Dana White rich with options in lightweight division after Benson Henderson’s win at UFC 144
Dana White has a problem, but of the myriad of woes that confront the UFC president each day, this is one he is happy to have.
Benson Henderson won the UFC lightweight title via unanimous decision after a rousing battle with Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 144 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. It was a back-and-forth brawl that had a little bit of everything that makes mixed martial arts great.
It was up, it was down. There were kicks, punches and knees, takedowns and submissions. It was fought at an extremely quick pace and they were going as hard in the final minute of the bout as they were in the initial minute.
The judges gave it to Henderson, 49-46 twice and 48-47. Yahoo! Sports also scored it 48-47 for Henderson, but the fight was so close. Edgar had a 5-1 edge in takedowns according to Fight Metric, but Henderson had an 87-68 edge in significant strikes, so it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for the decision to have gone the other way.
If White decided to give Edgar an immediate rematch, all he’d have to do is show 45 seconds of highlights from Saturday’s bout and he’d have a pay-per-view winner on his hands.
But earlier on the card, Anthony Pettis scored a spectacular first-round knockout over Joe Lauzon. Pettis landed a kick to the head that ended the fight just 81 seconds after the opening bell.
It was a more effective kick than the sensational “Showtime Kick” that Pettis landed on none other than Henderson in the waning moments of a World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight title bout on Dec. 16, 2010.
Let White put together a couple clips of Pettis bouncing off the fence to kick Henderson in the head, then knocking out Lauzon with a kick to the chops, and he’d have a winner with Henderson-Pettis II.
White said at the post-fight news conference Saturday that he’ll probably make Henderson-Pettis II and urged Edgar to drop to featherweight. He said if Edgar went to featherweight, he’d give him a shot at UFC champion Jose Aldo Jr. in a fight that would be a battle of a pair of top 10 pound-for-pound guys.
In a post-fight interview on Fuel TV, Henderson said he was open to fighting either Pettis or Edgar.
“There are a long list of guys who want what I have,” Henderson said. “I’m willing to take them on. Let’s do that.”
[ Related: Kevin Iole’s UFC 144 breakdown ]
But the potential sensational bouts in the lightweight division don’t stop there. Nate Diaz meets Jim Miller on May 5 in the main event of UFC on Fox 3. The winner of that against Henderson would be a top-shelf title fight as well.
Gray Maynard, who twice nearly defeated Edgar in lightweight title bouts, would make a terrific match with Henderson in a unique battle of power lightweights. How about a match between two guys coming off a loss, Edgar against Donald Cerrone? It would be a frenetic pace if Edgar met Clay Guida.
The lightweight division is so strong because it’s where the perfect combination of speed, skill and power reside. At 170 and above, the fighters are more powerful, but not as athletic as the 155-pounders. At 145 and below, they’re extremely athletic, but don’t have the knockout power that most lightweights possess.
And so, on virtually every card, you’re seeing scores of great lightweight fights. In most weight classes, the UFC has a stranglehold on the top 10 guys in the division, but lightweight is so loaded, that’s simply not the case.
There are at least four outside the UFC – Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, Bellator champion Michael Chandler, ex-Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez and former Dream champion Shinya Aoki – who have an argument that they are among the 10 best lightweights in the world.
There are plenty of other quality fighters who are in or around the top 10 as well.
White seems to have settled on Pettis for the next shot, though he could ultimately opt to go in a different direction after he has time to think about it.
He really can’t go wrong whichever way he chooses, because there are so many appealing matches to be made.
It may be a problem for White, but it’s a boon for fight fans.
Keep an eye on the 155-pounders over the next 10 months. It’s better than even money that by the end of the year, the best fights, the best knockouts and the best submissions will come from the lightweights.
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