UFC 144 marks the UFC's return trip to the MMA crazed country of Japan. The UFC Lightweight Title is up for grabs as Frankie Edgar puts his belt on the line against Benson Henderson. Here are five things that I am looking foreword to for UFC 144.
1. A lightweight fight for the ages: Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson are two of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division. Henderson has won "Fight of the Night" three times while in Zuffa (WEC, UFC). Edgar's fight against Gray Maynard at UFC 125 was named "Fight of the Year" at the 2011 World MMA Awards. Not to be outdone, MMA Fighting named Henderson's victory against Donald Cerrone as the 2009 "Fight of the Year" and Henderson's loss against Antony Pettis as the 2010 "Fight of the Year."
Both Henderson and Edgar have great stamina and do not tire in the championship rounds. Edgar knockout out Maynard in the fourth round at UFC 136 and Henderson survived a fifth round "Superman Kick" from Anthony Pettis at WEC 53. With five "Fight of the Night" awards between them, Henderson and Edgar are primed to deliver a classic battle in the UFC 144 main event.
2. Seven fights on PPV: UFC fans got some good news a few weeks ago when it was announced that two more fights would be added to the main card. A featherweight bout between Hatsu Hioki and Bart Palaszewski and a middleweight clash between Yushin Okami and Tim Boetsch were added to an already stacked main card. Fight fans will get to see four hours of fights Saturday night. The UFC achivies not just quantity with this card but also quality, as fan friendly fights are all over this card. Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon clash to open the pay-per-view, former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Jake Shields faces Yoshihiro Akiyama and the always entertaining Cheick Kongo faces Mark Hunt.
3. Rampage Jackson's return to Japan: As Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was getting stitched up after his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 135, he pleaded with UFC President Dana White to let him fight on the UFC's return to Japan. Jackson got his wish and returns to Japan where he fought in Pride FC from 2001-2006. Jackson compiled a 13-5 record while in the promotion and had wars with Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Jackson was one of the most popular fighters that Pride has ever seen and holds a substantial fan base in Japan.
4. Arizona fighters taking center stage: Arizona, quietly, has become a hot bed for mixed martial arts. With the strong wrestling program at Arizona State, and lush training grounds year round, the state of Arizona is attracting top MMA talent. At UFC 144, Arizona fighters Ben Henderson and Ryan Bader are competing in the main event and co-main event respectively. Henderson, is aiming at the UFC Lightweight Title, and Bader is looking for a career defining win over Rampage Jackson. After two straight losses to open up 2011, Bader brutally knocked out Jason Brilz at UFC 139. Bader wrestled at Arizona State and won two Pac-10 wrestling titles in 2003 and 2004. He finished his wrestling career with 88 career victories and now trains out of Power MMA in Gilbert. Henderson fights out of Glendale and is the former WEC Lightweight Champion. It is the first time for Henderson headlining a UFC event.
5. Watching Cheick Kongo fight: Most heavyweight fights in the UFC are exciting and Cheick Kongo is no exception. Kongo is always in a war and is one of the most exciting UFC fighters to watch. His fight agains Pat Barry was one of the most exciting fights of 2011 and one of the most impressive comebacks in UFC history. Kongo was knockout down and nearly out before he was able to fight back and knockout Barry. Kongo has 10 wins by knockout and three victories by submission.