For the past two years, Frankie Edgar has been the underdog.
Now, heading into his main event bout against Ben Henderson at UFC 144 on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the lightweight champion has finally earned the role of favorite. In the Sherdog MMA Pick’Em fantasy game, 56 percent of players believe “The Answer” will defend his crown against former World Extreme Cagefighting 155-pound champion Henderson.
Edgar captured lightweight gold at UFC 112 by defeating B.J. Penn in a contentious decision. The New Jersey native defeated Penn more decisively at UFC 118, once again in a five-round affair. His two bouts against Gray Maynard were among the most memorable of 2011: the two combatants fought to a draw on New Year’s day, and Edgar avenged the only defeat of his career via knockout at UFC 136.
Henderson has been impressive since losing to Anthony Pettis in the final WEC event in 2010, besting Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida inside the Octagon. The MMA Lab representative went the distance in all three bouts.
Pick’Em participants expect Quinton Jackson to be inspired by his return to Japan, as 83 percent have chosen “Rampage” to defeat Ryan Bader in the co-main event. A former UFC light heavyweight champion, Jackson was defeated by current titleholder Jon Jones via guillotine choke at UFC 135. Prior to that, the Memphis, Tenn., native had won two in a row, topping Lyoto Machida and Matt Hamill.
Bader returned to his winning ways at UFC 139, knocking out Jason Brilz in the first round. The victory stopped a two-fight skid for the Power MMA Team representative, who had fallen to Jones and Tito Ortiz prior to beating Brilz.
Other Sherdog MMA Pick’Em trends for the UFC 144 “Edgar vs. Henderson” main card:
• A solid 77 percent of participants have chosen UFC staple Cheick Kongo to defeat former K-1 standout Mark Hunt in a heavyweight clash. Kongo has defeated Pat Barry and Matt Mitrione in his last two bouts, while Hunt owns victories over Chris Tuchscherer and Ben Rothwell in his last two appearances;
• Jake Shields hopes to end a two-fight losing streak against Yoshihiro Akiyama, and 84 percent of users favor the former Strikeforce champion to do so against the Japanese fan favorite;
• Former middleweight title contender Yushin Okami is an overwhelming favorite to take down Tim Boetsch, as 91 percent of players have picked “Thunder” to win;
• The No. 2 featherweight in Sherdog.com’s world rankings, Hatsu Hioki struggled to a split decision victory over George Roop in his UFC debut. Still, 64 percent of pickers give the longtime Shooto veteran the nod on his home soil against Bart Palaszewski;
• Both Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon are looking to gain ground in the UFC’s crowded lightweight division; 66 percent of players are banking on Pettis to continue his ascent with a win over “J-Lau.”