The lightweight division has become one of the deepest in the UFC, but that hasn’t stopped the promotion from reliving championship bouts with a constant stream of rematches. This time around it was the much-anticipated rematch between champion Benson Henderson and former champ Frankie Edgar.
It was a rematch of their UFC 144 bout on February 26 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The first bout between the two ended in a very close unanimous decision victory for Benson Henderson. It was Henderson’s first title in the UFC, but his second under the Zuffa umbrella as he was also lightweight champion in the now defunct WEC. The bout was highly contested and was the perfect set up for another instant rematch in the lightweight division.
This time around the top two lightweights in the UFC met in the thin air of Denver, which proved little issue for either of these well-conditioned fighters. As many expected, the rematch mirrored the first bout in many ways.
Henderson utilized strong kicks to once again to do damage to Edgar’s legs. This time around, Henderson’s punches weren’t landing as often or accurately as his kicks were. Edgar looked much better this time around and even seemed more comfortable to stand and strike with the larger Henderson. It wasn’t until the championship rounds that Edgar began utilizing his wrestling and ground game. At one point, the challenger had Henderson against the cage in a standing guillotine and used a sprawl position to lean against him.
After taking two of the first three rounds, all Henderson had to do was prove he hadn’t lost his the bout. As the challenger, it was up to Edgar to make it evident that he defeated Henderson and earned back his former title.
Once again, it was a back and forth battle. Neither fighter was letting up and as the fifth round ended the decision would be in the hands of the judges. It was a decision that would overshadow an otherwise great night of fights and give the lightweight division a champion to lead the UFC into the future.
The judges’ decision came in as a split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47) victory in favor of the champion Benson Henderson. As the decision was read it was met by boos by the Denver crowd, which was significantly supportive of Edgar. The victory by Henderson marked the end of instant rematches in the division and sets up what will be a highly competitive bout between Henderson and Stockton’s Nate Diaz.
Without the possibility of another Edgar vs. Henderson bout, the UFC is poised to finally build on a deep lightweight division and profile the amount of talent they have on their roster.
Follow Nitesh Dutt on Twitter @NiteshDutt.