UFC 144 Edgar vs. Henderson: Wrestling Observer Staff Picks & Preview

Compiled by Josh Nason

UFC 144

The UFC returns to Japan Saturday with a seven-fight main card, headlined by an underrated 155-pound champion, a former champion returning to where he made his name and a lightweight battle that has a lot of people excited.

It's Saturday, February 25th and it's time for UFC 144!

The panel:

- Dave Meltzer (22-7): Wrestling Observer founder & writer

- Todd Martin (20-9): Weekly FFD guest & RAW recapper | LA Times | Sherdog

- Mike Sempervive (21-8): Wrestling Observer Live | Big Audio Nightmare

- Oliver Copp (22-7) & Mike Sawyer (20-9) of Tough Talk: Show

- Josh Nason (18-11): FFD guest | FIGHT! Magazine | WGAM MMA Show | Bloody Elbow

Bryan sat this one out...again.


UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar (14-1-1) vs. Benson Henderson (15-2)

The 30-year-old champion looks to successfully defend his title for a fourth time and extend a seven fight unbeaten streak. Mainly a decision fighter, Edgar did finish Gray Maynard by fourth round KO last October.

The 28-year-old Henderson has been a perfect 3-0 since the WEC merger with decision wins over Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida. He's lost just once in nearly five years, a decision defeat to PPV opener Anthony Pettis.

Edgar: Meltzer, Sempervive, Martin, Copp, Nason
Henderson: Sawyer

Rampage Jackson (32-9) vs. Ryan Bader (13-2)

Coming off a September loss to UFC 205-pound champ Jon Jones, Jackson returns to Japan for the first time since February 2006 in search of his first finish since December 2008. In Bader, he'll fight a 28-year-old coming off a quick KO of Jason Brilz at November's UFC 139 that snapped a two fight losing streak.

Rampage missed weight by five pounds Friday, making this a 211-pound catchweight fight. He's claiming an injury, but is he still motivated at this point of his career? Prediction: don't be surprised if he announces a retirement in-cage with a loss tonight.

Jackson: Sempervive, Martin, Sawyer
Bader: Meltzer, Nason, Copp

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

It's an ultimate loser leaves town match with Akiyama (three straight defeats, 1-3 in UFC) making his welterweight debut against Shields (two straight losses, 1-2 in UFC). Shields actually might get a reprieve with his third straight but he's gotta look good here after a blah Octagon run so far.

Akiyama: Meltzer, Sempervive, Martin
Shields: Sawyer, Copp, Nason

Mark Hunt (7-7) vs. Cheick Kongo (17-6-2)

Hunt makes his own return to Japan amidst an interesting late career UFC run, looking for his third straight win. The 37-year-old fights the 36-year-old Kongo who is on a four fight unbeaten streak. He's done well against the middle of the heavyweight pack, but anything's possible with Hunt.

Hunt: Copp
Kongo: Meltzer, Sempervive, Martin, Nason, Sawyer

Joe Lauzon (21-6) vs. Anthony Pettis (14-2)

Pettis lost his UFC debut to Clay Guida, but rebounded with a close split decision win over Jeremy Stephens in October. Known for the Showtime kick and against the grain offensive moves, Lauzon has faced his type before and won, notably submitting Melvin Guillard in 47 seconds last October. Fun fact: Lauzon has finishes in all 21 of his wins but Pettis has never been finished.

Lauzon: Nason, Martin, Copp
Pettis: Meltzer, Sempervive, Sawyer

Dave will be doing live play-by-play starting with Facebook at 7:30 PM EST, FX prelims at 8 PM EST and the seven-fight PPV card at 10 PM EST. Dave and Bryan will be back early Sunday morning with a subscribers-only recap show.

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