Reaction to the Bendo-Edgar fallout
Reaction tweets poured in Saturday night after I mentioned Frankie Edgar would return to the top of my lightweight rankings. We'll get to a few of them shortly. First, more on the New Jersey tough guy leapfrogging Benson Henderson -- despite consecutive defeats to the man.
I picked Henderson to retain the title. I thought his physical advantages would prove difficult for Edgar to overcome. I also thought the experience of February's 25-minute rumble would benefit a maturing fighter more than someone who's been put through a grinder again and again.
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But that didn't materialize, at least not from my seat. Based on everything I've seen since fight night, I'm right there with many of you. Edgar outlanded Henderson. He was the better grappler, too.
When Henderson asserted himself, he showed flashes of the guy who worked hard over five rounds in Tokyo. Saturday's effort didn't exude a similar urgency, especially when it could have been very possible that he was down heading into Round 4. He was as close to tentative as one can get without actually qualifying. It was an odd display; impressive enough, though, for two judges sitting cageside.
Bottom line on this deal (which isn't much of one, just my opinion here): I don't think the current UFC champion is better than the former one. Based on other results, Edgar's track record at 155 is more impressive than Henderson's. So, there's my thinking on it.
I'm generally mindful of avoiding the word "robbery," and I don't believe it applies to Saturday's fight, which was competitive. Rounds were close. But the wrong guy won.
@MMAforMoney: "So basically, you're in agreement with me that Ben Henderson is just a paper champ?"
I wouldn't say that. Henderson earned the belt and respect for beating Edgar the first time. Interim titles are paper titles. Henderson won his in the cage. Even though he retained it with the help of the judges, the belt still holds significance.
@TimW001: "If you were to judge Frankie/Bendo II as a whole fight and not Rd by Rd, who would you have winning?"
Pride style? Edgar. He was more aggressive. He hurt Henderson. He went after subs. Any way you slice it, I saw it for "The Answer."
@modernsportscar: "Emotional decision. He is not best lightweight in the world."
Emotional! Is he the best featherweight then? Curious what this result means as far as Edgar moving to 145.
@soxbolt: "No problem w/ decision. Seen far bigger judging debacles. Anybody acting like this is an outrage needs to check themselves."
@ptw79: "Frankie won, but whatever. Nate Diaz will smash [Henderson]. Think Diaz is actually a worse matchup for Henderson.
If Henderson doesn't assert himself physically against Diaz, he could be in for a real fight. I'm with you: Diaz is a worse matchup for "Smooth" than Edgar. I can see Diaz's length and punching output presenting major problems for the current champ.
UFC 150 grades
The youngest fighter in the UFC made a statement by melting Justin Lawrence's liver in the second round. Holloway, who turns 21 in December, makes good use of his length with clean technique. He's also fast and, apparently, pretty accurate to the body and head. Keeping it standing will be Holloway's biggest test against a tough set of featherweight grapplers.
Quite the ride there, Cowboy. Cerrone's wild win against his buddy Melvin Guillard was amazing to watch. Zapped, stepping in potholes, running, covering, protecting and surviving, Cerrone, 29, showed everything that he's made of in the 76-second throwdown. With a 19-4 record, Cerrone is right there atop the list of lightweight contenders.
Experience prevailed for Okami, who couldn't afford to lose his third straight fight against anyone, let alone unproven commodity Buddy Roberts. Okami, 31, recognized that he was getting lit up and things weren't going the way he wanted. So he locked up with Roberts, went to the floor and remained there until a second-round mounting sealed the deal. Okami (27-7) is a fringe contender at best, but he won't go away easily and is a serious risk to rising fighters.
Edgar, 30, is in a good spot. He might not have reclaimed the belt, but he opened the door to many options. The former UFC champion could obviously hang at the weight, where he's comfortable and, by all rights, very successful. Or try the weight-cutting game, get Jose Aldo (presuming the Brazilian beats Erik Koch) and see what happens. I'd prefer to see the Aldo scenario play out (no disrespect intended, EK).
Here's the good news: On what looked like an off-night, Henderson fought to the end, got it to the judges, and benefited from their decision. Against someone like Edgar (14-3), that's an accomplishment. Henderson was hot and cold. When he went after the former champion, Henderson scored, especially with low kicks. But he didn't do it enough, or at the right moments. Henderson (17-2) was continually outpunched, especially at the end of an exchange. He also was less effective in the rematch at standing after being taken down.
People hated the performance, but so what? Shields had to win. He did. I don't think there's any question that the 33-year-old grappler is better at 185 pounds. Can Shields (28-6-1) manage the slow road (no doubt, that's what it will be) like he did early in his career, win enough and get a title shot? That's the only way it happens, because there's a loud contingent of fans and media that regard the Californian as the least watchable fighter in UFC.
For the excitement factor, Guillard (30-11-2) still gets good marks following a cold KO in just over a minute. What a wild stretch, which should get mentioned as one of this year's best rounds. Guillard will get as many fights as he wants, such is the benefit of a style like his. But three opening-round losses in four fights should put a halt to serious discussion of the 29-year-old Guillard as a contender.
Lawrence, 22, was knuckled up in his featherweight debut. While he was beaten for the first time in five fights, Lawrence showed positive signs late into Round 2, when his insides were eventually churned. This is still a young prospect with a long way to go, but someone to keep an eye on.
So long as he can keep it on the feet, Roberts (12-3) comes off like a threat. But when forced to defend takedowns, and escape from the bottom against a bigger man familiar with top control, he looked like a novice. Roberts, 29, has a lot of room to improve.
What was he thinking? Why Herman initiated so many clinching opportunities for Jake Shields, I've got no clue. Even more confusing: Herman, 31, continued to lock up with Shields rather than lay into the former Strikeforce middleweight champion with strikes. Herman ranks as the evening's biggest disappointment. A win would have propelled him into a short list of contenders. Instead, Herman (20-8) appeared far more average than he has in his past three bouts. There wasn't much energy.
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