Edgar gets deserved rematch with Henderson; more weekend notes
Dana White said that Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar will rematch this summer
Anthony Pettis had been (undeservedly) rumored to be Henderson's first opponent
Strikeforce unknowingly booked a neo-Nazi and registered sex offender last week
"Rematch, anyone?" the message said, succinctly. "It's on!"
This was on Twitter, where 140-character brevity is the culture. And the invitation-sounding announcement came from the feed of Frankie Edgar, also known as A Man of Few Words.
The former UFC lightweight champion wanted the world to know that justice had been served. As he added in Tuesday evening's message with as much joy as conciseness can convey, "Me and Henderson 2. Here we go!"
This shouldn't have been in doubt, but it had been. Practically from the minute Benson Henderson had his hand raised and the championship belt wrapped around his waist 11 days ago at UFC 143 outside Tokyo, the assumption was that he'd make the first defense of his strap against Anthony Pettis, who earlier in the night had scored a breathtaking head-kick knockout of Joe Lauzon. "Showtime" was the last man to beat Henderson, doing so with an even more spectacular kick -- the unforgettable leap-off-the-fence Matrix magic -- to take away the WEC title 14 months ago.
Why was Henderson-Pettis II the assumption? Because Dana White said so. Asked at the press conference whether Pettis' spectacular win had earned him a shot at the belt, the UFC president said, "I think he's going to get it." And even knowing Dana's history of ADD matchmaking, the fans and media ran with it.
This what-have-you-done-for-me-lately matchup was simply wrongheaded. Edgar, after all, had been asked to give rematches to B.J. Penn after taking the belt from him in April 2010 and to Gray Maynard, with whom he fought to a draw in his next title defense. So why shouldn't Frankie get a rematch after losing a tight decision that was widely disputed ... even by White?
But beyond the ex-champ, the momentum pushing a Henderson-Pettis rematch on us was unfair to Jim Miller and Nate Diaz, who, when they signed a fight agreement for the UFC on Fox card to be held May 5 in East Rutherford, N.J., were told that the winner would be first in line for a title shot. That made sense. Miller was on a seven-fight win streak before dropping a decision to Henderson last August, then bounced back with a submission of Melvin Guillard. Diaz has taken down Takanori Gomi and Donald Cerrone in his last two fights. Pettis' resume, on the other hand ...
Well, Miller summed it up when, as a UFC on Fox press conference got under way Tuesday morning at New York's Radio City Music Hall, the first thing he and Diaz were asked was for their thoughts about being passed over by Pettis. "Nate and I have proved that we're top guys in this division," he said. "I personally don't feel that Pettis' win over [Jeremy] Stephens and then the knockout of [Joe] Lauzon is a title run. But I don't make those decisions."
The man who does make those decision was standing right next to him. And moments later White, who's made more reversals than an Olympic gold medalist wrestler, modified the lightweight picture right before our eyes. The UFC poobah said he'd be talking to Edgar later in the day to try to persuade him to move down to 145 pounds and challenge Josť Aldo. If Frankie goes for that, said Dana, "we said the winner of this fight would get the shot."
So we knew some news was imminent. And we had a pretty good idea what that news would be. After all, Edgar had gone on the estimable Ariel Helwani's MMA Hour Internet radio show a few days after losing the belt and, amid all of the Pettis and Aldo talk, had proclaimed, "I'm saying it, and I'm saying it loud: I want my rematch."
Henderson is on board with that. A week later on that same MMAFighting.com radio show, the new champ acknowledged that he understands where the old champ is coming from. "Frankie had a very tough situation," he said. "He had a rough road, with two rematches right away after his title defenses. So the fan in me feels that he deserves [a rematch]."
That coming from a man who surely would like to avenge his loss to Pettis. "Before I retire, before I die, I'm going to see Anthony Pettis again," said Henderson. "But it's not my job to give him a title shot. ... It's his job to work his way up to me."
Maybe by fighting the Miller-Diaz winner? Gray Maynard? Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez? Somebody in the Top 10?
So now we know why Albert Pujols chose to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Manny Ramirez is making his comeback with the Oakland A's of, um, the East Bay: In California, three strikes and you're not out. Josh Barnett, who had been stripped of his license to fight in the Golden State back in 2009 after failing a drug test for the third time in his career -- an ignominious MMA record, to be sure -- was granted a new license during a hearing Monday before the California State Athletic Commission. Watching the proceedings, here's what we learned: (1) Barnett, a guy who gets punched in the head for a living, is more clearheaded and articulate than the bureaucrats who sit on the commission, and (2) this action clears the way for Strikeforce to stage the finale of its Heavyweight Grand Prix -- remember that much-delayed and maligned tournament? -- in its preferred site of San Jose. Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier is scheduled for May 19, with the venue not yet announced.
I know Joseph Benavidez is a little guy, especially now that he's dropped down to the UFC's new 125-pound division, but how is it possible that he's been so overlooked in the wake of his ferocious knockout of Yasuhiro Urushitani during Friday night's UFC on FX? It's understandable that the headline moment of the event in Sydney, Australia, was the scoring screwup in the evening's other semifinal in the tournament to determine the UFC's first flyweight champ. But c'mon. The controversy ought not steal all the attention away from the speed-of-light performances by Demetrious Johnson, who had his hand raised after the split decision was announced, and Ian McCall, who got a reprieve after it was later determined that the scorecards actually added up to a draw. And how is Benavidez rewarded for his spectacular second-round destruction? He gets to sit around all by his lonesome and wait for Johnson-McCall II to happen.
At Tuesday's press conference hyping the UFC of Fox card, Jim Miller was asked for a comment on the Edgar-Henderson bout, since he's the only fighter who'd been in the cage with both. He offered an insightful assessment: "In my opinion, Frankie didn't really fight the way he normally fights. He had a lot of respect for Benson's ground game and wasn't willing to really engage with it. And that's not the way he usually fights. If you take someone down, you've got to make them pay for it. You can't just kind of back right out. So it was close, and he made some mistakes. And I have confidence that he could win a rematch if he got it."
You know you've got a bad apple on your fight card when the revelation that he has a neo-Nazi tattoo is not the most damning thing you discover about him. For last Saturday night's Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate card in Columbus, Ohio, Strikeforce booked local fighter Brandon Saling for a prelim, apparently unaware that he was a registered sex offender after being convicted in connection with the 2004 rape of a child under 13. Now there's a guy you want fighting on a card that's headlined by two women. Saling, who bears an "88" inked on his shoulder (apparently it's white supremacist shorthand for "Heil Hitler," as "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet), has since had his Ohio fighting license revoked for failing to disclose his felony conviction prior to the Strikeforce event. The only glimmer of poetic justice: In Saturday's fight, Saling was knocked senseless -- more senseless? -- by Roger Bowling.
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