Four Tactical Adjustments Showcased In Edgar/Henderson II

Another rematch down in the UFC's lightweight division, another close fight to debate. Leading up to UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado, everyone said that Frankie Edgar is always better in rematches, and he was. But so was Benson Henderson.

Immediate rematches like these are studies in flexibility. The time between the fights is usually short, making dramatic changes to the fighters’ skillset unlikely. Instead, the combatants focus on tactics and tweaking their games accordingly. At the highest level, you either adapt or lose.

The truth is, both fighters adjusted their strategies at UFC 150, and it was an incredibly close contest. Henderson walked away with his title against Frankie Edgar, but they both deserve praise for refining their attacks in the rematch. Here are the four most significant changes from UFC 144 to UFC 150.

[caption id="attachment_252" align="aligncenter" width="407" caption="Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images"][/caption]

Henderson’s low kicks

In his first clash with Edgar in Japan, Henderson was very successful at landing powerful kicks to Edgar’s thighs and midsection. Edgar caught most of them though, and many thought he would try to counter caught kicks with takedowns or punches in the second tilt. But Henderson adjusted.

By kicking lower, toward Edgar’s calf, Henderson made it impossible for Edgar to latch onto the kicks without putting himself off balance. Edgar’s lower leg was red by the end of round one as a result, and several of them were powerful enough to sweep Edgar completely off his feet. Very smart move by the champion.

Edgar’s front headlock positional control

Besides Henderson’s low kick, Edgar’s control of the front headlock position was the most drastic change from the first fight. At UFC 144, Edgar was successful at navigating to Henderson’s back, but he had a hard time controlling the position once he got there. More often than not, Henderson would stand and threaten with a standing kimura, prompting flashbacks of Renzo Gracie’s (Edgar’s coach) brutal loss to Kazushi Sakuraba at Pride 10.

So, in the rematch, Edgar avoided the exchange by committing to the front headlock instead of moving to the back. He stayed heavy on top, stifling Henderson’s ability to retreat to the standing position, and threatened with a couple guillotine choke attempts as well.

Henderson’s constantly changing stance

Henderson comes from a Taekwondo background, which, among other things, emphasizes switching stances often to vary your attacks. He embraced that more than ever in this fight, switching out of his normal southpaw stance to orthodox and side stances regularly. His constantly changing posture allowed him to throw his low kicks, powerful straight jabs, and even an axe kick from varying angles, keeping Edgar guessing.

Edgar’s counters

While Henderson adjusted his kicks to prevent Edgar from catching them, Edgar made a change of his own. He abandoned the catching strategy altogether, blocking or absorbing Benson’s kicks and zapping straight punches down the pipe. He even returned fire with some nice kicks of his own.

Edgar also showed brilliant bodywork in this fight, ducking under Henderson’s winging power punches to dig strikes into “Smooth’s” ribs. This tactic was especially effective in the last three rounds.

Like “Shogun” in his rematch with Machida, or Edgar in his rematch with Penn, or Liddell in his rematch with Couture, both Henderson and Edgar made clear adjustments to their gameplans for their second go-around. Much like the first fight, the verdict was controversial, and the scores were close. However, it is easy to appreciate that both fighters are constantly evolving, and maybe, down the road, they will meet again.

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