- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Benson Henderson’s first year in the UFC was 2011, but you might say the former WEC lightweight champion truly arrived in 2012.
Henderson was easily one of the most impressive figures in the Octagon in 2012 and it all started with a 155-pound title fight against reigning champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.
Edgar entered the fight with momentum, having knocked out Gray Maynard in their trilogy fight four months earlier. No one, though, expected a title defense to be any easier against Henderson -- one of the biggest lightweights in the division.
The defending champion fought a tactical first round. Edgar had developed a reputation for taking damage early, then rallying in later rounds. It didn’t happen in Japan, as all three judges scored the first frame 10-9 in his favor.
That time would eventually come, though. Fighting off his back after a late takedown by Edgar in the second round, Henderson landed a brutal upkick under Edgar's nose that would affect him the rest of the fight.
In fact, the defending champion would fail to win a single round after the kick. The elusive boxing style that frustrated BJ Penn and Maynard in previous title fights couldn't do the same to Henderson. While Edgar was never close to being finished in the fight, Henderson ran away with the scorecards: 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.
A theme developed in the fight. It was the same one that showed up in the Maynard fights but it was more evident at UFC 144. Edgar landed with more frequency, but when Henderson connected on his punches it just did ... more. That theme is a big reason we’ll see Edgar fight guys closer to his size in 2013 when he debuts in the featherweight division.