UFC Fight Night 103 Results: Real Winners and Losers from Penn vs. Rodriguez
Everything about UFC Fight Night 103 was awkward.
Its place on the UFC's calendar, two weeks after a massive UFC 207 pay-per-view. Its Sunday night time slot, presumably lined up to accommodate Fox's coverage of the NFL playoffs. Its main event, which pitted an aged legend opposite a hotshot prospect.
This, fittingly, gave a unique crop of "Real Winners" and "Real Losers" for tonight's post-event harvest.
The biggest loser is fairly obvious. BJ Penn's fans were once again led to believe The Prodigy was back in the swing of things and were once again crushed as they remembered there is absolutely, positively no way this is true. The former two-division champion was defeated emphatically by 24-year-old ninja Yair Rodriguez, and once again, old-school aficionados were forced to shed a single tear as one of their favorites met a sad end.
The biggest winner is up for debate but is likely a six-way tie between the victorious fighters on the first half of the event. The preliminary card was chock-full of "loser goes to WSOF" fights, and Cyril Asker, Walt Harris, Nina Ansaroff, Aleksei Oleinik, Joachim Christensen and Tony Martin likely avoided a pink slip by taking a victory.
Who else made the cut? Read on to find out.
Real Winner: MMA Fans' Ears
The MMA world got its first taste of the post-Mike Goldberg UFC and, well...it was great. That isn't so much because Goldberg is gone, mind you, but because the UFC seems to be committing to Daniel Cormier as a color commentator.
The UFC light heavyweight champ and frequent Fox Sports desk analyst sat alongside Jon Anik for the entire UFC Fight Night 103 event. While DC has done play-by-play twice before—most notably serving as guest commentator for UFC 197's Jon Jones vs. Ovince Saint Preux fight—this was his first time working a full card, and he sounded right at home, from the prelims to the headliner.
Early indication is that this is part of the new norm for the UFC. According to Jason Floyd of the MMA Report (and confirmed by UFC producer Zach Candito), UFC 208 will feature a three-man desk including Cormier, Anik and longtime commentator Joe Rogan.
That, in all likelihood, is a good thing.
Real Winner: Big Tickets
Walt Harris desperately needed a win entering UFC Fight Night 103. Coming off a stinker of a loss to Shamil Abdurakhimov and owning a 2-4 UFC record, the Big Ticket couldn't absorb another "L" and hope to remain on the UFC roster. He needed a big win at UFC Fight Night 103...and boy, did he get it.
Facing Chase Sherman, Harris posted what was easily the best performance of his UFC career. After a strong first round, Harris began opening up and, before long, landed a devastating four-strike combination. Sherman was knocked out cold before he hit the mat, and two more punches resulted in both a win and the birth of an interesting new talent in the heavyweight division.
Harris has long been a high-upside fighter in the heavyweight division, given his massive frame and raw punching power, but his inability to string together wins has kept him out of the spotlight. If he can post more performances like this, though, he'll climb up the ranks quickly.
Real Winner: The Artist Formerly Known as 'Amanda Nunes' Girlfriend'
The UFC has had several "power couples" over the years. Ronda Rousey and Travis Browne. Miesha Tate and Bryan Caraway. Rose Namajunas and Pat Barry. None of those couples, though, had a hard B-side. That's not the case with Amanda Nunes and Nina Ansaroff or, as they're more commonly known, Amanda Nunes and Amanda Nunes' Girlfriend.
While Nunes has slowly, steadily worked her way from a middling bantamweight to the undisputed champion of the world, Ansaroff largely disappeared from memory because of a combination of injuries and losses. She wouldn't re-emerge until Nunes took the title from Miesha Tate at UFC 200, but, as a 0-2 fighter in one of the UFC's shallowest divisions, there was little to remember her for outside of being the girlfriend to the champ.
That changed Sunday night.
Facing Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, Ansaroff posted a strong, versatile performance in which she flashed skills in every facet of MMA. From beginning to end, she seemed to be a step ahead of Jones-Lybarger, cracking her with counterpunches repeatedly and eating up minutes on the ground with her grappling. She finished the fight in the third round by chopping Jones-Lybarger's legs out from under her with a hard kick and advancing position on the mat until she sunk in a rear-naked choke.
While that won't get her out of Nunes' shadow quite yet, she made that first step toward building her own independent brand. Just as importantly, she showed that all the hype coming out of her camp (and her girlfriend's interviews) was worth listening to.
Real Winner: MMA's Chris Jericho
Aleksei Oleinik is MMA's Man of 1,004 Holds. Coming off a tough loss to Daniel Omielanczuk, the Russian veteran needed a good win to reassert himself at the top of the heavyweight division and boy, did he ever do that.
Facing Viktor Pesta, Oleinik stunned UFC fans by sinking in his signature submission move, the Ezekiel choke, off his back while Pesta sat in mount. The technique, which functionally works like a pair of scissors around the throat, caught fans (and Pesta) by surprise and left the commentators stuttering as they tried to figure out what happened.
For longtime followers of Oleinik, however, this was a familiar sight. With 41 submission wins via 11 different techniques, Oleinik tapouts come frequently and often leave people scratching their heads over how scarf-hold headlocks and inverted armbars work.
While the 39-year-old is fighting on borrowed time, he likely turned a lot of grappling nerds into fans at Fight Night 103.
Real Loser: John Moraga
At one point, John Moraga was a legitimate contender at 125 pounds. How long ago does that feel?
After losing to Demetrious Johnson in 2013, the MMA Lab product carved out a niche as a prospect killer by beating Dustin Ortiz, Willie Gates and Justin Scoggins within a calendar year. A loss to Joseph Benavidez killed much of his momentum, however, and another loss to Matheus Nicolau robbed him of his spot as the division's gatekeeper to the top 10.
Moraga badly, badly needed to beat Sergio Pettis at UFC Fight Night 103 to reclaim that spot...but alas, he did not. After splitting the first two rounds, Moraga fizzled in the third, allowing Pettis to rally and lock up a unanimous decision with the score cards reading 29-28, 29-28, 30-27.
Now riding a three-fight losing streak, he likely faces a pink slip from the UFC. The promotion is historically willing to cut flyweights, even up-and-coming ones, as soon as they hit the skids (see: Tim Elliott), and Moraga has had a tough go of it in the last year.
That's a shame, since he has delivered some impressive stoppages during his UFC career and likely remains an above-average flyweight. Hopefully he gets another chance in the Octagon.
Real Winner: Honesty
UFC fighters are often completely separated from reality. That's par for the course in professional athletics, of course. In the same way a Joe Flacco can trick himself into believing he's a Tom Brady, UFC fighters can make themselves believe they won a fight, no matter how untrue it is.
That made Joe Lauzon's reaction to his controversial decision win over Marcin Held a refreshing one. After being outworked and outpositioned for most of the 15 minutes, Lauzon was handed a gift-wrapped split decision by the judges, to the tune of 29-28, 27-30, 29-28.
Fighters have offered absurd defenses of their victories after even more egregious mistakes. Heck, Royce Gracie denied hitting Ken Shamrock in the groin at Bellator 149 while watching footage of himself doing so.
But Lauzon's not that kind of dude.
When announcer Jon Anik asked him for his thoughts on the fight, Lauzon offered a one-of-a-kind rejection of the decision. "I didn’t think I won the fight," he said. "I thought I had the first round but then I thought he took the second and third. The second could’ve been what they gave to me, but I did not think that I won at all. It was 100 percent him."
He may not have won the fight. But even 10 years deep into his UFC career, Lauzon continues winning over fights.
Real Loser: My Feelings
"Ugh. I trained myself to forget about BJ Penn's third fight with Frankie Edgar. Now I'm going to have to train myself to forget about this one, too. Rodriguez wins this with saddening ease."
That was me, Steven Rondina, on the Bleacher Report Staff Predictions for UFC Fight Night 103.
"Man, seeing this promo package for BJ Penn...I've gotta say it's getting me pretty hyped for him fighting tonight."
And that was me on Twitter, shortly after seeing a trailer for Penn's fight opposite Yair Rodriguez during the early prelims. Few fighters are as good as Penn when it comes to making fans believe in him, and for a few hours there, I bought into the resurrection of the Prodigy.
Then the glove touch came. Then the first punches were thrown. And just like that, reality returned.
As soon as the two started moving, the difference between the 24-year-old super-prospect and the 38-year-old that hasn't won a fight since 2010 became clear. Penn, despite looking better technically than when he faced Edgar in 2014, was markedly slower than his younger opponent.
Rodriguez began landing punches. Then kicks. Then whatever he wanted. After a minute of action, it was clear the fight was going to end badly for Penn and, sadly, the finish came at 0:24 of Round 2.
And so, fans get their latest taste of the sad endings that are all too common in MMA, and the UFC in particular. Penn, MMA legend, former two-division champion and pioneer for lightweight fighters, finished his career with a devastating loss on an off-night card on Fox Sports 1.
That's really, really bad. And the only thing worse would be if he came back again.
Main Card on Fox Sports 1
- Yair Rodriguez def. BJ Penn, TKO (Round 2, 0:24)
- Joe Lauzon def. Marcin Held, split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ben Saunders def. Court McGee, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Sergio Pettis def. John Moraga, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Prelims on Fox Sports 1
- Drakkar Klose def. Devin Powell, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Augusto Mendes def. Frankie Saenz, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Aleksei Oleinik def. Viktor Pesta, submission (Round 1, 2:57)
- Tony Martin def. Alex White, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Prelims on UFC Fight Pass
- Nina Ansaroff def. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, submission (Round 3, 3:39)
- Walt Harris def. Chase Sherman, knockout (Round 2, 2:41)
- Joachim Christensen def. Bojan Mihajlovic, TKO (Round 3, 2:05)
- Cyril Asker def. Dmitrii Smoliakov, TKO (Round 1, 2:41)