UFC 144 Preview (Edgar/Henderson, Jackson/Bader, Shields/Akiyama)

MAIN EVENT: UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP                                            Frankie Edgar (14-1-1) vs Benson Henderson (15-2-0)

It’s been almost two full years since Frankie Edgar fought an opponent who wasn’t named B.J Penn or Gray Maynard. Throughout those string of fights, I failed to see the legitimacy of Edgar and figured him to be nothing more than a “fluke” champion. It wasn’t until his last fight with Maynard where he knocked him out in the 4th round that I started to take him more seriously. Frankie isn’t the kind of fighter that finishes his fights. Of his 14 career victories, more than half of come via decision. If nothing more, it shows that Frankie Edgar has terrific stamina and can go a full 5 rounds without losing any steam. I think that will come into play tonight against Ben Henderson, as I predict this fight will go the distance.

Henderson has been a nice roll as of late, winning his last 3 fights via decision against Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida. Ever since his loss in the WEC to Anthony Pettis, Benson has looked more determined and driven than ever, and it’s shown since his arrival in the UFC. Benson is the stronger fighter, but “the Answer” has an iron chin that will more than likely withstand anything Henderson throws his way. Regardless, Henderson is going to have to use his strength to his advantage and be the aggressor early on to keep himself in this fight.

Frankie Edgar has been a fighting champion and will continue to prove tonight in Japan that he is one of the best mixed martial artists in the world today. Benson will put up a valiant effort, but ultimately Frankie will walk away with the decision victory.

Prediction: Frankie Edgar via decision

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-9-0) vs Ryan Bader (14-2-0)

I was originally going to go with Rampage Jackson to take out Bader, but the recent news of Jackson’s failure to make weight has me a little worried. Rampage showed up to the weigh-in 6 pounds over the limit at 211 lbs. Apparently Jackson became injured during his training camp and was unable to continuously work off the poundage. Whether that’s true or not, it looks bad on Rampage for not working harder to cut weight. It makes him look unmotivated. It’s not like he’s been blowing the MMA world away with his recent performances either. He hasn’t knocked out an opponent since 2008 when he KO’d Wanderlei (I fall from the slightest wind) Silva. He’s coming off of a submission loss to Jon Jones and 2 uninspired controversial decision wins over Matt Hamill and Lyoto Machida. This isn’t the same Rampage Jackson that we are accustomed to seeing in the cage.

After starting his career 12-0, Bader has failed to capitalize on that momentum in recent fights. He was submitted twice by Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz before knocking out Jason “Not in the UFC anymore” Brilz. Ryan is/was a tremendous collegiate wrestler and will want to take Jackson to the ground frequently to avoid his powerful strikes. This is the kind of fight that can really set Bader back on the right path to the top of the division.

Quinton will have the Japanese fans supporting him because of his legendary success in the former PRIDE promotion, but that won’t be enough to keep him in this fight. Rampage is more interested in putting on a show for the crowd rather than winning. He has shown that he is past his prime and more concerned with outside interests than becoming a better fighter. Bader will relish being the underdog and shock the crowd with a TKO upset victory over Jackson tonight in Japan.

Prediction: Ryan Bader via TKO.

Jake Shields (26-6-1) vs Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-4-0, 2NC)

After losing his last 3 middleweight fights, Yoshihiro Akiyama will move down to welterweight to battle with Jake Shields. No one has seen “Sexyama” fight at this weight, so it’s difficult to predict exactly how he will handle this new class.

This fight is a tale of 2 mixed martial artists who have failed to make an immediate splash in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. With just one victory over Alan Belcher 3 years ago under his belt in the company, Akiyama has lost his 3 most recent UFC wars with Chris Leban, Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort. He has put on “fight of the night” quality performances, but that still hasn’t resulted in victories for the 36 year old out of Osaka.

Jake Shields has also had a bad string of luck in his fights as well. Shields is only 1-2 in the UFC with 2 straight losses against Georges St-Pierre and Jake Ellenberger. Jake did take 2 rounds against the champion GSP and fought under unfortunate circumstances (the passing of his father 2 weeks prior) against Ellenberger, so it’s hard for me to totally knock him for that. He did have himself a 14 fight winning streak against quality opposition prior to those 2 losses though.

If Shields takes this fight to ground, Akiyama won’t be able to rebound. Jake is a tremendous submission wrestler and will make life very difficult for Yoshihiro if he get’s on top of him. Jake also has outstanding cardio, which has always been a knack against Akyiyama. If this goes the full 3 rounds, Shields will have the definite advantage.

Yoshihiro will receive a hero’s welcome from the crowd, but that won’t be enough to stop a motivated Jake Shields from making him tap out.

Prediction: Jake Shields via Submission

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