UFC 144 Japan: Edgar vs. Henderson – Preview, Guest Panel Picks & Event Coverage

UFC 144 Japan: Edgar vs. Henderson – Preview, Guest Panel Picks & Event Coverage

By Justin Bolduc & Dave Carpinello





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*Click here for UFC 144 Live Results & Extended Event Coverage*



This weekend the UFC returns to Japan for the first time since UFC 29 in 2000.  The card is set to take place on February 26th in Japan, but will air live in North America on February 25 due to the time zone difference.


Notably, the pay-per-view portion of the card is scheduled for four hours, as opposed to the usual three hour broadcasts usually done by the UFC.  The main card features seven bouts, including a lightweight title bout in the main event between champion Frank Edgar and former WEC champion Benson Henderson.


In the co-main event former UFC light heavyweight champion and former PRIDE star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson faces The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner Ryan Bader.  In a stand-out heavyweight attraction, K-1 and PRIDE veteran Mark Hunt faces Cheick Kongo, while former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields meets Yoshihiro Akiyama in the Asian’s welterweight debut.


Also on the main card is former UFC contender Yushin Okami against Tim Boestch, alongside PDG’s Match-Up of the Night between international featherweight sensation Hatsu Hioki and former IFL stand-out Bart Palaszewski.  The final main card bout features former WEC champion Anthony Pettis against PunchDrunkGamer sponsored Joe Lauzon.


The preliminary portion of the card features one bout on the UFC’s official Facebook page and four bouts on FX.  The sole Facebook fight pits Zhang Tiequan against Issei Tamura.  On the FX portion of the card former PRIDE champion Takanori Gomi takes on Eiji Mitsuoka and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto takes on Vaughn Lee.  Riki Fukuda will face former WEC champion Steve Cantwell, while a bantamweight contest between Takeya Mizugaki and Chris Cariaso rounds out the card.




Frankie Edgar (14-1-1) vs. Benson Henderson (15-2)

UFC Lightweight Championship



Frankie Edgar (9-1-1 UFC) enters his next title defense unbeaten in his last seven appearances.  With a trio of wins over Hermes Franca, former UFC champion Sean Sherk, and Matt Veach, Edgar challenged former two-division champion B.J. Penn for the lightweight title.


Edgar edged out a decision over Penn to earn the lightweight title.  The two rematched four months later, with Edgar winning another decision.  Edgar then met Gray Maynard in a rematch, looking to avenge the sole loss of his career.  The two fought an incredible battle ending in a draw and then met for a third time over a year and a half later.  The third bout started much like the second, but this time ended in the fourth round with Edgar earning a TKO stoppage.


Edgar, who is notably undersized at lightweight, owns four wins by TKO and two by submission.  Edgar was an NCAA Division I wrestler and owns a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  He holds notable career victories over Tyson Griffin, Mark Bocek, Jim Miller, Deividas Taurosevicius, and Spencer Fisher.


Benson Henderson (3-0 UFC) made a name for himself in the WEC where he compiled a 5-1 record and earned the promotion’s lightweight title.  Henderson also holds the honor of competing in the final WEC bout, fighting in a fight of the year performance against Anthony Pettis.


Henderson won his WEC debut by submission over Anthony Njokuani before stopping Shane Roller with strikes.  He then won an exciting decision over Donald Cerrone to earn a shot at Jamie Varner.  Henderson submitted Varner in the third round with a guillotine choke and successfully defended it in a rematch with Cerrone.


Henderson then lost the title in an exciting decision against Pettis.  Since then he has found himself on a three-fight win streak, winning each of his UFC appearances.  In each of his UFC appearances Henderson has outworked and outclassed his opponents, starting with Mark Bocek.  He then put on a ground and pound clinic against Jim Miller, before most recently besting Clay Guida for a shot at Edgar’s title.




UFC 144: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson – Guest Panel Predictions:


Ricky Lundell (Head Instructor University of Grappling in Utah) – “Benson over Edgar via decision.”


Scott Casber (Takedown Wrestling Radio) – “I’m not confident that Ben Henderson even with his record of 15-2 is a better fighter than Maynard. If he cannot achieve “better than Maynard” status how can he expect to beat Edgar. Frankie is like the proverbial energizer bunny, he just keeps on coming at you. I don’t see this one getting out of the 2nd. Edgar wins.”


Jamie Varner (19-6-1-2, Former WEC Lightweight Champion) – “Ben Henderson is going to win by decision.”


Ryan Couture (3-1 MMA, Son of UFC Hall of Famer) – “I like Frankie by decision.”


Paul Bradley (18-4, Strikeforce & UFC Vet) – “I am going to have to go with Henderson on this one.  He is hungry and will do everything in his power to win.  I am going to go with Henderson to win by decision Saturday night.”


George Roop (12-9-1 MMA, Ultimate Fighter Alum) – “This fight is too close to call but I can tell you that it will be a great fight.”


Chidi Njokuani (5-3, younger brother of UFC Vet Anthony Njokuani) – “Frankie Edgar via KO.”


Mike Reilly (Team Bison, MMA Coach, Jujitsu & Judo Black Belt) – “Frankie Edgar via first round submission (RNC).”


Shayna Baszler (14-6, FCF Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion) – “I think Frankie Edgar has the most complete technical game in MMA today, striking, grappling/wrestling, setups, and game-planning. He will scientifically beat Henderson.”




Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-9) vs. Ryan Bader (13-2)

Co-Main Event



Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (7-3 UFC) enters Saturday’s bout coming off a loss to UFC champion Jon Jones in the PRIDE veteran’s second title venture.  Jackson fought only twice in 2010 and 2011, going 1-1 each year.


Jackson knocked out Marvin Eastman in his UFC debut, avenging a prior loss.  He then knocked out Chuck Liddell in a rematch, earning the UFC title.  Jackson’s first, and only, UFC title defense was in a unification bout with former PRIDE champion Dan Henderson.  Jackson then lost his title in a decision to Forrest Griffin.


Jackson was able to rebound though with a two-fight win streak with a knockout over nemesis Wanderlei Silva and a decision over Keith Jardine.  Jackson then lost a decision to rival Rashad Evans, but was able to secure a split decision over former UFC champion Lyoto Machida and a lackluster decision over The Ultimate Fighter 3’s Matt Hamill.


Ryan Bader (6-2 UFC) entered the UFC through the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter.  Reaching the finals, Bader knocked out jiu-jitsu ace Vinny Magalhaes.  He then earned decisions over Carmelo Marrero and Eric Schafer before pulling off a great knockout win over Keith Jardine.  Bader continued his unbeaten run with a decision over PRIDE veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.


Bader then suffered the first loss of his career to current UFC champion Jon Jones, tapping to a second round guillotine choke.  Bader then faced former UFC champion Tito Ortiz, eating a punch and then tapping to a guillotine choke in just under two minutes.  Bader has since rebounded with a seventy-seven second knockout over Jason Brilz.


Bader is one of the key figures behind Power MMA, which also features UFC fighters C.B. Dollaway, and Aaron Simpson.  During Bader’s NCAA Division I wrestling career he became a three-time PAC 10 champion and two-time All-American.




UFC 144: Rampage Jackson vs. Ryan Bader – Guest Panel Predictions:


Josh Barnett (31-5, The Warmaster) – “Rampage Jackson.”


Scott Casber (Takedown Wrestling Radio) – “Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. He talks the talk and we’ve seen that before and there’s plenty of it. At first it was funny now its just nonsensical drivel with no real point. It’s tired. Q may have fought around the world and worked for a variety of different organizations but at the end of the day dude is getting up there. I’m tired of the song and dance, howl at the moon bullshit.  Let the new face of MMA rise from the sport of wrestling, it may go the distance or Bader may choose to take down the once mighty Jackson and submit him early. Either way I’m going with Bader in this fight.”


Paul Bradley (18-4, Strikeforce & UFC Vet) – “As far as Rampage vs. Bader is concerned I am going to have to go with Rampage by 2nd round KO.  I think fighting in Japan will show us a new and improved Rampage who is hungry to win the belt again.”


Ryan Couture (3-1 MMA, Son of UFC Hall of Famer) – “Rampage by KO.”


Ricky Lundell (Head Instructor University of Grappling in Utah) – “Rampage over Bader via KO.”


Mike Reilly (Team Bison, MMA Coach, Jujitsu & Judo Black Belt) – “I’m taking Rampage – 2nd round TKO for sentimental reasons.”


Shayna Baszler (14-6, FCF Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion) – “Rampage’s striking is better than Bader, and his ground is under rated. If he happens to get taken down (which Bader will have a hard time doing in the first place) he will fight through it. Rampage wins.”




Hatsu Hioki (25-4-2) vs. Bart Palaszewski (36-14)

PDG’s Match-Up of the Night



Hatsu Hioki (1-0 UFC) enters this weekend’s match-up on a five-fight win streak.  Hioki is generally recognized as the number two featherweight in the world, only behind UFC champion Jose Aldo.


Hioki kicked off his five-fight win streak by winning the Shooto featherweight title over “Lion” Takeshi Inoue.  He then submitted Jeff Lawson before winning a decision over Marlon Sandro to earn the Sengoku featherweight championship.  Hioki followed up with a submission in Shooto over Donald Sanchez before winning his UFC debut by split decision over George Roop.


Hioki notably fought his way to the Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix finals in 2009, but an injury in the semi-finals prevented him from completing the tournament.  Hioki’s last loss came against Michihiro Omigawa in a highly-controversial split decision to end 2009.


Bart Palaszewski (1-0 UFC) enters his second UFC appearance coming off of  a win in his promotional debut by knockout over Tyson Griffin.  Palaszewski joined the UFC with the WEC merger, having earned a 4-3 record.  Palaszewski was previously one of the IFL’s marquee fighters, compiling an 8-4 record there.


After beginning his WEC career with a 1-2 mark, Palaszewski took a fight in XFO where he stopped Tyler Combs with punches.  He then earned a split decision over former WEC champion Anthony Pettis in his WEC return, followed up by a first round armbar over Karen Darabedyan.  Palaszewski then knocked out Zachary Mickelwright before losing a split decision against Kamal Shalorus in his final WEC appearance.


Palaszewski is a fifty-fight veteran over his ten year career.  He owns seventeen wins by KO or TKO and eleven by submission.  In defeat he has only been finished four times, twice each by TKO and submission.  Palaszewski owns notable career victories over Ryan Schultz, Ivan Menjivar, Harris Sarmiento, and John Gunderson.




Additional Main Card Thoughts:



Mark Hunt (7-7) vs. Cheick Kongo (17-6-2)


Mixed martial arts fans were surprised when Mark Hunt made his way into the UFC until it was later explained that Zuffa owed him bouts due to a contract acquired through the purchase of PRIDE.  The former K-1 champion enters this Saturday’s bout riding an impressive two fight win streak including a knockout over Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 and a unanimous decision victory over Ben Rothwell at UFC 135.  Hunt, who made a name for himself in mixed martial arts in PRIDE, owns notable career victories over Wanderlei Silva, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka.


Cheick Kongo enters this bout after a dramatic comeback knockout over Pat Barry and a unanimous decision victory over former Ultimate Fighter Matt Mitrione.  Owning a 10-4-1 mark in the UFC, Kongo has notable career wins over PRIDE’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Assuerio Silva, Antoni Hardonk, and Paul Buentello. This is definitely Kongo’s chance to make a move in the UFC heavyweight division if he can score an impressive victory.




Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-4) vs. Jake Shields (26-6-1)


Yoshihiro Akiyama first made a name for himself in Judo, but exploded in popularity worldwide after making the move to mixed martial arts.  He began his mixed martial arts career by submitting famed boxer Francois Botha and losing to highly-regarded kickboxer Jerome LeBanner before really hitting his stride and making his mark. A majority of Akiyama’s career was spent fighting for FEG under the K-1 HERO’S banner.  After the loss to LeBanner, Akiyama won six in a row – all by stoppage, including an armbar against Melvin Manhoef.  He was then paired with legendary PRIDE veteran Kazushi Sakuraba and the controversial bout resulted in a no contest. Akiyama also fought twice for Dream with first round submissions over Katsuyori Shibata and Masanori Tonooka.  Akiyama was then signed by the UFC and made his promotional debut at UFC 100 against Alan Belcher.  Akiyama came out on top in a razor-thin split decision, but then lost by submission to Chris Leben at UFC 116. He is currently on a three fight losing streak (Leben, Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort).


Jake Shields joined the UFC as a hot commodity.  Regarded as one of the best welterweights in the world, Shields made the most of his final Strikeforce opportunity by defeating Dan Henderson to claim the promotion’s middleweight title. Shields then joined the UFC mix where he won his promotional debut in a lackluster split decision against Martin Kampmann.  Shields then challenged Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight championship, but lost a five round unanimous decision, breaking a fifteen-fight win streak. Shields’ is now on the first two fight losing steak of his career as he looks to put a painful 2011 behind him and start 2012 off with a win.




Yushin Okami (26-6) vs. Tim Boetsch (14-4)


Yushin Okami has established himself as one of the premiere middleweights in the world, and as one of the greatest Japanese fighters the sport has seen. Okami, who joined the UFC in 2006, has amassed a 10-3 record in the promotion. In his UFC debut, Okami won a decision over Alan Belcher. He then stopped Kalib Starnes early in the third round, before submitting Rory Singer with punches. Okami then met up with former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin, losing a close decision. Okami then won a decision over Jason MacDonald before knocking out the late former UFC champion Evan Tanner. After a decision win over Dean Lister, Okami lost a decision to Chael Sonnen. Okami then found himself on a three-fight win streak with a second round doctor’s stoppage against Lucio Linhares before edging out a split decision over Mark Munoz and then earning a unanimous decision over former King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt before he was brutally knocked out by Anderson Silva at UFC 134.


Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch comes to Japan with a UFC record of 5-3, after winning a decision against Nick Ring at UFC 135 and edging out The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove in a decision.  Boetsch, who has won six of his last seven bouts, holds notable career victories over David Heath and Aaron Stark and will be looking for his first three fight win streak inside the octagon.




Anthony Pettis (14-2) vs. Joe Lauzon (21-6)


Anthony Pettis joined the WEC in 2009 with a triangle choke submission against Mike Campbell in under two minutes before losing for the first time in his career against IFL stand-out Bart Palaszewski in a split decision.  Pettis rebounded strong with an impressive knockout over Danny Castillo in the first round, starting with a headkick and ending with punches on the mat. Pettis continued to gain momentum by stopping Alex Karalexis with a second round triangle choke before facing Shane Roller in a number one contender bout.  Pettis was put on his back by the stand-out wrestler but managed to secure a fight-ending triangle choke with nine seconds remaining in the bout.  In his last WEC performance Pettis won a decision over Ben Henderson to become the last-ever WEC champion.  With two rounds even going into the fifth round Pettis landed a monster kick after jumping off the fence, dropping Henderson.  Despite not being able to finish his opponent, Pettis’ assault was enough to secure the title and his fourth consecutive victory. Since joining the UFC Pettis is 1-1 losing a unanimous decision to Clay Guida and then out-pointing Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136.


Joe Lauzon, who is 8-3 in the UFC, enters Saturday’s bout boasting a devastating submission win over Melvin Guillard at UFC 136. Lauzon started his professional MMA career back in 2004 with eight straight wins before suffering his first loss to Jorge Masvidal at Absolute Fighting Championships 12. He bounced around some of the smaller leagues following that defeat going 5-2 until the UFC signed him to face Jens Pulver at UFC 63, where Lauzon knocked out the former champion in just 48 seconds. Since then Lauzon has been a mainstay in the UFC lightweight division winning seven fight night bonuses (3 Fight of the Night, 4 Submission of the Night) and if he can beat Pettis he will be looking at a possible title shot against the winner of the night’s main event. Lauzon holds promotional wins over Jeremy Stephens, Kyle Bradley, Gabe Ruediger, Curt Warburton and Jens Pulver.




UFC 144 Japan Full Fight Card and Start Times:



Main Bouts (Pay-Per-View):


Frankie Edgar (14-1-1) vs. Benson Henderson (15-2)

Quinton Jackson (32-9) vs. Ryan Bader (13-2)

Mark Hunt (7-7) vs. Cheick Kongo (17-6-2)

Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-4) vs. Jake Shields (26-6-1)

Yushin Okami (26-6) vs. Tim Boetsch (14-4)

Hatsu Hioki (25-4-2) vs. Bart Palaszewski (36-14)

Anthony Pettis (14-2) vs. Joe Lauzon (21-6)



Preliminary Bouts (FX):


Takanori Gomi (32-8) vs. Eiji Mitsuoka (18-7-2)

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-5) vs. Vaughan Lee (11-7-1)

Riki Fukuda (17-5) vs. Steve Cantwell (7-5)

Takeya Mizugaki (15-6-2) vs. Chris Cariaso (12-3)



Preliminary Bout (UFC Facebook):


Tiequan Zhang (15-2) vs. Issei Tamura (6-2)



UFC Japan (UFC 144) Start Times:

Prelims on Facebook: 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT (Live)

Prelims on FX: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT (Live)

Main Card on PPV: 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (Live)




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  1. ‘The Queen of Spades’ Shayna Baszler and Mike Reilly’s predictions have been added!! and PDG would like to thank all of our guest panelists for UFC 144.