edgar has never hesitated that he has no intent of dropping a weight class, maybe this time off should give him pause to consider a move. His skills are dynamic. With a strong wrestling base and great boxing (he did out box BJ Penn), his skills would translate well at featherweight. A stocky build, Edgar could easily shed the 10 lbs. needed to make weight and then become one of the bigger fighters in that division. Sure, the fighters would cut into some of Frankie's quickness, but his other skills match up better than some of the bigger fighters at 155.

This is no knock on Edgar. It's just hard to understand in a sport like MMA why someone wouldn't want every legal advantage he could get. We can talk about speed and quickness all you want, but guys like Henderson, Pettis, Jim Miller, Gilbert Melendez (remember him?), and even Nate Diaz there are people that will continue to cause Edgar fits.

A fighter causing another fighter fits can be said about any division, but outside of Jose Aldo, Frankie could rule that division for a long time. Especially after Aldo makes his anticipated leap to lightweight (or he could fight in both weight classes, which I would like to see happen). Either way, the future for Edgar is a little brighter in the featherweight division.

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