Diego "The Nightmare" Sanchez (21-3) marched towards the Octagon, screaming "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and pumping his fist, but soon realized that he needed much more than just self-motivation and "real-craziness" to beat BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (15-5).
I half-expected Diego to try hit Penn with his patented YES!-cartwheel move, but what the world saw instead was a gifted champion simply outclassing the contender in every aspect of the game.
Also on the co-main event card of UFC 107 held in Memphis, Tennessee, Frank Mir (13-4) backed up his trash talk by finishing dangerous striker Cheick Kongo (14-6) in just over a minute via guillotine choke.
Penn Dominates, Finishes Fight via Cut in 5th Round
Just a minute into the first round of the lightweight championship bout, Penn floored Sanchez with a clean right hook as the Nightmare swarmed in with his chin held up high.
The fight was almost close to being finished as Sanchez consequently ate shots to the side of his head; he miraculously recovered and eventually made it back to his feet.
But it was that one punch that sapped away all the confidence that the challenger had. Sanchez, for the following rounds, looked significantly tentative and rather sluggish. His best attempt to strike came with quirky high kicks, all of which were checked or avoided effortlessly by the champion.
The fight also showcased Penn's already-legendary take-down defense. Sanchez tried at least 10 double or single leg take-downs to the Hilo native, but all of them were defended perfectly by the Prodigy.
After a dominant first round, Penn was en route to an easy unanimous decision win when in the 5th round, he decided to pick up the pace and landed a high kick to Sanchez. The kick opened up a huge gap on Sanchez's forehead; the fight was stopped immediately, and Penn remained the 155 lbs champion of the UFC.
What's Next for the Prodigy?
Commentator Joe Rogan jokingly suggested that the UFC should bring Japanese lightweight submission specialist Shinya Aoki (22-4) to challenge Penn.
He also mentioned fighters such as Gray Maynard (8-0) and Frankie Edgar (11-1), but I don't think they will be tough opponents for the Hawaiian Warrior.
For now, UFC match-maker Joe Silva will be scratching his head, wondering what to do. Penn practically cleaned out his division. He can move up, or even go down to 145 lbs. He can do what ever he wants.
Mir Dominates Kongo Standing and on the Ground
Referee Herb Dean told the two heavyweights to touch gloves, but of course that didn't happen. Kongo was furious at Mir. He wanted to end the reign of "the Big Mouth."
But in the fight game, harboring such negative emotion often works against the fighter. Kongo looked more tentative and jittery than poised and focused. About 30 seconds in, Mir downed the tall striker with a big left hook.
When Kongo tried to improve his position, Mir took Kongo's head and sunk in a tight guillotine choke. For about 10 seconds, Dean watched to see if Kongo was defending properly; then he lifted Kongo's right hand to check if he was conscious or not.
The hand dropped lifelessly; Kongo was out cold. Mir looked near invincible tonight.
The heavyweight submission specialist had underwent several changes in his preparation for this fight.
He parted ways from his old camp Striking Unlimited and reunited with his father. He also went through a rigorous strength-training program; he came to this fight weighing in at almost a full 265 pounds.
What's next for Mir?
A few fighters are already in line for the title shot.
To name a few, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin are all looking to fight Brock Lesnar.
Mir is next in line, but he should win at least one more fight to secure his position as title contender.
And with Lesnar out almost indefinitely due to illness, Carwin versus Mir sounds like an intriguing match up. Dos Santos Junior versus Mir also sounds great; Gabriel Gonzaga was supposed to fight "Cigano" but was injured.
Mir left this fight basically unscathed, so there are many options open for him now.
On the rest of the fight card:
Jon Fitch (21-3) beat Mike Pierce (10-3) via unanimous decision. The former Purdue Wrestling captain took Pierce's back several times and controlled him in the first and second rounds.
Pierce, however, gave a strong showing in the third round, and even had Fitch in trouble with dangerous hooks and uppercuts. Judges gave Fitch a score of 29-28. This was Fitch's 6th straight decision win.
Kenny Florian (12-4) submitted Clay Guida (25-11) in the second round.
Florian took Guida down in the first round and landed some damage; he eventually opened up a serious cut above Guida's left ear. In the second round, Florian floored Guida with a clean right hand and then tapped the dazed opponent out with a rear-naked choke.
Lanky heavyweight Stefan Struve (19-3) gave a rude welcoming to Paul Buentello (27-11)'s return to the UFC, but the Headhunter still gave a valiant effort; he broke a part of Struve's tooth!
Struve, for a man of his size, was quick enough to take Buentello down to the mat and looked for submissions. In the consequent rounds, Struve used his height and reach advantage to work from the outside and score points. He won by majority decision.
In the undercard, home-town native Alan Belcher (15-6) gave an electrifying performance against Wilson Gouveia (12-6), finishing the dangerous striker with hooks and uppercuts in the first round.
Belcher has likely earned his spot on the main card next time.
To conclude, UFC 107 was a great card.
Frank Mir really impressed me tonight, and BJ Penn rightfully deserves his claim as the best 155-pound fighter ever.
Having written an article about a pissed-off and irritated Alan Belcher just a day ago, I was also happy with "The Talent" getting an exciting win.
So long 2009! Rashad Evans versus Thiago Silva, here we come!
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