Return to Japan headlined by lightweight championship
The UFC returns to Japan on Saturday for the first time since 2000, and to mark the occasion the promotion will take its pay-per-view broadcast up a notch.
The main card of UFC 144, instead of featuring the pay-per-view norm of five fights and essentially a three-hour time slot, will be four hours and will have seven fights. The promotion recently announced the plans for the show.
UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson will take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, just north of Tokyo. The arena has played host to numerous legendary MMA fights over the years, most notably in the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships.
Headlining Saturday’s card is a lightweight title fight between three-time defending champion Frankie Edgar and top contender Ben Henderson, a former lightweight champ in the WEC. Edgar took the title from BJ Penn at UFC 112 in April 2010, then defended it in a unanimous decision win over Penn at UFC 118. At UFC 125, Edgar had one of the great comebacks in MMA history to force a split draw with Gray Maynard. At their rematch in August at UFC 132, Edgar handed Maynard the first loss of his career, knocking him out in the fourth round.
Henderson earned his title shot on the strength of a unanimous decision victory over Clay Guida in November. Prior to that, he won his first two bouts in the UFC with unanimous decision wins over Mark Bocek and Jim Miller. Henderson was the WEC’s lightweight champion until the final card in that promotion’s history, when he lost the belt to Anthony Pettis.
The co-main event Saturday features a Pride legend fighting in Japan for the first time since six years ago to the date of UFC 144. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson fights for the first time since a light heavyweight title loss to Jon Jones in September when he takes on Ryan Bader, winner of Season 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Other action on the main card includes a heavyweight bout between Cheick Kongo and Mark Hunt, a welterweight bout between former title challenger Jake Shields and Yoshihiro Akiyama and, to open the pay-per-view, an important lightweight contenders bout between Pettis and Joe Lauzon.
Of the 24 fighters on Saturday’s card, nine hail from Japan, including legends Takanori Gomi, Yushin Okami and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.
The full fight card is below:
Main Card (pay-per-view)
Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson
Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski
Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon
Preliminary Card (FX)
Takanori Gomi vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
Riki Fukuda vs. Steve Cantwell
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris Cariaso
Preliminary Card (Facebook)
Zhang Tiequan vs. Issei Tamura