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DENVER -- One judge thought Frankie Edgar reclaimed his lightweight title. All Edgar needed to do was to have persuaded one more.
Champion Ben Henderson successfully defended his belt for the first time over Edgar in the main event of UFC 150 by taking a split decision after five very hard-fought rounds. The rematch, however, likely will cause more controversy than it will erase.
Denver fans booed when it was announced Henderson, a Colorado native, had won the bout. Two judges scored the fight for Henderson, 48-47. The other official awarded Edgar all but one of the five rounds.
Controversial or not, it was an incredibly close fight. Each fighter made it difficult for the other to score points; however, it was Edgar who appeared to land with more frequency as the fight progressed.
"I did," said Edgar, when asked if he thought he won the fight. "I'm upset man, but what are you going to do?"
|Frankie Edgar, right, and Benson Henderson traded on even terms for most of five rounds.|
Henderson (17-3) dictated the action early with leg kicks and finished the first round with Edgar (14-3-1) locked in a guillotine attempt. Edgar returned the favor in the second round, dropping Henderson along the fence with a counter right and searching for his own guillotine finish.
A crucial scoring round took place in the third when both guys couldn't quite steal momentum completely. Edgar went to the well with what's made him so successful throughout his career -- switching things up, throwing combinations -- but Henderson answered with effective counter strikes.
Edgar caught Henderson in another guillotine attempt in the fourth, although it never appeared Henderson was in danger of tapping out. With Henderson kneeling on the mat near the cage, Edgar threw a hard knee to his body, one of the more significant strikes of the round.
The final frame looked similar to the rest, with each fighter finding mixed success. Both combatants looked confident at the final bell that he had won the fight.
Henderson, a former lightweight champion in the WEC, remains perfect in UFC with a 5-0 mark. His last loss came in the final fight of WEC history in December 2010 when a highlight-reel kick from Anthony Pettis sealed his fate in a five-round decision loss.
Edgar lost back-to-back fights for the first time in his career. UFC president Dana White has been adamant in the past that Edgar, an undersized lightweight, drop to featherweight for a potential blockbuster fight against 145-pound champion Jose Aldo.
Donald Cerrone electrified the Denver crowd with a 76-second knockout of former teammate Melvin Guillard.
Guillard (30-11-2) surprised Cerrone (19-4) with a counter left hand that had the former WEC standout in major trouble. Cerrone backed up to the fence and Guillard swarmed in with a hard knee and an aggressive flurry. Cerrone avoided taking another hard shot, though, and circled away, forcing Guillard to reset.
Once his eyes cleared, it didn't take long for Cerrone to seize control of the fight. A high left kick found its mark on Guillard's temple and Cerrone followed with a brutal straight right that ended the fight at the 1:16 mark. It is the first time Guillard has been knocked out in his 10-year professional career.
|Donald Cerrone, right, survived some tense moments before eventually knocking out Melvin Guillard.|
"Just walking out there [to the Octagon], I got teary-eyed," Cerrone said. "Fighting at home in Denver is what I've been dreaming of all these years. When I got clipped right away in the first, I was just thinking, 'Oh s---, I better figure this out pretty quick here.'
"Coach Mike [Winkeljohn], Greg Jackson and I all game planned for this and it turned out well. When the time came to go in for the kill, I was ready to go for a choke if the ref didn't stop it. That was my next move, but I didn't have to go there. "
Cerrone is now 6-1 since joining the UFC last year, with the only loss coming to No. 1 lightweight contender Nate Diaz. Guillard is now 1-3 in his past four fights after winning five straight before that.
|Jake Shields stayed on top of Ed Herman for most of three rounds.|
Jake Shields made his return to the middleweight division a successful one, posting a unanimous decision over Ed Herman.
Shields (28-6-1) has enjoyed enormous success as a middleweight in his career but dropped to the 170-pound division in 2010 to pursue a fight with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. He defeated Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut, but then lost a unanimous decision to St. Pierre in a title fight at UFC 129.
After a loss to Jake Ellenberger and a win over Yoshihiro Akiyama, Shields moved back up to middleweight for Saturday's fight against Herman (20-9). He showcased a lot of what made him so successful outside the UFC, taking Herman down in every round and maintaining top position.
The Denver crowd booed loudly throughout the fight, but Shields stayed active just enough to prevent a standup from referee Adam Martinez. Judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"To be honest, I was getting a little tired in there from the altitude, so I had to slow my pace down and I couldn't fight the way I had planned to," Shields said. "In hindsight, I needed to get here earlier to acclimate, but that's how you learn."
"I really should've tried harder to get inside and score points," Herman said. "I feel like I let the fans and the UFC down; I feel like I let everyone down. I'm really confident in the clinch and with my dirty boxing, but I had a really hard time keeping the space and getting my punches off."
Shields improves to 3-2 in the UFC, with all three wins coming via decision. For Herman, the loss snaps a three-fight win streak.
Yushin Okami got back in the win column with a second-round TKO victory over late replacement Buddy Roberts.
|Work on the ground helped set up the finish for Yushin Okami.|
Roberts (12-3) actually shook Okami (27-7) in the first round with several left hands but was visibly lost when Okami made up his mind to get it to the ground. The Japanese middleweight finished the opening round on Roberts' back, landing a series of unanswered punches that nearly prompted referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
Okami picked up where he left off in the second, pushing Roberts to the fence and dragging him to the ground. From there, Okami passed guard, once again took the back of Roberts and landed punches to his covered-up opponent until it was mercifully ended at the 3:05 mark."I was away from victory, but with this I feel like I'm on the path back," Okami said. "I came to Denver early so that I would be in the best condition possible for this fight. I was able to use my ground-and-pound, which is my best weapon."
It was a win many expected for Okami, who was originally scheduled to fight Luiz Cane, then Rousimar Palhares, but ended up with Roberts due to injuries to the first two fighters.
The win snaps a two-fight skid for Okami. Roberts drops to 1-1 in the UFC.
|Max Holloway's accurate striking eventually chopped down Justin Lawrence.|
Max Holloway's reputation as a body puncher is growing by the fight.
Holloway (6-1), the youngest fighter in the UFC at 20 years old, improved to 2-1 in the Octagon with a second-round TKO victory over Justin Lawrence (4-1).
It was a hard knee and blistering right hand, both to the body, that spelled the end of Lawrence's night. The former "Ultimate Fighter" contestant couldn't get back to his feet after Holloway connected with the left hand. The fight was stopped at the 4:49 mark.
"That was my best fight to date by far and I was able to go in there and get the finish," Holloway said. "I don't have too many finishes on my record, so that's always a bonus.
"We're both strong strikers, and a lot of times when two strikers get in there, it can turn into a wrestling match. I'm glad Justin went in there and banged with me, and I'm even happier that I came out on top.
Lawrence wasted no time in booking his second UFC fight after recording a spectacular knockout at the TUF 15 Finale in June. He falls to an even 1-1 in the UFC.
"I went out there and fought hard," Lawrence said. "I thought I was winning the fight up until the knee and the body shot. I'd rather take a shot to the head every time over the body. I fight for the fans and give them all the thanks that I can step in there."
Holloway improves to 2-1, with the loss coming via submission to Dustin Poirier in his UFC debut.
In his most impressive UFC appearance yet, featherweight Dennis Bermudez scored an exciting submission win over Tommy Hayden in the first round.
|Dennis Bermudez's standing guillotine spelled doom for Tommy Hayden.|
Bermudez (9-3) was staggered early when he ate a knee on a takedown attempt, and Hayden (8-2) used the opportunity to jump on his dazed opponent's back.
From there, he transitioned into an armbar attempt but lost the hold when Bermudez lifted him off the mat and slammed him. Back on the feet, Bermudez landed a hard front kick to Hayden's sternum, stuffed an ensuing takedown and set up a standing guillotine that ended the fight at the 4:43 mark.
"Tommy is a tough guy and my team did a little research on him coming in, so we knew what to expect," Bermudez said. "He was tapping when I locked up the choke, but the referee was on the opposite side and couldn't see. I wasn't going to risk letting him go and missing the finish, so I would've put him to sleep if the ref didn't step in."
The former "Ultimate Fighter" contestant improves to 2-1 in the UFC, with that lone loss coming to Diego Brandao in the reality series' finals. Hayden, who took his first fight in the UFC on short notice, drops to 0-2 in the Octagon despite entering the promotion unbeaten.
|An injured Jared Hamman, left, couldn't get out of the way of Michael Kuiper's punches.|
Middleweight Michael Kuiper got his first UFC win under his belt.
Kuiper (12-1) notched the seventh knockout of his professional career at 2:16 of the second round, but it took everything he had to finish off Jared Hamman (13-5).
After absorbing a ton of damage throughout the fight, Hamman went down for good from a straight right hand.
The first round featured unbelievable exchanges between the two, with Kuiper's shots landing with more efficiency. Hamman appeared to suffer a painful leg injury during the round after twisting awkwardly from the impact of a Kuiper kick. His team helped carry him backstage after the fight.
Kuiper felt no ill effects from fighting at altitude and credited his conditioning to a tough training camp.
"The altitude here can be very hard because in Holland we are right at sea level," Kuiper said. "But I trained very hard for this fight and was ready to perform."
It was a strong bounce-back performance for Kuiper, who dropped his UFC debut in relatively lackluster fashion to Rafael Natal at UFC 143. For Hamman, it's the third loss in his past four fights, with two of those coming via knockout.
"My plan was to get in there and outwork him and tire him out in the early part of the fight," Hamman said. "In the first round Mike picked me up, and when I put my right leg down, I felt something tear. After that, I couldn't put any weight on that side and it made it pretty hard to do anything."
Erik Perez wasted no time against Ken Stone, scoring a 17-second knockout in just his second UFC appearance.
|Erik Perez, left, made very quick work of Ken Stone.|
Perez (12-4) ate a right hand from Stone (11-4) early in the fight but hung in the pocket and answered with a nasty right of his own that put Stone on the canvas.
Amazingly, Stone appeared to recover quickly and started to get back to his feet, but Perez was right on top of him. Another short right rolled Stone onto his back, and a flurry of standing punches from Perez brought referee Herb Dean in to stop the fight.
"I think when I first hit him, he was out," Perez said. "When he got up after, he didn't know what was going on."
"I expected a crazy three rounds back and forth, so I'm ready to jump back in there whenever the UFC wants me. My first [UFC] fight, I had two weeks' notice and this one I had four weeks, so I'm ready to show what I can do on a full camp."
Perez scored a somewhat controversial submission win in his UFC debut after a fight appeared to be stopped early by the referee. No controversy in the bantamweight's sophomore performance, as he improves to 2-0 with two first-round finishes.
For Stone, the loss snaps a two-fight win streak but is the third time in five fights he's been knocked out.
|Chico Camus' busier workrate paid off in the minds of the judges.|
Chico Camus managed his way out of multiple submission attempts by Dustin Pague en route to a unanimous decision.
Camus (12-3) found himself in a triangle choke for a decent chunk of the first round, which was then followed by a brief omaplata attempt by Pague.
In the third, Pague (11-7) took Camus' back, locked in a body triangle and hunted a rear-naked choke. Camus survived, though, turning into Pague's guard and even advancing to full mount before the end of the round. Judges saw the mostly ground fight in favor of Camus by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
A student of Duke Roufus in Milwaukee, Wis., Camus posts his fourth victory in a row and first as a UFC bantamweight.
"I want to come back and fight again as soon as possible," Camus said.
Pague falls to 1-3 in the Octagon and is hoping to remain in the UFC fold.
"I don't want to make any excuses about the loss, but I really need to heal my body up before I step in the Octagon," Pague said. "So I'm going to pray the UFC gives me another chance to prove what I can do on a full, healthy training camp."
|After scoring multiple takedowns, Nik Lentz eventually found an opening for a submission.|
Nik Lentz is likely hoping all his featherweight fights look like his first.
Lentz (22-5-2) made a very successful 145-pound debut, finishing off Eiji Mitsuoka (18-9-2) at the 3:45 mark of the first round via TKO.
Lentz was on Mitsuoka from the start, dominating position in scrambles and scoring multiple takedowns. After working to Mitsuoka's back, Lentz flattened his opponent facedown on the mat and landed punches until the referee had seen enough.
Afterward, Lentz said he feels at home in his new weight class.
"It's crazy, but it was actually easier for me to make 145 than it was to make 155; with [American Top Team Mike] Dolce's help, the weight just fell off," Lentz said. "This was by far my most impressive win and it wouldn't have mattered if it was a featherweight or a middleweight in there with me tonight."
For Lentz, it's his first win inside the Octagon since March 26, 2011. Mitsuoka drops to 0-2 in the UFC, including a second-round TKO loss to Takanori Gomi at UFC 144 in February.