The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heads back to Japan, the birthplace of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride FC), for UFC 144 on Saturday, Feb. 25. Japan has hosted many of the most notorious mixed martial arts (MMA) matches under the defunct Pride FC banner, which is now owned by UFC.
Celebrating its return to Japan, the UFC will have seven fights on the main card. The undercard will be shown in its entirety on facebook.com/ufc and on FX. Due to the time zone difference, this event will actually be taking place live on Sunday in Saitama, Japan and airing live on Pay-Per-View this Saturday night starting at 9:00 p.m.
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar vs. Ben “Smooth” Henderson
Frankie Edgar – Summit, N.J. 5-6, 155 pounds, 14-1-1 (Lightweight Champion)
Ben Henderson – Colorado Springs, Colo., 5-9, 155 pounds, 15-2-0 (Former WEC Lightweight Champion)
Now that he is out of BJ Penn and Gray Maynard’s shadow, Frankie Edgar is brimming with confidence at being crowned the undisputed champion in the lightweight division.
With that said, Ben Henderson successfully defended the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) lightweight title belt three times, so he is no stranger to big fights. Although this may seem like a step down in competition, Edgar can be assured that this guy will bring it from start to finish. Like Edgar, Henderson is an outstanding wrestler. He is also a black belt in Taekwondo and great on his feet.
This fight looks like it may go to a decision, but definitely won’t be boring.
Edgar by Unanimous Decision
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Ryan “Darth” Vader
Rampage Jackson – Memphis, Tenn., 6-1, 205 pounds, 32-9-0 (Former Light Heavyweight Champion)
Ryan Bader – Reno, Nev., 6-2, 205 pounds, 14-2-0 (The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 8 winner)
Hopefully, the old Rampage will make an appearance this weekend. Jackson practically begged to be put on this card because he enjoyed fighting in Japan so much. Even though Rampage hasn’t been the same since his role in “The A-Team,” MMA fans are looking forward to seeing one of the signature power slams that made him so popular during his Pride FC days in Japan.
Ryan Bader’s career took a big step in the right direction by ending his last fight with a knockout, and it will take another huge step forward with a win over Jackson. In fact, this would be his biggest accomplishment since winning “The Ultimate Fighter” season eight. Jackson is not the fighter he used to be, but Bader will definitely have his hands full.
Jackson by TKO (Strikes)
Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo
Mark Hunt – South Auckland, New Zealand, 5-10, 265 pounds, 7-7-0
Cheick Kongo – Paris, France, 6-5, 240 pounds, 27-6-2
If you’re looking for a fight, this is it. It will be a triumph if someone is knocked out as these two behemoths are known for their iron chins. Cheick Kongo will have a huge reach advantage, but this will be nothing new to Mark Hunt. In other words, don’t let Hunt’s record fool you. He has lost to some of the best in the business, and is holding his own at 2-1 in the UFC. This should be a battle, but I wouldn’t expect this one to go past the second round.
Kongo by TKO (Strikes)
Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
Yoshihiro Akiyama – Osaka, Japan, 5-10, 185 pounds, 13-4-0
Jake Shields – Mountain Ranch, Calif., 6-0, 185 pounds, 26-6-1 (Former Elite XC and Strikeforce Champion)
Shields by Unanimous Decision
Yushin “Thunder” Okami vs. Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch
Yushin Okami – Kanagawa, Japan, 6-2, 185 pounds, 27-6-0
Tim Boetsch – Lincolnville, Maine, 6-0, 185 pounds, 14-4-0
Okami by Unanimous Decision
Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart “Bartimus” Palaszewski
Hatsu Hioki – Nagoya, Japan, 5-11, 145 pounds, 25-4-2
Bart Palaszewski – Warsaw, Poland, 5-9, 145 pounds, 34-13-0
Hioki by Unanimous Decision
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon
Anthony Pettis – Milwaukee, Wis., 5-10, 155 pounds, 12-2-0 (Former WEC Lightweight Champion)
Joe Lauzon – East Bridgewater, Mass., 5-10, 155 pounds, 20-6-0
Lauzon by Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
Riki Fukuda vs. Steve “Robot” Cantwell
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso
Tiequan “The Wolf” Zhang vs. Issei Tamura