MMA fans will be in for an awesome treat when lightweight champion Frankie Edgar defends his belt at UFC 144. The event is set for Feb. 26, at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Here are my predictions for the entire UFC 144 fight card:
Frankie Edgar versus Ben Henderson
Frankie Edgar has been nothing short of impressive since he captured the UFC’s lightweight title, but he’ll be in for his toughest test when he faces Henderson. Frankie will have the advantage during the striking exchanges, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle Henderson’s aggressive wrestling. Ben has already manhandled tough wrestlers like Jim Miller and Clay Guida in his short UFC career, and I expect to see more of the same in Japan. Henderson wins by decision.
Quinton Jackson versus Ryan Bader
Jackson will be highly motivated when he makes his return to the Saitama Super Arena. Bader is a pretty solid wrestler, but getting “Rampage” to the ground is no easy task. Jackson should be able to keep the fight standing, and hand Bader his first knockout loss. Jackson wins by TKO.
Mark Hunt versus Cheick Kongo
Kongo has gone 3-0-1 in his last four fights, and he should be able to get another win when he faces Hunt at UFC 144. Both men are excellent kick-boxers, but Kongo is the better MMA fighter. Kongo wins by decision.
Yoshihiro Akiyama versus Jake Shields
After going on a 15 fight win streak, Shields has lost his last two fights (1-2 with the UFC). Akiyama has also struggled in the UFC, winning only one of his four fights with the promotion. Both will try to get their careers back on track at UFC 144, but Shields does have more weapons in his arsenal. It should be a close fight, but Shields should be able to edge out the decision.
Yushin Okami versus Tim Boetsch
Okami ran into some problems against Anderson Silva at UFC 134, but he should be able to put on a better performance in his homeland. Boetsch is a solid grappler, but I’m not sure he’s ready for the likes of Okami. Okami wins via decision.
Hatsu Hioki versus Bart Palaszewski
Hioki won his UFC debut, defeating George Roop via split decision. He’ll be in for a tougher challenge when he faces Palaszewski at UFC 144. With prior wins against tough competitors like Tyson Griffin and Anthony Pettis, Palaszewski is clearly the more experienced fighter, and I expect him to walk away victorious. Palaszewski wins via TKO.
Anthony Pettis versus Joe Lauzon
Both MMA fighters are well rounded, but Pettis does have the advantage in the striking department. He’ll eventually catch Lauzon with a big shot, and end the fight early. Pettis wins by TKO.
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