This Saturday, UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson makes his first title defense when he rematches former champion Frankie Edgar. Their first fight at UFC 144 ended in a decision for Henderson, but some have contended it was Edgar who did enough to win. It was admittedly close and over five-rounds both fighters had their moments. To emerge victorious on Saturday night, they'll both need to do more than they did in Japan in February to really make an impression on the judges.
Can Henderson use his size and strength to physically control Edgar? Can the smaller but speedier Edgar use his striking and mix in his takedowns to keep the champion off balance? Will Edgar be able to get his title back? I try to answer these questions with my predictions for UFC 150.
What: UFC 150: Henderson vs. Edgar II
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
When: Saturday, the one-fight Facebook fight starts at 7:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 and the main card on pay-per-view at 10.
Predictions for the five-fight pay-per-view main card below.
I'll admit I didn't think the first fight was all that close. I gave Edgar the first round and I believe that's it. But, to Edgar's point, there were a fair number of observers who gave him the nod overall and their case for doing so in retrospect is pretty good. But the reasons I scored the fight for Henderson are the same ones I believe will guide the champion to a successful defense. He's the bigger, more physically imposing athlete and that's something Edgar struggles with (although still wins fights more often than not). He hits a lot harder than Edgar and that's problematic because frankly, Frankie Edgar gets hit. A lot. Edgar's team and the UFC are trying to portray the upkick in the first fight as devastating, but hard to repeat. Yet, looking over the course of his last few fights, Edgar gets rocked quite a bit. He comes back and hangs on and that's a credit to his unbelievable grit. But all things being equal, it's a lot better to not be hit the way Edgar allows himself to be.
Over time, I see Henderson doing what he did the first time only more successfully. He'll use his size, athleticism, strength and aggression to out-point Edgar. I don't mean to suggest this will resemble a point fight, but both guys are basically impossible to put away. This one will go to the judges and Edgar will have to find a new way forward when he can't get the title back.
Short of Guillard landing a monster right hook - which is certainly possible - I have a hard time seeing how he gets out of this one with a win. Cerrone has more ways to win, particularly in departments where Guillard struggles. I also suspect this might be one time where the two being former training partners has an effect on the outcome. They know each other, but Cerrrone is the superior fighter (in my judgment, anyway). That means he'll likely know just what to do to give Guillard problems in every dimension of the fight.
Look, I think Herman has the skills to keep this competitive and to even threaten Shields from time to time. I just don't see him winning round over round. It's surprisingly hard to hurt Shields standing and even harder to follow up when you do. Herman's got a few tricks up his sleeve on the ground, but skill for skill can't match Shields' prowess. Over time - and it may not be pretty - Shields will overtake the action and define the fight on his terms. I don't expect Herman to get run over, but I also don't expect him to win.
Okami was supposed to face Rousimar Palhares initially, but he's injured so that's out. I mean no disrespect to Roberts and in MMA, anything truly is possible. But this is Okami's fight to lose. He's simply a different caliber of fighter. It would take quite a bit for him to lose this bout.
This is really a tough one to call. I know there was talk about Lawrence about him being the next big thing or having an incredibly well-rounded skill set. And to be sure, he is talented and well-rounded. But I haven't seen enough to get aboard the hype train. Holloway isn't blowing the doors off either, but he's young and has respectable stand-up. Until I see something more, I'm going to go with the guy with more lethal offense and decent takedown defense.