Fists and kicks flew in flurries and the blood flowed openly last night in Memphis, TN at UFC 107, in what was the biggest and best (in terms of delivery to the hype) event since the landmark UFC 100 from this summer.
We saw good technical MMA fighting and some all-out brawls as well, with the big three fights all finishing before their final bell and a total of 7 of the 11 fights last night ending via stoppage.
This event was exactly what Dana White and the UFC needed lately. UFC's 101-106 all had some good key moments and nice highlight reel material however none of those events were considered a truly great success, which caused some to hypothesize that the UFC had peaked out at 100. That was not the case however, as MMA's greatest lightweight ever took the spotlight showcasing his otherworldly talents with a brutal beating that bloodied and broke Diego Sanchez.
Here's a fight-by-fight analysis of the second best UFC card this year:
Buentello vs Struve (Struve won via majority decision)
The night began with a Heavyweight match up that marked Paul Buentello's return to the Octagon since leaving the organization after UFC 57 in 2006. However, his homecoming would be ruined by Stefan "The Skyscraper" Struve (the freakishly tall guy) and the judges, in what was a somewhat controversial decision. The fight saw Buentello land a few good strikes and a couple knockdowns as well, however Buentello looked a little out of shape and he didn't seem to have the same power as we've once seen him possess.
Struve, on the other hand, showed us some good skills at times, however they were unable to shine due to a poor gameplan. I would have liked to have seen a lot more leg kicks and a few more high kicks, since they seemed to neutralize his opponent and even caused some damage as well. Instead, Struve almost seemed to throw away his reach advantage by closing in and trying to clinch which caused him to eat a few good strikes, including one particular well-aimed haymaker that caught Struve in mid-air as he attempted a flying knee, causing the biggest knockdown of the fight.
But in the end, Struve's striking looked a little better and his control of Buentello on the ground proved to be the deciding factor. I can see how some would feel that Buentello got shafted, but he just never did enough that often to earn the fight. Buentello won't immediately be cut, but if he looks the same next time he most likely should be. Struve though will be accelerated to fight someone he is not yet capable of taking on, thus ending his ride. I would give this fight 2 out of 5 stars.
Kenny Florian vs Clay Guida (Florian won via a bloody rear-naked choke in Round 2)
Clay Guida reminds me of the UPS guy that Phil Lamar played on Mad TV, bouncing side to side like a kid with ADD on crystal meth that has to pee. Guida looked okay, but far from impressive. He drew some blood on Kenflo's forehead but when he tried to take Kenny down he ended up on the bottom himself and got opened up with a bony elbow that caused blood to gush out, bathing Clay's face and causing the ref to call a timeout to check the gash. Located above the ear and under the hair it was in a position that wouldn't immediately threaten his vision so they were allowed to continue. Guida never looked the same and Florian took advantage in the second by catching him with a heavy right that downed Guida before ending the fight with a sick rear-naked choke.
After this, Guida will most likely be demoted to undercard status or he will end up in the Fight Night group with regulars like Diaz, Maynard, Guillard and others. He has always had the pace to make an exciting fight yet he doesn't posses any finishing power or much BJJ skill. Clay Guida is a really cool guy and a fan favorite, but he can't take much more of this before he gets the axe.
Kenny Florian, is a completely different story. I believe that he is once again the number one contender, however he'll have to regain his spot in line for BJ by taking home a couple more impressive victories. I would like to see Kenflo take on Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard or possibly face Diego Sanchez in a rematch of the TUF 1 Finale. 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Jon Fitch vs Mike Pierce (Fitch won via another decision)
Jon Fitch once tied Royce Gracie's UFC-record consecutive win streak with 8 victories in a row before losing to Georges St. Pierre in a five round decision. Lately though, Fitch has seen lesser competition and I think it has dulled his skills a little, because he hasn't looked as impressive in his last 3 wins (including last night), which have all gone to a decision. Fitch showed some good wrestling skills and even had some nice striking on the feet yet he allowed Mike Pierce to remain competitive and even take the second round from him.
Mike Pierce is no slouch and with some work and more experience he could give a lot of welterweights a run for their money. His last fight was against Brock Larson, where he made one of the most underrated fighters in MMA look like an overrated chump. Pierce could have stolen this bout tonight as well, but he fell off a bit later in the fight and Fitch started landing more effective strikes.
Jon Fitch didn't do a lot to secure future title shot plans. He'll have to start finishing people again to surpass his AKA teammate Josh Koscheck or ATT fighter Thiago Alves in the GSP hunt. I'd give this one 3 out of 5 stars.
Frank Mir vs Cheick Kongo (Mir won via guillotine choke in round 1)
Let me start out by saying "WOW!" Frank Mir beat Cheick Kongo's ass! Plain and simple. Frank "Hype-Man" Mir got into Kongo's head with the pre-fight talk, causing Kongo to be a little over aggressive, which led to his demise. Mir crushed his opponent with a vicious overhand left that rocked Kongo onto his backside. Kongo regained awareness, however just momentarily as Mir went right into a guillotine choke. Kongo held on as long as he could without tapping, which forced the ref to come in and check on Cheick by lifting his arm, but that arm fell limp and the fight was called with Kongo remaining totally unconscious for a matter of moments. After that, the Lesnar-Mir III hype began brewing.
From here, Cheick Kongo sure as hell better get to work on the ground with a seasoned jiu-jitsu coach or he will become irrelevant. It's sad that this day in age, in professional MMA that we still see guys that are ridiculously one-dimensional like this. He could be on his way out soon if he does not get to work on his flaws.
For Frank Mir, the outcome probably could not have been any better. He proved his striking is better, as he said it was, by blasting Kongo with a beautiful punch. He also humiliated the Frenchman by submitting him so easily and stealing his consciousness in the process. Next for Mir should be Cain Velasquez if he beats Big Nog or a rematch with Big Nog should the Brazilian edge out a win. Lesnar/Mir III will happen, just hopefully not too soon. Carwin deserves the first shot at a newly healthy Brock with Mir right behind him if he can keep winning. When the rubber match does happen (I am confident all will go according to plan) it will be a huge PPV and possibly break UFC PPV records. 4.5 out of 5 stars!
MAIN EVENT: BJ Penn vs Diego Sanchez (for LW Championship) (Penn won via TKO - Cut Stoppage in round 5)
BJ Penn is the greatest Lightweight in MMA history and may not ever be surpassed. His takedown defense, takedowns, striking and BJJ are easily leagues beyond any other Lightweight in the UFC or anywhere else. Aoki can come close with jiu-jitsu ability, however if that "dream" fight ever happened, I'd expect BJ to annihilate Aoki's face quickly. Sanchez came in as a game opponent and some even picked him to win via a TKO due to his mind power and aggressive style. While Diego may have won the staredown contest, Penn took any other category you could think of.
The fight started with Penn almost KO'ing Sanchez in the initial minute with a hard right. Penn jumped on Sanchez and started to unload, but the power of YUS prevailed and the Tony Robbins-inspired fighter would not allow himself to stay down. Penn continued to assault Diego, leaving "The Nightmare" with a broken nose and a nasty torn (not cut, but torn!) lip before the championship rounds. Penn continued to put on a "clinic" until the end of the fourth when he turned it up and started going crazy. Diego made it out alive again, but Penn made it known that this would not come to a decision. BJ started slapping himself wildly and showing animal-like aggression to which Sanchez responded with some antics of his own. The fight came to a halt at 2 minutes and 37 seconds into the final round as Penn opened up a Marvin Eastman-type gash with a fierce high kick. The wound resembled an agape mouth crying out for help. The ref stepped in and called the fight, giving BJ his third title defense at 155 pounds.
Sanchez should keep his head up. He showed some real perseverance and toughness by never giving up and not losing consciousness. Up next for him should be a bout with someone like Nate Diaz or Joe Stevenson or even a rematch with Kenny Florian.
BJ Penn will not be beaten at Lightweight for awhile, if ever. I do not see anyone (including Shinya Aoki or Eddie Alvarez) defeating The Prodigy. I would give the best shots to Eddie Alvarez or rematches down the road with Sanchez or Kenflo, but I am thinking his next fight may be Maynard or Edgar.
Also with this win, I think BJ has solidified himself as the biggest draw in the UFC besides Brock Lesnar. He is one of the most consistently active champions who has remained injury free and given the people a show every time (besides UFC 94). Any more questions? BJPENN.COM!