Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 | 11:45 p.m.
- Rampage Jackson misses weight at UFC 144, blames it on training injury
- Softer side of Rampage Jackson on display before UFC 144
- UFC 144 breakdown, betting odds and picks
- Take Five: Questions ahead of UFC 144
- Ben Henderson has big plans for UFC 144 bout with Frankie Edgar and beyond
- Anthony Pettis gives WEC memorable curtain call
- UFC section
- All MMA/boxing coverage
Note: Full results from the card are available at the bottom of the page.
Major upsets, violent knockouts and a new champion defined the UFC’s return to Japan on Saturday night.
Ben Henderson capped off the one of the most spectacular UFC cards in the promotion’s 19-year history by dethroning Frankie Edgar to win the lightweight championship.
Henderson became the seventh underdog to win in 12 fights at Saitama Super Arena when he took a unanimous-decision victory (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) over Edgar.
“I thought I landed more strikes and I got more takedowns,” a dejected Edgar said in the octagon immediately after the fight. “So I don’t know.”
The statistics agreed with Edgar and painted the fight in his favor. The 30-year old from Toms River, N.J., landed 124 strikes to Henderson’s 114, according to stats provider CompuStrike. Edgar also completed seven successful takedowns to Henderson’s two.
But the 28-year old Henderson, who had as much as a 20-pound weight advantage over Edgar on fight night, landed with more power. His attacks left Edgar’s face covered in cuts and bruises.
“I wanted to use my size to my advantage,” Henderson said.
Edgar controlled the opening nine minutes of the bout and every judge awarded him a 10-9 round score in the first round. He took Henderson down late in the second before an upkick changed the trajectory of the fight.
Henderson placed his foot right on Edgar’s nose, which left it possibly broken and gushing with blood. Henderson said he learned the move from old rival Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
“He landed that one on me,” Henderson said. “I told him I was going to land that on someone else because it hurt so bad.”
Henderson’s other foe from his WEC days, Anthony Pettis, is likely his next opponent. Pettis put on the most dominant performance of the night Saturday by knocking out Joe Lauzon 81 seconds into their fight with a head kick.
The other most memorable kick of Pettis’ career came when he beat Henderson by unanimous decision in December 2010.
“It means the world to me,” Pettis said of the tentative rematch with Henderson. “I was supposed to get a title shot last year and it didn’t happen. Henderson did his thing and we’ve got some unfinished business. Let’s do it.”
Pettis won Knockout of the Night honors, but it must have been a tough decision for UFC President Dana White to make considering the performance of middleweight Tim Boetsch.
Boetsch knocked out Yushin Okami with an assault of uppercuts 54 seconds into the third round. Fans immediately debated where the knockout ranked in terms of the greatest UFC comebacks. Okami thumped Boetsch, a 3-to-1 underdog, for 10 minutes before the dramatic finish.
“I knew nothing less than a knockout or a finish would win that fight for me,” Boetsch explained. “My heart was in it. I knew I could win.”
In the co-main event, Ryan Bader won every round against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to take a unanimous decision.
Jackson continually stated during the week that he didn’t care if he lost as long as he put on an entertaining show for his beloved Japanese fans. Jackson was able to do that by slamming Bader on his head in the second round.
But Bader recovered to dominate in what he called the biggest fight of his career.
“Beating Rampage here in Japan is an amazing feeling,” Bader said.
Check below for the rest of the results from UFC 144.
Mark Hunt stunned the heavily-favored Cheick Kongo in a heavyweight bout to win his third fight in a row. Hunt won with a TKO over Kongo at 2:11 of the first round when he connected with a series of right hands.
Jake Shields struggled to take Yoshihiro Akiyama down throughout their welterweight bout, but did enough to snag a decision anyway. Shields won a unanimous decision — all three judges scored it 30-27 — over Akiyama to break a two-fight skid.
Hatsu Hioki inched himself closer to the next title shot against featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Hioki took a unanimous decision win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Bart Palaszewski with superior grappling in the second fight of the main card.
Legendary Japanese lightweight Takanori Gomi scored a second-round TKO victory over Eiji Mitsuoka at 2:21. Gomi, the former PRIDE champion, overcame a first round where Mitsuoka stunned him with a counter right hand and nearly pulled off a submission.
One of Japan’s most famous fighters likely saw his UFC career come to an end in front of his hometown. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, one of mixed martial arts’ most decorated bantamweights, lost his third straight. British grappler Vaughan Lee submitted Yamamoto with an armbar at the 4:29 mark of the first round.
Riki Fukuda won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over Steve Cantwell in their middleweight bout. The Las Vegas-based Cantwell made history in a negative way. Cantwell became the first fighter in UFC history to lose five fights in a row without ever leaving the promotion.
Boos rang out at the Saitama Super Arena as octagon announcer Bruce Buffer revealed that Chris Cariaso defeated Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a bantamweight bout. Cariaso was more aggressive, but spent the majority of each round trapped on his back. The way Cariaso stayed active from the bottom made it a close fight with a controversial result.
Japanese featherweight Issei Tamura kicked the event off with an upset knockout victory. Tamura knocked Chinese fighter Tiequan Zhang out cold at 0:32 of the second round with a perfectly placed overhand right.