This Saturday, Ultimate Fighting Championship 144 returns en force to Japan.
This will be the first time since UFC 29 in 2000 that the UFC has held an event in Japan, and they are returning with a powerful complement of fighters.
The main event of UFC 144 will feature a lightweight championship struggle when Frankie Edgar takes on challenger Benson Henderson in a fight that will outlive its hype. Edgar is the best technical wrestler and counter-striker in the division but Henderson is possibly the better well-rounded of the two.
Edgar’s recent title defenses against Gray Maynard proved twice that Edgar truly has a heart for taking punishment and dealing it out tenfold.
Henderson defeated the dangerous Clay Guida for the title shot and will make the most of his strengths: standing striking, ground-and-pound, and take-down defense. Given the nature of their fight styles, this fight will be won with the constancy of heart and tenacity, round after round.
The co-main event will be set for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson facing off against Ryan “Darth” Bader. Jackson is looking for redemption after suffering a strong loss to light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Meanwhile, Ryan Bader is desperate for a big name victory. His losses to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz crippled his recent success, but a win over “Rampage” would give him that solid name victory.
Bader is bringing to the fight a good wrestling base and strength. Jackson, never prone to technical grappling games, will look to strike hard and keep the fight standing. But history tells us to never count “Rampage” out, especially in the country that witnessed his rise.
Another fight with big implications, fan star Yoshihiro Akiyama is set against former title contender Jake Shields in a welterweight matchup. Having lost his ground in the middleweight division, Akiyama is seeking to renew momentum by dropping weight to a more natural welterweight class. Shields was recently at the top of the division and is watching his fortunes wane after the debacles of the St. Pierre and Ellenberger fights. Both fighters are struggling to maintain any sort of status.
I predict wins for Akiyama over Shields, “Rampage” over Bader, and an upset of Henderson over Edgar. But to be sure, these will be fights that you’ll not want to miss.