The UFC returned to Japanese soil on Saturday to put on UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, which featured lightweight champion Frankie Edgar putting his belt on the line against Benson Henderson.

In the co-main event, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson returned to Japan to take on Ryan Bader in a catchweight bout.

For the first time ever, seven fights were featured on the pay-per-view portion of the card. FX featured four bouts, while Facebook aired the opening fight of the night.

A New Champion is Crowned

A new champion, you ask? Yes, a new lightweight champion was crowned at UFC 144, and his name is Benson Henderson.

Henderson, a former WEC lightweight champion, earned the right to challenge Frankie Edgar for the title with three straight wins since coming into the UFC. Edgar had defended his championship on three occasions coming in, but only against two different opponents (B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard).

Coming into the bout, the question was how would Edgar handle a bigger opponent like Henderson. Henderson looks like a welterweight once he steps into the cage, and it turned out to be the key to him winning the fight.

Early on in the fight, fans knew this would be a close one. Both men were fairly even while fighting primarily on the feet. Henderson attempted many kicks to both the body and legs of Edgar, but Edgar was able to catch many of them. However, damage was still done, as Henderson bloodied up Edgar early on.

In round two, an upkick by Henderson turned the fight around. After a takedown by Edgar, Henderson threw a leg up, catching Edgar on the nose, appearing to break it.

From the third round to the end of the fight, it just depended on how you score fights. If you went by who landed more takedowns and strikes, Edgar won. But if you look at who did more damage, then the nod goes to Henderson.

The judges sitting cage side went in favor of damage, giving Henderson the win. The official scores were 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47, all for Henderson.

Bader Overcomes the Odds

The co-main event had storylines written all over it, all surrounding Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Aside from the fact he was coming back to Japan, where he spent years fighting for Pride, “Rampage” weighed in six pounds over the 205 mark for this fight. The former light heavyweight champion stated that he injured his knee during training, causing his training to change, but he still took the fight anyways.

The fight still went on, but at catchweight rather than light heavyweight. Early on in the bout, Bader gained the momentum by staying away from the right hand of Jackson by pressing him against the cage. Another factor that came into play were leg kicks. “Rampage” has always had a problem with kicks in the past, and Bader used that strategy many times during the fight.

In the later stages, Bader was able to use his All-American wrestling ability to control Jackson on the mat. Not only did he stay on top, but also worked from there, landing different strikes to the crowd favorite.

In a clear-cut decision, all three judges gave the win to Bader (30-27 x3).

Hunt Finishes Kongo in Round One

In the only heavyweight match-up on the card, “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt took on French striker Cheick Kongo.

Both men love to stand and trade with their hands, along with kicks, and it came down to who was the better technical striker.

On this day, it was Hunt, who used his K-1 experience to land numerous punches to the chin of Kongo, forcing the stoppage.

The finish came at 2:11 of the opening round, giving Hunt his second straight win.

Shields Gets Back on Track

Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama made his welterweight debut on Saturday against former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields.

The first round was very close, but it appeared Akiyama was gaining the upper hand. Shields wasn’t able to take the fight to the mat, which gave “Sexyama” the opportunity to use his judo game to control the pace.

Midway through, a rusty striking game by Shields would become a factor throughout. Shields could never get inside enough to pull his opponent to the ground, and ended up getting thrown to the mat again by Akiyama.

The final round would be awarded to Shields for what he did in the final minute of the fight. Shields took the back of Akiyama and worked to try and lock up a choke. It may not sound like much, but this was the only submission attempt by Shields in the fight.

In the end, the judges thought Shields did enough to get the win, and awarded him all three rounds (30-27 x3).

Boetsch Mounts Comeback to Defeat Okami

There were many great fights on the card and this was one of them.

Yushin Okami was coming off his title fight with champion Anderson Silva, while Tim Boetsch was looking to make a name for himself  in title contention.

In the first two rounds, Okami looked outstanding. “Thunder” was winning in every area, and looked to be focused on winning this fight to get back to the top of the heap. But “The Barbarian” didn’t give up.

After all the punishment he took in the first two rounds, Boetsch landed a headkick that started off a roar of momentum. He then went on an assault, raining down uppercuts to the wobbled Okami, until finishing him off at 54 seconds of the second round.

Hioki Defeats Palaszewski in Featherweight Bout

With two of the best featherweights in the promotion going toe-to-toe, title implications were on the line as Hatsu Hioki and Bart Palaszewski fought to a decision.

Hioki is considered the No. 2-ranked featherweight in the world behind champion Jose Aldo, and he showed why on Saturday.

Whether it was boxing, grappling or Octagon control, Hioki had the advantage. Palaszewski hung in like a veteran to make it close, but this was just Hioki’s night in front of his home crowd.

The judges gave Hioki the nod, with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for the native of Japan.

Pettis Stuns Lauzon; Title Shot Upcoming in Near Future

In a fight many were looking forward to, Anthony Pettis was able to avoid the ground game of Joe Lauzon to earn a victory in spectacular fashion.

Lauzon tried to land a combination, but Pettis avoided the shots and landed a perfectly placed high kick to the chin of Lauzon. The kick dropped “J-Lau” immediately, but Pettis followed up with punches to get the finish.

In the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White was asked about Pettis getting the first shot at new champion Benson Henderson. White replied, “I think he’s gonna get it.”

Main Card Results

Benson Henderson def. Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)

Ryan Bader def. Quinton Jackson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Mark Hunt def. Cheick Kongo by TKO (punches). Round 1, 2:11

Jake Shields def. Yoshihiro Akiyama by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami by TKO (punches). Round 3, 0:54

Hatsu Hioki def. Bart Palaszewski by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Anthony Pettis def. Joe Lauzon by knockout (headkick). Round 1, 1:21

Preliminary Card Results

Takanori Gomi def. Eiji Mitsuoka by TKO (punches). Round 2, 2:21

Vaughan Lee def. Norifumi Yamamoto by submission (armbar). Round 1, 4:29

Riki Fukuda def. Steve Cantwell by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Chris Cariaso def. Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Issei Tamura def. Tiequan Zhang by knockout (punch). Round 2, 0:32

Photo: Frankie Edgar (R) and Benson Henderson stare down (Combat Lifestyle)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.