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Former WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson went into his title shot Saturday night in Saitama, Japan, with that extra level of confidence over the much smaller Frankie Edgar.
In the past, Edgar was able to overcome his size disadvantage, but Henderson proved too big and strong. He threw a lot of kicks, most of which Edgar caught.
But unlike previous challengers, Henderson never relented. He stalked Edgar throughout the fight.
After five rounds of action, the judges awarded Henson the 155-pound title belt with scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 49-46.
ESPN.com scored it for Henderson 48-47.
"I wanted to use my size to my advantage," Henderson said. "I want to make sure my opponent feels that pain."
Henderson (16-2) delivered his greatest amount of damage in the second round when he connected with an up-kick that drew blood from Edgar's nose.
Edgar (14-2-1) survived the strike but was hurt badly.
As usual, Edgar rebounded and continued to deliver strikes of his own and get several takedowns in the fight.
"I thought I did enough to win, but those are the breaks," Edgar said. "Congratulations to Ben.
"I thought I landed more strikes and I had more takedowns."
Throughout his UFC career, Edgar has been peppered with questions about possibly moving down to featherweight. He was asked that question again after the fight.
"I don't know," Edgar said. "We will see what happens. It's too soon to make a decision."
|Ryan Bader, top, spoiled Quinton Jackson's long-awaited return to Japan.|
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson begged promotion officials to put him on this card in Japan. He even turned down a chance to fight in Chicago on network TV.
Jackson made his name as a professional fighter in Japan, but he hadn't fought there since joining UFC in February 2007.
Fighting in Japan, however, wasn't Jackson's lone goal. He wanted to make what is possibly his last appearance there as a fighter successful.
But Jackson's dream of winning once more in the birth place of mixed martial arts was thwarted by light heavyweight contender Ryan Bader.
Bader was able to avoid Jackson's powerful right hook and control him on the ground to earn a unanimous-decision win.
All three judges scored the fight 30-27. ESPN.com also had Bader winning 30-27.
"Beating Rampage here is an amazing experience," said Bader, who improved to 14-2.
Jackson loses two fights in a row for the first time as a professional mixed martial artist. He is 32-10 overall.
Mark Hunt is a very powerful puncher; questions have been raised about the chin of opponent Cheick Kongo entering their heavyweight fight. It did not take long for Hunt to test Kongo's chin.
Hunt landed a hard overhand right that wobbled Kongo early in Round 1. Hunt followed the punch with more rights. A short hook would catch Kongo against the cage and send him sprawling to the canvas.
Referee Herb Dean jumped him to stop the assault on the defenseless Kongo at 2:11 of the first round.
"I feel good," said Hunt, who improved to 8-7 in MMA. "I am the former K-1 champion that's way [with kickboxing] I felt I had an advantage."
Hunt has won three fights in a row.
Kongo falls to 17-7-2 after seeing his win streak end at two.
|Jake Shields' striking output proved the difference against Yoshihiro Akiyama.|
Yoshihiro Akiyama didn't like the way his career was going of late. A three-bout losing skid will get a fighter to reevaluate his career approach.
So Akiyama decided to leave the middleweight division and try his hand at welterweight against Jake Shields.
But Shields was also in need of a win inside the Octagon after dropping two in a row. He'd also struggled with the death of his father, Jack, last year.
Shields found a way to put his disappointments behind him for a unanimous-decision win over Akiyama.
All three judges, as well as ESPN.com, scored the fight for Shields 30-27.
Shields (27-6-1) secured the win by outworking Akiyama on the feet and by landing hard jabs. Akiyama was able to stuff almost all of Shields' takedowns.
"I really wasn't surprised," Shields said. "He was never really taken down at 185 [pounds] in UFC. I figured it would be a lot of work."
Shields did get Akiyama (13-5, 2 no contests) to the ground in the third round, and nearly submitted him with a rear-naked choke. But Akiyama managed to survive.
|Tim Boetsch, right, turned up the heat in Round 3 to turn the lights out on Yushin Okami.|
Yushin Okami showed off impressive striking and footwork to punish Tim Boetsch for two rounds and appeared on his way to a lopsided victory.
But Boetsch refused to throw in the towel and came out for the third round throwing punches from various angles.
A hard right hand wobbled Okami. Boetsch then landed hard uppercuts that sent Okami to the canvas.
Referee Leon Roberts jumped in to save Okami (26-7) at 54 seconds into the final round.
"I knew nothing less than a knockout or finish would win that fight for me," said Boetsch, who remains unbeaten in his three middleweight fights since leaving the light heavyweight division. "Yushin was beating me up for two rounds. But my heart was in it.
"I knew I could take him out. I just stayed in him and did what I trained to do."
Boetsch improves to 15-4.
|By dominating Bart Palaszewski, Hatsu Hioki stated his case for a UFC featherweight title shot.|
Whenever talk of featherweight contenders comes up, Hatsu Hioki's name eventually gets mentioned.
But after a successful career in Shooto and Sengoku, winning featherweight titles in both promotions, Hioki didn't impress during his UFC debut -- earning a disputed split decision over George Roop in October.
There was no disputing the outcome of Hioki's win over Bart Palazewski. Hioki dominated Palazewski in the first and third rounds to secure a unanimous decision.
The judges scored the fight 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. ESPN.com scored it 29-28 for Hioki.
The judges almost didn't get to register their votes, as Hioki (26-4-2) nearly finished Palazewski in the third round with an armbar.
"There is room for me to improve more, so I will try to improve," Hioki said. "I think I showed what I practiced. I needed more time to finish him."
Palazewski falls to 36-15.
|Anthony Pettis kicked his way into title contention by knocking out Joe Lauzon.|
Before his first-round submission of Melvin Guillard in October, Joe Lauzon was not among the fighters considered for a lightweight title shot.
A win over former WEC 155-pound champion Anthony Pettis would cement Lauzon as a high-level contender.
Lauzon, however, will have to wait a while longer to earn contender status after Pettis knocked him out with a head kick at 1:21 of the first round.
"I knew this is where I'm supposed to be," Pettis said. "I'm in the UFC for a reason. I'm the best in the lightweight division; I'm coming for that title shot."
Pettis (15-2) has won two fights in a row since losing his UFC debut to Clay Guida in June 2011.
Lauzon slips to 21-7.
|Takanori Gomi, top, survived an early onslaught to earn a much-needed win.|
Fighting for the first time in his native Japan since joining the UFC, former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi had two goals entering his bout with veteran Eiji Mitsuoka -- win impressively and entertain the fans.
He accomplished both goals with a second-round TKO. But the victory didn't come easy.
Gomi was nearly submitted in the first round. Mitsuoka dropped Gomi with a right hand and, seconds later, applied a mounted triangle with less than a minute remaining.
It appeared that Gomi would tap, but he was able to hold on as the horn sounded.
The near defeat served to fuel Gomi. He came out aggressively in the second round and landed several power punches and knees.
Mitsuoka would fall to the canvas under the pressure and Gomi (33-8, one no contest) began delivering punches. Referee Leon Roberts soon jumped in to stop the fight at 2:21.
"He was really tough," Gomi said of Mitsuoka, who took the fight on short notice. "The fireball must be back, and I am back.
"I am very happy to win here. I want to bring the lightweight belt back to Japan."
Mitsuoka falls to 18-8-2.
|Steve Cantwell's struggles in the UFC continued -- this time against Riki Fukuda.|
Former WEC light heavyweight champion Steve Cantwell has struggled to find his footing in UFC. He entered his middleweight showdown with Riki Fukuda on a four-fight skid.
But Fukuda was looking to make a statement during his second appearance inside the Octagon. And he did.
Fukuda stalked Cantwell throughout the three-round fight to earn a unanimous decision.
The judges scored it 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. ESPN.com scored the fight for Fuduka 30-27.
Fukuda (18-5) dominated Cantwell on the feet, constantly connecting with left and right hands. He also landed hard kicks to the body.
Cantwell (7-6) was taken down several times in the fight. He has lost two in a row at 185 pounds.
|Vaughan Lee, right, proved too much for Norifumi Yamamoto to handle.|
In his first two UFC fights, Norifumi Yamamoto did not demonstrate the knockout power that made him a star in Japan.
He showed glimpses of that power during his bantamweight bout against Vaughan Lee. But it was Lee who landed the harder punches and kicks. Lee hurt Yamamoto several times before finishing him with an armbar at 4:29 of the first round.
"It's another dream come true," Lee said after improving to 12-7-1. "Kid Yamamoto is a legend."
Yamamoto has lost each of his three UFC fights and five of his past six bouts. He has a professional record of 18-6 with one no contest.
|The road warrior: Chris Cariaso remains unbeaten outside the U.S. after handling Takeya Mizugaki.|
Bantamweight Chris Cariaso, who resides in San Francisco, Calif., has competed outside the United States twice. He won each of those fights.
On neither occasion was Cariaso's opponent as skilled or experienced as Takeya Mizugaki.
But the step in competition did not deter Cariaso, who came away with a unanimous decision win.
All three judges scored the fight 29-28. ESPN.com had Mizugaki winning 29-28.
The fans expressed their disappointment with the result by booing loudly.
Mizugaki was able to register a takedown in each of the three rounds, but Cariaso got the better of the exchanges during standup action.
Cariaso (13-3) was also very active off of his back, attempting several submission attempts while on the ground.
Mizugaki falls to 15-7-2.
|Issei Tamura started things off right for the Japanese contingent by knocking out Zhang Tie Quan.|
Two weeks ago, Issei Tamura agreed to fight Zhang Tie Quan in the UFC 144 opening bout. Tamura had never fought on a UFC card, but fighting in his native Japan, he gave the home crowd reason to cheer.
After an impressive first round, in which he dominated bout mostly on the ground, Tamura landed a solid right hand early in the second that found Zhang's chin and knocked him out.Referee Herb Dean stopped the featherweight bout at the 32-second mark.
Tamura, who has never fought outside of Japan, improves to 7-2.
Zhang loses for the second time in a row; his record slips to 15-3.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.