UFC 144 takes place from Saitama Super Arena in Japan Saturday night. It is the UFC's first show in Japan since 1999. The event is headlined by a lightweight title bout between champion Frank Edgar and challenger Ben Henderson. Live results will update throughout the evening.
Tiequan Zhang vs. Issei Tamura
Zhang is a rare Chinese UFC fighter, with a 1-1 UFC record. Tamura, a late replacement, sports a 6-2 MMA record.
Round 1. Tamura lands a pair of hard punches at the start of the round and seems to have Zhang in great trouble. But as Tamura moves in, he gets caught and stunned with a Zhang counterpunch. Zhang looks to turn the tables and opens up with punches but he gets caught with another counterpunch. Tamura lands a few heavy punches that drop Zhang. Tamura follows to the ground and lands some punches on the floor. Referee Herb Dean stands up the fighters after a slow. From the feet, Zhang looks for a guillotine choke but doesn't come close and ends up under Tamura again. Tamura lands some additional punches to close the round. 10-9 Tamura.
Round 2. Tamura knocks out Zhang cold with an overhand right hand punch very early in the second round.
Winner: Issei Tamura, KO, round 1.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris Cariaso
Mizugaki is a former WEC bantamweight title contender with solid boxing and a good ground game. Cariaso has a 12-3 MMA record with most of his wins coming via decision.
Round 1. Mizugaki has a noticeable height advantage. Cariaso lands the best shots of the early exchanges with a left hook/right hook combination. Mizugaki scores a takedown halfway through the round. Cariaso applies an omoplata but Mizugaki gets out and ends up back in full guard. Mizugaki controls Cariaso for the remained of the round, landing a few punches here and there. Close round. 10-9 Mizugaki.
Round 2. They start at the feet again, with the exchanges continuing to be close. Halfway through the round they clinch. Mizugaki lands a few knees to the body and takes Cariaso down with two minutes remaining in the round. From the bottom, Cariaso utilizes a unique 100 percent sweep. He tucks his arm around Mizugaki's arm and neck and flips Mizugaki to his back. Mizugaki simply stands back up and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Mizugaki.
Round 3. The round transpires very similarly to the first two rounds. The first half of the round is contested on the feet, with neither man able to dominate the standup exchanges. Mizugaki then lands another takedown halfway through the final stanza. Mizugaki isn't particularly effective on the ground but he is able to hold position and land a few punches as the round runs down. Cariaso gets up with a few seconds left in the fight. 10-9 Mizugaki, 30-27 Mizugaki. This was not a win that is going to do a lot for Mizugaki's career, however.
Winner: Chris Cariaso, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Well that was certainly unexpected. The usually polite Japanese crowd boos. Mizugaki didn't do a lot with his takedowns so it's justifiable albeit surprising.
Riki Fukuda vs. Steve Cantwell
Injuries have kept Fukuda out of action since his last UFC fight a year ago. He should have won that fight but the judges made a nearly unjustifiable call for his opponent Nick Ring. Cantwell is surprisingly getting another opportunity despite losing four UFC fights in a row. Cantwell has not won a fight since 2008.
Round 1. Cantwell goes for a kick and Fukuda takes him down. Fukuda goes to work with punches. Fukuda is very active with punches from the top but Cantwell stands up 90 seconds into the round. They exchange straight punches. Cantwell stuffs a Fukuda takedown and lands a nice straight right punch. Fukuda goes for another takedown and is again blocked. Fukuda lands a series of leg kicks. Cantwell mostly just throws punches and as the round progresses he is having trouble getting proper range on Fukuda. Fukuda meanwhile keeps landing leg kicks. 10-9 Fukuda.
Round 2. Fukuda goes back to work with leg kicks and Cantwell answers with one of his own. Fukuda scores a takedown but in the process Cantwell grabs a guillotine choke. Cantwell has it deep but Fukuda is able to get out. It returns to the feet where Fukuda immediately opens up with punches and kicks. Cantwell looks a little tired and Fukuda presses with uppercuts and another takedown attempt that is blocked. Fukuda pushes forward and backs Cantwell against the cage with punches to the head and body. Cantwell throws a nice spinning elbow but Fukuda immediately goes back to work with punches. Cantwell scores a takedown with 20 seconds left in the round, but this was not a close round to be stolen. 10-9 Fukuda. I'd have no issue with a 10-8 score. Cantwell was never in trouble but Fukuda poured on the offense.
Round 3. Fukuda goes back to work with leg kicks. He mixes in punches and scores a takedown halfway through the round. Cantwell swings up his hips but can't catch Fukuda with anything. Fukuda ends up in side control. Cantwell is able to get back up but Fukuda pushes with big kicks to the body and punches to the head. Cantwell is just hanging on as the fight concludes. 10-8 Fukuda, 30-26 Fukuda. Tremendous performance by Fukuda.
Winner: Riki Fukuda, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Kid Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
Yamamoto was once considered one of the sport's elite pound-for-pound fighters but he has struggled mightily in recent fights and looks to be a shell of his former self. Lee is a lightly regarded English fighter and Yamamoto needs to win to stay in the UFC.
Round 1. Yamamoto showcases his footwork early on and lands the first punch of the fight a minute in. Lee clinches but Yamamoto pushes him off. Yamamoto lands a nice hook but he slips and Lee has him down briefly. Yamamoto gets back up. Yamamoto lands a hard right hook and looks to finish with punches. Lee blocks well so Yamamoto mixes in some knees to the body. Lee is able to get out of deep trouble and connects with a flying knee. Lee lands a nice hook and wobbles Yamamoto with another punch. Yamamoto goes for a desperation takedown and Lee immediately locks in a triangle choke. He switches to an armbar and Yamamoto taps.
Winner: Vaughan Lee, submission, round 1.
Takanori Gomi vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
Takanori Gomi is one of the top lightweight fighters of all time, dominating that division in Pride with knockout striking and solid defensive wrestling. However, his career has been on the decline in recent years. Mitsuoka is a late replacement, a competent veteran Japanese fighter.
Round 1. Gomi comes out with a weird posture, sticking out his chin with his hands low. Mitsuoka is able to land a few nice punches to the head. A left hook is the best of the bunch. Mitsuoka goes for a takedown. Gomi blocks it and lands three strong knees to the body. Mitsuoka goes back to the hooks that connect well. Mitsuoka keeps landing punches to the head while Gomi winds up with telegraphed punches that miss. Mitsuoka drops Gomi with a counter right hook and tries to finish the fight with a mounted triangle choke. Gomi barely survives the round. 10-8 Mitsuoka.
Round 2. Gomi charges forward with punches, again sticking out his chin and throwing bombs. He lands big knees punches on a tired Mitsuoka. Mitsuoka goes for a takedown but can't get it. Gomi gets his back and throws down repeated punches until the fight is stopped.
Winner: Takanori Gomi, TKO, round 2.
Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon
Pettis was the final WEC lightweight champion, best known for his spectacular "showtime kick" springboarding off the Octagon against Ben Henderson. Lauzon is a dangerous fighter in his own right with an excellent submission game and punching power.
Round 1. Pettis throws a head kick at the start. Lauzon blocks it and lands a few straight punches. Pettis circles out when Lauzon goes for additional punches. Pettis scores with a beautiful head kick and follows with punches on the ground for the knockout. Awesome finish.
Winner: Anthony Pettis, KO, round 1.
Bart Palaszewski vs. Hatsu Hioki
Palaszewski is a big featherweight whose game is predicated mostly on power striking. Hioki is a potential title contender with a balanced and well rounded game. Hioki had a tough UFC debut against George Roop but pulled out a decision win.
Round 1. Hioki drops Bart early with a straight punch. Bart seems fine and they trade kicks. Hioki grabs a single leg and looks for a takedown but Bart grabs a guillotine in the process. Hioki is able to avoid danger and he quickly passes guard. Hioki tries to get a crucifix but Bart is able to avoid that. Hioki throws a series of punches to the head from side position. Bart tries to roll out. Hioki looks to grab Bart's back and then looks for an armbar. Bart barely manages to roll out of danger. Hioki switches to an omoplata and uses that to gain top position. Hioki drops down a few elbows from the top. Hioki keeps throwing down punches as the round runs out. Very exciting groundwork in the first round. 10-8 Hioki.
Round 2. Bart lands a few nice punches early. Hioki connects with a high kick. Hioki then snaps Bart's head back with a jab. Bart throws a few leg kicks. Hioki throws another high kick but this one sails over the head of Bart. Bart continues working with leg kicks. Hioki throws back a few of his own. Bart lands a few straight punches and defends a takedown attempt at the close of the round. Close round. 10-9 Palaszewski.
Round 3. Hioki scores a takedown and Bart barely tries to hold onto half guard. Hioki works his way into side control. Hioki looks to mount but ends up back in half guard. Hioki fights his way back into side control and tries to lock up a crucifix. Hioki drops a series of elbows in the process. Bart tries to roll out and Hioki takes his back. Hioki looks for a rear naked choke but Bart defends without much difficulty. Hioki keeps back control and continues to look for a rear naked choke. Bart is able to defend for the remainder of the round. 10-8 Hioki, 29-26 Hioki.
Winner: Hatsu Hioki, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
Okami is an excellent wrestler and is coming off a failed attempt to wrest the UFC middleweight title from longtime champion Anderson Silva. Boetsch is another fighter who relies heavily on wrestling.
Round 1. Boetsch lands a couple of nice straight punches early. Okami begins to establish his jab, and as he starts landing jabs Boetsch struggles to get the proper distance. Okami continues to land solid straight punches and is making up Boetsch's face. Boetsch will charge forward with punches and Okami just ducks out of the way and goes back to work. Okami lands a good knee to the body. 10-9 Okami.
Round 2. Okami goes back to work with jabs. He lands another hard knee to the body and looks for a takedown attempt. Boetsch grabs a guillotine choke in the process but Boetsch only has half guard. Boetsch eventually gives up the choke and Okami lands some light punches from the top while trying to set up an arm triangle choke. Okami gives up and looks for a kimura. Okami releases that but works into mount in the process. Okai lands a series of punches from mount as the round ends. 10-8 Okami.
Round 3. Boetsch rocks Okami with a couple punches and moves in for the finish. He pushes Okami against the cage, drops him with a pair of uppercuts, and finishes Okami with punches on the ground. Nice comeback by Boetsch.
Winner: Tim Boetsch, TKO, round 3.
Jake Shields vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Shields is an elite welterweight fighter, but is coming off a pair of losses to champion Georges St. Pierre and Jake Ellenberger. Akiyama is the biggest star on this show to the Japanese audience, a hated villain in Japan. He is fighting at welterweight for the first time.
Round 1. Shields lands a couple straight punches early but gets caught with a counter in the process. Akiyama blocks the first two takedown attempts. Shields lands a couple kicks to the body but they don't connect with impact. Akiyama throws a heavy uppercut that lands. Shields charges forward with another takedown attempt. Shields grabs Akiyama's back on the feet but Akiyama gets out. Akiyama uses a beautiful trip takedown. Shields gets up and the round concludes. Close round. Shields landed more but Akiyama landed harder and blocked the takedowns. 10-9 Akiyama.
Round 2. Akiyama lands a nice power right hand early. He looks for another trip but can't get it. Akiyama lands a spinning backfist and brushes off another takedown attempt. Akiyama lands a nice right cross and easily blocks another Shields takedown. Shields continues throwing leg kicks but without any power. Akiyama lands a beautiful judo throw. Shields gets back up. Akiyama blocks another takedown attempt at the end of the round. 10-9 Akiyama.
Round 3. Akiyama throws a head kick at the start of the round and they trade punches. Akiyama lands a nice uppercut. Akiyama stuffs another takedown attempt. Shields is landing more strikes, but so many of them are exceedingly weak leg kicks while Akiyama throws with power and is controling where the fight takes place. Shields grabs Akiyama's back briefly at the close of the round and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Akiyama defends to close the fight. 10-9 Shields, 29-28 Akiyama.
Winner: Jake Shields, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo
Hunt is a former K1 kickboxer with an elite striking game and has won two fights in a row. Kongo is another kickboxer, but frequently mixes in takedowns as well.
Round 1. Hunt slips early and Kongo uses the opportunity to throw a few punches and clinch. Hunt pushes Kongo against the cage and backs away. Hunt lands a quality right punch while Kongo throws a few leg kicks. Kongo moves in and gets drops with an effortless straight counterpunch. Hunt lands another hard straight punch that stuns Kongo. Kongo tries to run away but Hunt lands a few more punches on the feet and closes the show with a few punches on the ground.
Winner: Mark Hunt, TKO, round 1.
Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
Bader is a former Ultimate Fighter winner and is considered a solid prospect in the sport with very good wrestling and KO power. Jackson is one of the biggest stars in the sport, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who first made his reputation in Japan fighting for Pride. Jacson comes out to the old Pride theme music, which gets a big reaction from the crowd.
Round 1. Bader moves about a lot early. They clinch against the cage and grapple for positioning. They separate. Bader throws a superman punch that does not land. Bader throws a big looping punch that grazes Jackson's head. Bader is throwing a lot more in the way of establishing shots while Jackson principally moves forward without setting up jabs or leg kicks. Bader again clinches and looks for a takedown. He isn't able to make much ground on that and they separate. Bader again shoots but Jackson defends. Bader throws a couple knees to the head from the clinch. Jackson goes for a takedown but it is blocked. 10-9 Bader.
Round 2. Jackson wings a couple haymakers that don't land. They clinch, and Jackson uss a spectacular slam that drops Bader right on his head like Jackson's Pride days. As Bader gets up, Jackson lands a big knee and a few heavy punches. Jackson charges in with a punch but is caught off balance by a takedown. Bader lands punches from the top but doesn't connect with a lot of power. Jackson tries to stand back up but Bader slams him back down. Close round because of Jackson's success early, but Bader was in control a lot longer. 10-9 Bader.
Round 3. They clinch again and Bader presses Jackson against the cage. He can't get a takedown, but after a separation Bader scores a takedown and gets into side control immediately. Jackson eventually works his way back up but Bader slams him back down exactly like the second round. Jackson looks exhausted on the bottom as Bader throws down punches. Bader looks for a kimura as the round ends. 10-9 Bader, 30-27 Bader.
Winner: Ryan Bader, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
UFC Lightweight Title: Frank Edgar vs. Ben Henderson
Edgar is the UFC lightweight champion, a 14-1-1 fighter with no unavenged losses. His speed, striking and wrestling has proved difficult for opponents to deal with. He is coming off a brutal pair of fights against Gray Maynard and there is a question as to what those fights took out of him. Henderson is a slick submission fighter and striker who held the WEC lightweight title and is coming off a pair of great performances against Clay Guida and Jim Miller. This fight has all the makings of an extraordinary contest.
Round 1. Henderson begins peppering the jab. Edgar lands a nice straight punch. Edgar catches a leg kick attempt and uses it to try to land a blow. They clinch, with Edgar throwing Henderson down. But Edgar doesn't appear to want to go to the ground with Henderson. Edgar catches Henderson's kick again but doesn't do anything with it. He then catches two more kicks. On the second he lands an overhand right in answer. Edgar catches a leg kick yet again and takes Henderson down. Henderson gets back up. They clinch and Henderson lands a knee. Edgar lands a nice little short left that Henderson doesn't see coming. Tough round to score. 10-9 Edgar.
Round 2. Edgar catches another leg kick, lands a kick of his own, and lets it go. Edgar catches yet another leg kick and the fighters trade punches from that position. They clinch and Henderson uses a good knee to the head before they break. Henderson moves in with another hard knee, this time to the body. Henderson lands a third knee moments later. Edgar keeps throwing leg kicks. Edgar looks for a takedown and in the process grabs a front headlock. Edgar scrambles to take the back but then lets it go. Edgar lands a nice straight punch. Henderson answers with one of his own moments later. Edgar gets a takedown with a minute left in the round. Edgar drops down some punches with Henderson mostly just defending. As Edgar was getting up, Henderson caught him with a massive upkick. Henderson looked for a choke and landed a few more punches at the close of the round. Blood was squirting everywhere from the middle of Edgar's face. Edgar's nose and eye are a mess. 10-9 Henderson, because of that conclusion.
Round 3. They exchange punches against the cage early. Edgar lands a nice right punch. As Edgar goes for a head kick, Henderson tries to take him down. Henderson is able to secure the takedown halfway through the round. Edgar gets back up to his feet. Edgar lands a nice straight right punch and then moves out of range. Edgar connects with a good left hook moments later. Edgar goes for a takedown with a minute left but it is stuffed. Henderson lands a pair of straight punches and misses a head kick. Edgar takes Henderson down at the close of the round. Another close round. 10-9 Edgar.
Round 4. Henderson lands a nice body kick early and they exchange punches. They clinch and Henderson ducks down with a guillotine choke attempt. Edgar rolls back to neutralize the leverage and escapes the hold. Henderson stands back up. Henderson throws a couple side kicks but they don't land. Henderson throws a hard leg kick that's caught by Edgar. Edgar catches it again moments later but this time eats a knee as they separate. Edgar looks for a judo throw but Henderson defends it. 10-9 Henderson, 38-38 going into the final round.
Round 5. Henderson looks much fresher as the round begins. Edgar lands an overhand right punch and then throws a few leg kicks. Edgar catches another Henderson kick and throws a counter punch and kick. Henderson bloodies Edgar with a punch. Edgar answers with an uppercut moments later. Edgar lands a big left punch that was one of the biggest strikes of the fight. Edgar lands another right punch moments later. They clinch and Edgar tries to grab the back. Henderson connects with a right hook that is his best punch of the round. Edgar drops Henderson with a punch but Henderson is composed and fine. Henderson lands a nice head kick. Edgar unsuccessfully tries a takedown with 30 seconds left. Henderson lands a knee, tries a guillotine, and ends up on top at the close. 10-9 Edgar, 48-47 Edgar.
Winner: Ben Henderson, unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46).