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Henderson takes title after highly-skilled main event

ESPN staff
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Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson put on a tremendous fight in the UFC 144 co-main event © Getty Images
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Dana White named him the No. 2 pound-for-pounder in the world after he beat Gray Maynard, but Frankie Edgar failed to defend his lightweight title in the UFC 144 main event against Ben Henderson in Japan.

After one of the most technically skill-packed fights in UFC history, Bruce Buffer declared the words "and NEW lightweight champion" to beckon in a new era at 155lbs, as the quite brilliant Henderson took a unanimous 49-46 48-47 49-46 decision.

Edgar had been tipped to become the greatest lightweight champion of all time, a natural featherweight capable of taking out BJ Penn (twice) and Gray Maynard. However, his future may well rest at 145lbs after he ate too many power strikes from Henderson - a man who embodies the new-age mixed martial artist.

In the home of Pride, where total damage was the key to victory, Edgar was busted up after five rounds which saw him dropped by a savage upkick in the second. Meanwhile Henderson did not have a scratch on him, although that did not tell the story of the fight.

The first round was Edgar's, catching Henderson's kicks on five occasions, once ducking a sensational attempt from "Smooth" to connect with a kick off his remaining standing leg. Two takedowns and some fast hands had the champion an early lead.

However, the most lethal blow of the fight was landed in the second, Henderson - having been taken down - dropping Edgar with a powerful upkick, allowing him to pound away late in the round. "I got to thank Cowboy Cerrone for that one, because he landed that one on me bad," Henderson commented.

The third and fourth saw more intelligent striking by both men, Edgar landing more regularly and mixing in takedowns, while Henderson brought the power and - in the fourth - a nasty-looking guillotine.

Such a tight fight, Edgar went big in the fifth, landing a great left hand and then dropping the challenger with a right. However, Henderson had done enough, threatening in all areas of the game to steal the belt, even if Edgar disagreed.

"I thought I did enough to win. I thought I landed more strikes and got more takedowns. I don't know," Edgar said.

Asked if he would drop to featherweight as a result, Edgar answered: "It's too soon to say."

A rematch may well be on offer - given the standard of the bout produced, although Anthony Pettis' sensational head kick knockout of Joe Lauzon may set up a sequel of Henderson v Pettis, which saw Henderson lose his WEC title before moving across to the UFC.

UFC 144 results:
Ben Henderson def. Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision
Ryan Bader def. Quinton Jackson via unanimous decision
Mark Hunt def. Cheick Kongo via first-round TKO
Jake Shields def. Yoshihiro Akiyama via unanimous decision
Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami via third-round TKO
Hatsu Hioki def. Bart Palaszewski via unanimous decision
Anthony Pettis def. Joe Lauzon via first-round KO
Takanori Gomi def. Eiji Mitsuoka via second-round TKO
Vaughan Lee def. Norifumi Yamamoto via submission (armbar)
Riki Fukuda def. Steve Cantwell via unanimous decision
Chris Cariaso def. Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision
Issei Tamura def. Tiequan Zhang via second-round KO

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