With both of these men coming off losses, and neither one looking like a future title contender or anything like that, this was a pivotal fight for both in terms of their future with the UFC. Personally I like both guys and find them both pretty exciting fighters, but then again Iím not managing a roster of well over a hundred fighters at this point. I figured this would be a toss-up and ended up taking Burns via decision. Tale of the tape cracks me up as it reveals Grant to be 25 years old, about a decade younger than his face would suggest. And your referee? Greg Franklin, Richís brother, looking like an older, overweight version of Rich.
We begin and both men press forward, exchanging some strikes before Grant hits a double leg. Burns quickly escapes to his feet and they clinch up and muscle for position before Burns breaks off. Good leg kick from Grant but a counter left hook drops him and Burns pounces, looking for the finish! Grant pivots on the ground and does a good job of defending, and then looks for a half-guard sweep as Burns settles on top. Reversal from Grant and he escapes to his feet, but Burns stuffs a takedown and breaks off. Leg kick from Grant. Double leg from TJ and he pins Burns into the fence, advancing quickly into half-guard. He almost gets full mount but Burns is too close to the cage and manages to keep half-guard. Hip escape from Burns puts him back to full guard, but TJ postures up and drops a couple of solid shots down. Nice pass from TJ into side mount, and he controls Burns and prevents an escape to the feet. Full mount from Grant but Burns escapes to half-guard. It looks like Grantís setting up for an arm triangle, and he almost uses it to mount, but Burns pops out the back door and gets to his feet. Big pop for that one. Leg kick from Grant and he goes for the takedown, but Burns stuffs it and then Grant catches him with an accidental groin kick. Replay shows he was actually looking for a knee, and as he raised his leg the toes caught Burns in the balls. Burns takes his time to recover, and they restart with seconds to go in the round. Flying knee misses for Burns and then Grant grabs the head to deliver some Evan Tanner-esque bicycle knees. Burns breaks...but gets dropped by a BIG RIGHT HOOK and Grant pounces on him and pounds him out! Holy shit, he finished that with like, one second to go in the round.
Post-fight Burns protests the stoppage but the replay shows he was stiff for a moment following the hammer fists on the ground, good refereeing job from Richís brother. Fight was really exciting from start to finish Ė probably the best PPV opener of 2009 off the top of my head actually Ė and itís a pity Zuffa cut Burns afterwards as he nearly always brings the fight. Good win for Grant though and heís definitely got some potential for the future.
This was another fight where the loser was likely to be in trouble in terms of their UFC future, as Johnson had made it to the finals of TUF 9, but then got pretty much tooled by James Wilks at the finale, while WEC import Garcia had lost a close decision to Brad Blackburn on the same card. Garcia had looked powerful, but not all that skilled in that fight, so I figured if Johnson could avoid the big shot this was his fight to lose.
Round One gets underway and Garcia misses with a haymaker right hand instantly. Good straight right to answer from Johnson and he follows with a strong left hook. Garcia looks horribly stiff in the stand-up but he is packing power. Good body shot lands for him. Body kick from Johnson is caught and Garcia takes him down into half-guard. Johnson wriggles into full guard and immediately goes for a sweep, but Garcia manages to stay on top. Johnson stays active from his back and works for a reversal, but he gives up his neck and Garcia goes for a Peruvian necktie! It looks pretty deep and Garcia rolls into top position, but Johnson gives the thumbs up to the referee so clearly itís not as deep as it looks. Garcia ends up releasing and they come back to their feet. They exchange some strikes and Garcia grabs a bodylock to look for a takedown, but this time Johnson stuffs it and they head into the cage. BIG COMBO from Garcia breaks and Johnson looks rocked, but he survives and they high-five and yell at one another! Low kick from Johnson but a BIG RIGHT COUNTER rocks his world and puts him down! Garcia stuffs a single leg and pounds at the head with Johnson on all fours, then continues to bomb away as Damarques rolls onto his back. He leaves himself open though and Damarques cracks him with an upkick, causing him to fall right into a TIGHT TRIANGLE CHOKE! Garcia tries to fight it off, but ends up tapping there. The Salaverry-Riggs finish, nice!
Well, I wasnít a fan of Damarques Johnson on TUF but if he continues to fight like that then he might yet sway me. Awesome fight even if neither guy is going to be contending for the title any time soon. Just total excitement from start to finish, and I donít think anyone would disagree when I say itís better to see guys go balls-out like that rather than fight not to lose.
This was the prelim that interested me the most on this card, as Iím a big mark for Toquinho and in my opinion in terms of style, heís the biggest threat that the UFC has to Anderson Silvaís 185lbs title. This was his first fight since January, following a bit of a layoff with a broken tibia. Linhares had come in from the M-1 promotion of all places, and held a solid record of 13 wins with 4 losses. Still, being a fellow BJJ guy I didnít see this being much of a challenge for Toquinho, and took him by a first round heel hook Ė which like taking Phil Baroni via BRUTAL KNOCKOUT is becoming a habit of mine.
Fight begins and Toquinho quickly throws an overhand right and gets a single leg to the guard. Linhares looks to tie him up as they scramble for position, and Palhares blocks a sweep. Reversal from Linhares allows him to escape to his feet, but Toquinho rolls for an anaconda choke and gets on top as Lucio slips free. Full guard from Linhares now and he goes to a body triangle ala Anderson Silva. Toquinho stacks up to try some ground-and-pound, but Linhares is doing a good job of tying him up here even if he isnít able to put together any offense from the bottom. One good elbow does get through though. Referee Greg Franklin decides to stand them back up, and Toquinho lands with a big right hand and then drops for a heel hook attempt. You can hear Linharesí corner yelling panicked instructions at him as it looks like Toquinhoís got it locked in, but Linahres rolls and manages to slip his foot free! Scramble puts Toquinho on top in the guard again and again he uses the body triangle for control. This time Toquinho stacks him up to escape and drops for another leglock, but Linhares escapes and they end up in a scramble to finish the round. Good opening round.
Round Two begins and Linhares lands with a leg kick. Toquinho looks a little slowed down actually and he misses wildly with a flying knee and ends up on his back. Linhares drops down into half-guard with a punch, but Toquinho quickly powers up and ends up sweeping into top position. He winds up in a triangle though and it looks deep! Toquinho uses sheer muscle and power to escape though, and they end up in a weird position where Palhares looks to be isolating a leg. Linhares manages to escape that and gets top position, where Toquinho hits him with a couple of hammer fists from the bottom. Toquinho looks exhausted now as Linhares moves from half-guard into full mount, but Palhares escapes out the back door and winds up on top, where he quickly passes into side mount. Linhares traps a leg and so the action slows enough for Greg Franklin to restart them standing, and Linhares lands a leg kick before dropping for an oma plata attempt as Toquinho shoots. Toquinho works free though, and this time he drops back and locks in a tight heel hook, and literally a second later Linhares verbally taps.
Crowd boo the finish as I donít think they caught the tapout, but the replay shows the heel hook looked pretty nasty and Linharesí knee mightíve popped in fact. Heís limping after the fight at any rate. Very fun grappling-based fight, and it pretty much went how I expected as both men are great grapplers, but Toquinho is the better of the two. He did gas out a little here, but thatís to be expected when youíre coming off the shelf with a broken leg. Solid return performance from him and I think he breaks into the top ten this year.
This was another fight that interested me a lot, mainly because I think Johny Hendricks has the potential to be a bonafide future title contender. Stud wrestler, hits like a truck if you go by the Amir Sadollah fight, and apparently heís an accomplished grappler too. Opponent Funch was fighting out of Gabriel Gonzagaís camp (Team Link) and held his own unbeaten record, but I didnít think he had the overall skills to take out Hendricks in this one. Side note, but Funch has possibly the coolest (or most bizarre) haircut in UFC history, with tons of tiny braids tied up with rubber bands.
We get started and Funch opens with a leg kick, but Hendricks fires back with a flurry and goes for a takedown. Funch works to defend it, using some elbow strikes, and then he surprisingly spins around on Hendricks and looks for a takedown of his own. Hendricks defends it but Funch manages to get him down, but right away Hendricks gets back to his feet inside the clinch. Hendricks works for a takedown of his own now and manoeuvres to take the back, but Funch avoids and they exchange some knees to the body. Good uppercuts inside the clinch from Hendricks, channelling Randy Couture, and he follows by changing levels and dropping Funch with a slam. He works into half-guard quickly and then postures up to drop some punches, before Funch pushes away and escapes to his feet. Good leg kick from Hendricks and he follows by grabbing the head for some more nasty dirty boxing. Hendricks is awesome in the clinch. Some hard knees follow and then he breaks with a combo before sprawling to avoid a takedown. Guillotine attempt from Hendricks but Funch works to pop his head free and Hendricks spins to look to take the back as they stand. Hendricks winds up on top in half-guard and looks like he might be prepping a DíArce, before dropping back for an arm-in guillotine instead. Funch avoids it though and the round ends with Hendricks holding a front facelock. 10-9 Hendricks.
Second round and Hendricks opens with a quick flurry and closes the distance, dropping for a takedown. Funch looks to lock up a kimura, but Hendricks opens up with some punches and then gets a big slam into side mount. Funch uses a hip escape to get back to half-guard, but Hendricks almost gets full mount before choosing instead to stand. Head kick from Funch misses and Hendricks fires back with a pair of leg kicks before avoiding a flurry. Takedown attempt from Funch but Hendricks sprawls out and then lands some heavy knees to the head as Funch stands. VICIOUS knees from Hendricks in the clinch and then he drops for a takedown and just rips Funchís legs from under him, planting him against the fence. Funch kicks him off and then Hendricks allows him up. They exchange kicks and Hendricks follows with a flurry, to which Funch drops for a takedown. He canít get Johny off his feet though and Hendricks hits a switch and then pounds on the head with his elbows. Hendricks switches out to the side and continues to land shots, then hits a big knee as Funch stands. Funch looks for the standing kimura again but Hendricks single legs him down, and then takes the back with both hooks. Hendricks works for the rear naked choke and then just lands some punches, flattening him out, but time runs out in the round before he can finish the deal. 10-9 Hendricks in a dominant round.
Third and final round and Hendricks shows some head movement to avoid the early punches before getting an easy takedown, where he pounds away at Funch. Hendricks takes the back again and gets the hooks in, punching at the head while working to flatten him out. Funch stands to try to shake Johny off, and indeed Hendricks steps out, and eats a kick. Combo from Hendricks puts Funch on the back foot again though and he easily avoids another takedown and then locks in a half-nelson, which is pretty rare. Hammer fists from Hendricks in that position and then as Funch stands, Hendricks lands with a knee and some more hard uppercuts and body shots. Funch tries the standing kimura again, but Hendricks drops for a single leg and then drags him down into side mount. Grinding elbows from Hendricks and Funch tries an odd reverse keylock from the bottom, but thatís never going to work and Hendricks tries a keylock of his own. He canít finish it off though and Funch rolls through to his feet. More knees from Hendricks from a front facelock position, then he lands an uppercut and drops for the takedown again. This time he lifts him up and simply dumps him off to the side, ala John Cenaís FU! Awesome. Seconds to go and Hendricks passes into side mount and pounds away to finish the fight.
Iíve got this a pretty easy shutout for Johny Hendricks. Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25, all for Hendricks. Funch showed some toughness and heart, but he was never able to deal with the wrestling skill of Hendricks and because of that advantage, Hendricks was able to dictate where the fight went and pretty much beat Funch up, using some great clinch work in particular. With his wrestling base and what seems to be an ever-improving striking game, this guy is going to be horribly tough to beat as he gets more experience. In my opinion Hendricks is a total stud and by the end of 2010 heíll probably be looked at as being in the very upper echelon at 170lbs. Entertaining fight too as Hendricks was so active throughout.
Another close fight on paper, this featured two TUF alumni who had seen mixed fortunes in the Octagon since their reality stint. As Wiman was naturally a bigger guy though and Nelson had struggled greatly with Aaron Rileyís size in their fight, I took Wiman either by decision or late submission after wearing Nelson down.
Fight begins and they exchange some feeler strikes to begin before Wiman claims a poke in the eye and referee Mario Yamasaki calls time. Very quick restart and they continue the exchange with Wiman throwing out tons of feints. Nice right hand from Wiman as he pushes forward but Shane comes back with a hard combo that stuns the TUF V veteran. Takedown attempt from Nelson but Wiman stuffs it and breaks off. They trade some more punches, this time neither man really gaining the advantage. Clinch attempt broken by Nelson. Wiman closes in with a left hook and then forces Nelson back into the fence, where Nelson blocks a takedown. They break off and now Wiman opens up with some better strikes, then shrugs off a takedown attempt. Good pair of elbows inside from Wiman and then he CRACKS Nelson with a big right hand and an uppercut! Nelson drops to guard to try to recover, and manages to tie up Wimanís arms to slow the action down. Wiman does get a few elbows through though, and they come to their feet and Nelsonís got a bad cut on his forehead. He looks wobbly too but the round ends with the Hawaiian coming back with a combo of his own. Started slow but ended up being a fun round, Iím giving it to Matt Wiman, 10-9.
Round Two and Wiman opens with a hard leg kick. Nelson tries to fire back but his flurry doesnít really land. Body punch from Wiman. Wiman pushes forward and hits him with a left head kick, but Nelson manages to get hold of him and take him down to full guard. Nelson doesnít do much from the top though, with Wiman doing a good job of keeping full guard from the bottom. Ref calls the stand-up and Wiman pushes forward, landing a flying knee before stunning Nelson with a right hand. Combo to answer from Nelson but he doesnít seem to be packing as much power as Wiman. Another combo stuns Nelson and Wiman follows with a single leg, but Nelson does a good job on defense. Wiman gets him down though, shrugging off a triangle attempt on the way into the guard. Nelson ties him up but Wiman still manages to land some hammer fists and elbows, then passes into half-guard where Nelson spins for a heel hook. It actually looks like Wimanís in trouble for a second, but he manages to free himself and finishes the round by landing elbows from top position. 10-9 Wiman again.
Third and final round and Wiman blocks a high kick. Wiman pushes forward and lands a big kick to the body, but Mario Yamasaki quickly steps in and the replay shows it landed to the groin instead. Ouch. They restart and exchange some combos with neither man really doing much damage, but Wiman gets the best of it before hitting a takedown to guard. Wiman lets him up and Shane goes for a takedown of his own, but Wiman stuffs it and takes a combo for his troubles. Nelson lands some more shots, but he canít seem to hurt Wiman and ends up being taken down again. Hammer fists from Wiman and he works into half-guard, where he looks to force his way into full mount. Scramble and Nelson goes for a leglock again, but Wiman spins his way out and takes the back with both hooks in. Nelson manages to shake one hook off, but Wiman slaps it back in and gets a body triangle. Nelson defends the rear naked choke, and so Wiman just punches away to end the round.
Judges all score it 30-27 for Matt Wiman in a total shutout victory, as like I expected, he was able to use his size to bully Nelson around for the most part and even when the Hawaiian did land strikes, he never really managed to hurt his opponent. Decent showing from Wiman but it wasnít the most entertaining fight really, not that it was bad or anything.
Word coming into this one was that Belcher was pretty pissed off about not being on the televised card, which is a bit understandable given he grew up near the area and heíd had the Fight of the Night at UFC 100 and had choked out Denis Kang in his one before that, while opponent Gouveia had been in the semi-main event for his last fight. Still, the card was really loaded so someone had to miss out I guess. In a controversial note, Gouveia missed weight badly coming in and the fight had to be changed to a 195lbs Catchweight bout. Hate it when guys do that as itís totally unprofessional in my opinion.
First round gets underway and the first thing I notice is Belcherís rocking the cornrows. WORD. And bright pink trunks, too. Belcher pushes forward as Gouveia circles around on the outside, and the Talent narrowly misses an overhand right early on. Gouveia throws out some jabs, but Belcher keeps walking him down even if he hasnít landed anything major yet. Good right hand finally catches the Brazilian but Gouveia fires right back with a flurry. They trade of with some combos with Gouveia landing the best of it. Belcher backs out and then comes forward again, and these dudes are just trading bombs now. Big combo from Gouveia but Belcher answers right back and now he looks like heís got Gouveia hurt! Awesome exchange. They continue to swing and swing HARD, and holy shit this is entertaining. Big left from Belcher but Gouveia fires right back, but Belcher answers that with a crisp combination, dropping Gouveia with a short right uppercut for the finish.
Huge victory for Alan Belcher in a tremendously entertaining fight. I mean, these guys came in and just exchanged with no fear, and it was pretty obvious that one guy was going out on his sword. Belcher looked to be in the best shape of his life for this one though and was clearly fired up, and it showed in the way he took over the fight to win. Post-fight Belcher says he can see people he grew up with in the crowd, and promises heíll break into title contention in 2010. Not sure about that but heís definitely becoming one to watch now and if he can string a number of wins together (as heís always been like, win two, lose one thus far) then you never know.
Former UFC title challenger Buentello (man, how long ago does THAT seem now?) had returned to the fold following Afflictionís collapse in the summer, and originally he was set to face hot newcomer Todd Duffee here, but Todd ended up injuring his back and was forced out, and so the lanky Dutchman Struve, coming off two successive wins, stepped in on short notice. While I wouldíve picked Duffee to demolish Buentello (Iím high on Duffee and wonít be picking anyone save for the very top guys against him) I thought the Headhunter had a little too much experience for Struve and would be able to pick him apart standing.
We begin and Struve opens up with a low kick. Buentello wades in with some punches, swinging directly for the head as his nickname would suggest, but Struve avoids them for the most part. Body kick from Struve but Buentello catches it and tries to punch, so Struve jumps to guard in the old koala position. Good uppercut from Struve on the way out and he forces Buentello into the fence and trips him down directly into full mount. Buentello gives his back and Struve locks up a body triangle, and it looks like heís going for a camel clutch at one point, weird as hell. Rear naked choke attempt follows and then he just lands punches while controlling him with the body triangle. Camel clutch again, no idea what heís going for there, but heís tooling Buentello on the ground here. More punches from the Dutchman and Buentello is doing nothing but turtling him up. Struve goes for a choke now underneath the arm, never seen that before either, but Buentello is breathing really heavily. Choke looks locked in correctly now, but Buentello does a solid job of defending it by tucking his chin. Struve tries the gable-grip style choke, but he still canít get it locked up and the crowd are getting a little restless now too. No idea why Ė the guy is trying to finish the fight. Finally with about thirty seconds to go Buentello scrambles free, ending up in Struveís guard. Excellent job at surviving done there. Round ends though with Struve landing elbows from his back. Iím actually going 10-8 there as Buentello pretty much did nothing while Struve totally dominated.
Into the 2nd and Struve looks to set up a kick, but walks into a solid right hand from Buentello. Struve tries to jump in with something, but eats another right and goes down, and Buentello tries to land over the top before waving him back up. Body kick and long right hand from Struve. Struve comes stalking forward into a clinch, where they muscle for position with Buentello landing a couple of short uppercuts inside. Struve tries to jump into the koala again and then drops for a leglock, but he canít quite isolate it and Buentello manages to work his way free. Right hand from Buentello lands cleanly as they come back up. High kick from Struve misses. Right hand from Buentello and they exchange into another clinch. Big uppercuts land for both men before Struve backs out and leaps in with a flying knee....right into a BIG RIGHT HAND from Buentello that folds him! Buentello refuses to follow him down though and waves him back up, and somehow Struve doesnít look all that wobbly! Buentello pushes forward with some punches, but then slows down a big and now theyíre trading pretty wildly! Struve clinches and looks for the takedown again before another exchange follows, just swinging crazy punches at each other with both men landing! Crowd are going bananas for this. Good body shot from Buentello but Struve fires right back, snapping his head back with a combo before Buentello answers and does the same! Struve starts grinning now and they touch fists before exchanging again! Good lord. Both men look exhausted now though and clinch up against the cage. Uppercut from Struve breaks but Buentello smacks him with another combo to finish the round. Crazy stuff there. Iíd probably go with Buentello for the knockdown, but it was close. 19-18 to Struve going into the third.
Round Three now but before they can begin they have to remove some teeth from Struveís mouthpiece! Holy fuck. Buentello pushes forward to open, but just dodges a knee and takes a long right hand. Leg kick from Struve. Few more leg kicks land to good effect from the Dutchman. Buentello looks out of gas to me and heís reduced to just swinging the big right hand. Into the clinch where Struve cracks him with a couple of elbows to break. Buentello is still pushing forward here. More leg kicks from Struve and they seem to be taking their toll as Buentello is walking really stiff here. Another leg kick lands as Buentello stalks forward. Buentello looks done to me. With seconds to go Buentello manages to land a right hand that knocks Struve down, but it looks more like he was off balance to me and he comes back up and lands another leg kick quickly. Left hand lands for Buentello and he keeps swinging, but Struve fires right back and the fight ends there. I have this 29-27 for Stefan Struve.
Judges score it a majority decision for Stefan Struve, 29-28, 29-28 and 28-28. Really good win for him given how Buentello was a longtime veteran and outside of Junior Dos Santos, by far Struveís toughest opponent, and Struve was able to use both his ground game and his ridiculous reach to handle him for the most part despite having a few sticky moments in there. Not the best return for Buentello but heís never been a technically great fighter, and to be fair this was a hell of a brawl when all was said and done.
For me, this was the toughest fight to pick on the card as while Guida isnít the best pure wrestler in the division, heís so relentless with his pressure that heís perhaps the hardest guy to stop from taking you down, and while Florian had shown to be a great striker and excellent on the ground from top position, heíd shown some weaknesses from his back. However Ė and this was out of the ordinary for me as I never pick Kenflo Ė I thought that while Guidaís pace would test Kenny, in the end it would come down to the fact that Florianís become great at capitalizing on one mistake, and figured that the one mistake Guida would make would end up with him in a submission.
Round One gets underway and Kenny takes the center of the cage as Guida circles around. Counter left lands for Florian as he keeps a low stance and then catches Clay with another left. Florian looks to work his jab, but gets caught with an uppercut as Guida steps in. Head kick attempt is caught and Guida takes him down and gets on top with Kenny using a butterfly guard. Good control from Kenny prevents Guida from doing any damage and then he kicks Clay off and gets to his feet. Good combo from Kenny but Guida keeps pushing forward. Crowd begin to chant for Guida but Florianís landing the better shots standing here. Guida continues to chase forward but heís eating some counters. Single leg attempt from Florian and he gets Guida down for a second, but then they pop right back up. Takedown attempt from Guida now but Florian does a good job of sprawling back to avoid it, and he blocks a throw and winds up on top in side mount. Guida manages to spin out and pop up, but a knee from Florian opens a nasty cut on the forehead and he follows by closing the distance and slamming Clay! Guida wall-walks up, but eats some big elbows on the way up that open the cut further and heís a bloody mess now. Ref calls time to check the cut but itís not as bad as it seems and they restart. Crowd chant for Guida again as Kenny lands a couple of jabs to end the round. 10-9 Florian in what was quite a close round until the last minute or so.
Second round and Guida looks to push the pace right away, chasing Kenny down, but Florian begins to establish the jab to keep his distance. Takedown attempt from Guida but Florian shows good defense and sprawls out to avoid. Kenny begins to land some more punches from the outside as the cut is reopen and Guidaís face is covered in blood again. Guida continues to push forward, but heís not landing anything significant and he walks right into a BIG ONE-TWO that drops him face-first! Florian pounces immediately, taking the back with a couple of punches before SLAPPING ON THE CHOKE! Kenny actually puts his hooks in after securing it, and thatís all she wrote as Clay taps out.
Hugely impressive performance from Kenny Florian as I expected him to have some problems with Guida and yet for the most part, he outclassed him on the feet and never really let him get into the fight. Counter that dropped Clay was a thing of beauty and just goes to show how far Florianís boxing has come along over the past year or so. Iím not a big fan of Florian for some reason Ė something about him just rubs me the wrong way Ė but this was the first time I really saw him as a true top-three level guy in the division and I donít think many people would deny that now.
This was originally supposed to see Fitch face Thiago Alves in a rematch of their 2006 fight Ė the second time that fight had been scheduled in 2009 Ė but Alves ended up being sidelined by a knee injury and Pierce stepped in to take his place. Pierce had come into the UFC in September from the WEC and made an instant impact, beating Brock Larson in quite an upset. That win hadnít exactly been promising though as heíd mainly used lay-and-pray tactics to do it, and with Fitch being a far superior wrestler the chances of him pulling that trick again here were somewhere between slim and none. I picked Fitch by submission here, giving him his first finish since he choked out Roan Carneiro in June 2007.
We begin and they meet in the center of the cage and exchange some strikes that donít really land. Pierce throws a kick, but Fitch catches it and gets a takedown before grabbing a rear waistlock as he stands. Pierce looks calm, but Fitch drags him down and gets one hook in, then looks to get the second. Second hook in and Fitch hops up onto the back, landing some punches to soften him up for a choke attempt. Pierce drops to one knee but his base seems pretty solid and he doesnít really look to be in deep trouble. Crowd begin to boo but thereís no way Mario Yamasaki restarts them when Fitch has a dominant position like this. Pierce drops right down and Fitch loses the hooks, allowing Pierce to stand and elevate Fitch for a takedown of his own. Fitch gets a butterfly guard in and looks to escape out, wall-walking to his feet using the fence. They muscle for position in the clinch before Yamasaki separates them, and Fitch catches Pierce with a left hook as he steps in. They exchange some punches and kicks with Fitch pushing forward, but Pierce lands a decent right hook too. Round ends with Pierce blocking a takedown attempt. 10-9 for Fitch.
Into the 2nd and Fitch opens with a nice low kick. Pierce is swinging some really heavy punches here but he hasnít connected yet. Clinch and Pierce muscles him into the cage and looks for a takedown, but Fitch blocks it and takes some knees to the thighs for his troubles. They break off and exchange some jabs, with Fitch throwing some kicks and knees too. Leg kick from Pierce is caught and Fitch takes him down and gets the back again with an over/under, but he doesnít have the hooks in this time and Pierce fights up to his feet. Pierce escapes into the clinch before Fitch breaks off. They exchange some more punches and Pierce lands a few good shots actually, but Fitch doesnít really look troubled by any of it and then he hits a single leg and takes the back again. No hooks like before, but he lands some knees to the body and tries to suplex Pierce down. Pierce manages to turn into the clinch, but takes a knee to the gut as they muscle along the cage. Right hand for Fitch breaks and they trade some flurries to end the round. Close round but itís probably Fitchís again, 10-9.
Third and final round and Pierce really comes out swinging, but he eats a body kick and a knee to the face. Takedown attempt from Fitch is stuffed, and the striking exchange continues with Pierce pushing forward but not really landing cleanly. They clinch up and muscle for position with Fitch landing a good elbow and some knees to the body. They separate and Pierce throws some more punches, then looks for a takedown. Fitch works to defend it and Pierce goes with a combo to the body then breaks with a nice left hook. Back to the striking exchange and Fitch lands with a glancing head kick. Good uppercut from Fitch and he gets a takedown, but Pierce looks to muscle to his feet and lands some hammer fists to the body in the process. Fitch takes the back again but canít get the hooks in, and Pierce spins free. About a minute to go now and they exchange some more strikes, with Fitch landing a nice knee. Combo from Pierce wobbles him though, and now Fitch looks like heís holding on to survive! Good punches from Pierce and Fitch is really on the retreat now, but thereís just not enough time and the round ends there. I have this 30-27, shutout for Jon Fitch.
Unanimous decision for Jon Fitch, 29-28 all around. This was another frustrating performance from him though as since the GSP loss it just seems like he isnít willing to take any chances any more and just wants to make sure he wins, so he fights as conservatively as possible. I mean, Pierce coming in had the reputation of being a boring fighter and yet he was the guy swinging for the fences in the third round. Iím not saying Fitch should become a reckless guy like a Leonard Garcia, and Iím not trying to take anything away from Pierce who is clearly a tough guy, but compare this Fitch to the guy who fought Roan Carneiro or Josh Burkman, or even his older fights that went to decisions like against Kuniyoshi Hironaka and thereís a world of difference. Dull fight overall and I even though heís winning, I donít see how Fitch could justify getting another title shot while heís fighting like this.
This was, to me at least, another tough one to pick as Mirís a guy who I feel gets overrated by some fans while the same fans tend to underrate Kongo for some reason. Coming into this one Mir had talked an astronomical amount of trash (especially considering he was coming off a loss!), saying Kongo had no ground game and that heíd sub him and send him packing from the UFC. Mir had also taken up a new training regime and lifted more weights than ever, bulking himself up to 265lbs in order to match Brock Lesnarís strength in a potential rematch. Kongo remained pretty silent throughout the build-up and at the weigh-ins he looked supremely pissed, so I ended up taking him in a mild upset via KO, figuring Mirís new bulk would slow him down and cause him to gas out.
Major staredown here unlike the weigh-in where Kongo refused to even look at Mir. Crowd seem to be treating Mir as a total babyface which is a little surprising given the trash he talked coming in. They get underway and Kongo pushes forward but Mir avoids a flurry. Mir steps in and out of nowhere a BIG LEFT HOOK drops Kongo like a ton of bricks! God damn. Mir pounces on him and locks up a standing guillotine as Kongo comes up, and then he pulls guard and the Frenchman is in serious trouble. Mir keeps squeezing as Kongo tries to hold on, but he ends up passing out and thatís that.
Wow. Probably the best performance of Frank Mirís career in fact as his other two big wins Ė Lesnar and Nogueira Ė came against a green rookie and a guy horribly broken down by staph. I mean, I thought Mir could tap Kongo if he got him down, but I never expected him to actually drop him standing and then choke him out in about a minute, not in a million years. Fantastic showing from Mir to really prove his worth as a top-level heavyweight when some people Ė myself included Ė saw him as a little overrated. Say what you will about Cheick Kongo but hey, Cain Velasquez couldnít put him away and outside of Cain and a close decision against Heath Herring, nobody else has beaten the guy. Tremendous stuff.
Personally, this was my most anticipated fight of 2009, as Iíve been following Diego hugely since he first broke into the UFC in 2005 and like Diego himself, I always believed that his destiny was to get a title shot and become the UFC champion. Admittedly, on paper, BJ was a horrible match for him Ė a technically superior, more powerful striker with sick takedown defense and a deadly ground game Ė but this is Diego Sanchez weíre talking about. Heís driven by an insane self-belief and the power of the mind is not to be underestimated in any way. Diegoís gameplan seemed to be pretty simple Ė push as hard a pace as possible and force Penn to gas out, and despite BJís new-found strength and conditioning programme with the infamous Marv Marinovich I just saw this as Diegoís destiny, and took the challenger to win by overwhelming Penn late in the fourth round.
Entrances and pre-fight introductions are TREMENDOUS here. Diego comes out like a man possessed, chanting YES!~! again while BJ looks calm as anything, and then in the staredown I have NEVER seen intensity like Diego. I mean seriously, the look he has on his face makes PRIDE-era Wanderlei Silva seem like a cuddly teddy bear or something. Insane. Crowd, sadly, are firmly behind Penn. Heathens!
We begin and they circle before Diego rushes in with a flurry that Penn slips. Diego tries it again, but this time he walks into a BIG COUNTER RIGHT that puts him DOWN! He pops right back up and gets dropped by a knee, and then Penn gets a rear waistlock and HAMMERS at the head causing Diego to drop again! Diego somehow rolls to guard, surviving the onslaught, but takes some brutal shots in the process and ends up in north/south. Diego scrambles back to his feet and takes a pair of lefts, and then backs up before throwing a high kick. His legs still look wobbly though. Diego charges in with a knee, but eats an uppercut en route to looking for a takedown. Penn gets his back against the fence and works to stuff it, and then breaks off. Diego looks more tentative now and backs up as BJ stalks forward. High kick from Sanchez is blocked. Flurry of punches from Diego is easily avoided, as is a takedown attempt. Same thing happens again as Diego rushes in, and this time he takes a right hand counter. Left hand lands for Penn. Ten seconds to go and Diego walks into another heavy right that buckles his legs, but he manages to survive the round. Well, Diego showed tremendous heart to even get through that one. Horrible opening round for him. 10-8 BJ Penn.
Round Two and Penn looks to work his jab as Diego backs up. Diego throws a wild right hook into a takedown attempt, forcing Penn into the cage with a single, but BJ shows his legendary takedown defense to avoid. Nice uppercut from Diego to break away though. Another flurry from Diego is easily avoided and Penn lands another counter. His striking is too predictable here and he canít rush in with those flurries against BJ. Takedown attempt is avoided again. Right hook lands for Diego but does no damage. Head kick misses. Another takedown is blocked and this time BJ catches Diego with a right hand. Left jab keeps Diego at bay from trying a flying knee. Combination misses for Diego and Penn lands the counter again. Another takedown is blocked and BJ lands with an uppercut. Big left high kick just misses for Diego but Penn makes him pay with a flurry that has him diving for another unsuccessful takedown. Penn pushes forward again, landing a left and another right hand. Diego, for all the shots heís taken, will not stop coming forward. Another counter lands for Penn. Single leg attempt from Sanchez but he canít get BJ off his feet and Penn almost hits a switch too. Round ends with Penn defending the takedown. 10-9 BJ Penn.
Third round and itís more of the same as Diego rushes into a jab from BJ. Left kick is blocked by BJ again. Left hook wobbles the challengerís legs. Takedown attempt from Diego and he drives for it hard, but Pennís balance is ludicrous and he canít get him off his feet. I mean, when the guy is literally hopping around on one leg, what can you do? Penn lands some shots inside too before breaking off. Right hand misses for Diego and he eats a hard left hook. Sanchez continues to stalk forward looking to set up the high kick, and then he goes for another single leg, but again Penn defends. Beautiful elbow from the clinch breaks for Penn and he lands another shot that wobbles Diego and puts him on the defensive. Flurry misses from Diego again and he eats a knee en route to the clinch, but Penn clocks him with two rights that bust up his lip. Diego goes for another double leg, but he doesnít even come close to it and Penn hits a switch and nails him with a flurry to end the round. 10-9 Penn, but Diego has the heart of a lion for fighting through this and continually coming forward. Not that I expected any different.
Round Four now and Diegoís face is beginning to look swollen and messy. Left high kick misses for Diego by miles and he eats another couple of counters, but avoids a big uppercut. Wild single leg attempt is easily blocked. Big right hand lands for Penn as he closes in and he follows with a left, but Diego still hangs in there. Charging takedown misses and they wind up clinched against the cage, but BJ breaks with a hard right hand. Penn begins to stalk forward now, landing punches but not really stunning Diego like he did in the first. Single leg attempt again from Sanchez but BJ continues to defend and hits Diego with some right hands in the process. They break off and Diego throws a right hook into another takedown attempt, but itís the same result for him as BJ just gets his back to the cage, hops on one leg and avoids. Diego breaks with a short elbow and then almost lands the head kick, but BJ just snakes out of the way. Round ends with a knee and a right hook from Penn. 10-9 Penn again but thereís no quit in Diego Sanchez.
Fifth and final round, and after that opening round who wouldíve thought itíd get this far? The cut on Diegoís lip is awful now, almost split right down the middle. Heís still shouting at Penn before the round though. This guy is a warrior. Penn comes out swinging though and then blocks the left kick. Flurry from Diego is avoided again and then he shoots on another single leg and desperately drives forward, but no matter how hard he tries he canít get BJ down. This time though BJ hits a switch and almost gets on top, but Diego avoids it and then drops right down, but Penn sprawls out. Crowd begin a loud BJ chant as he closes in with a right hand, then follows with a big head kick and a series of uppercuts that hurt Diego badly. The challenger goes for a takedown again, but Penn defends and now Diegoís cut badly, bleeding all over the place. Penn breaks off with an uppercut and a big flurry, and then referee Herb Dean calls time to check a horrible gash over Diegoís left eye. Doctor gives it a wipe and holy shit, it looks like someoneís assaulted him with a machete. One look and they decide to throw the fight out there. BJ Penn retains by doctor stoppage.
Thatís the first shot that dropped Diego in the opening round and then the kick and flurry that opened the fight-ending cut. Sick stuff.
Post-fight BJ tells Joe Rogan that he always wanted to fight Diego because he knew itíd make for a good fight, and anything else? Go to BJPenn.com. Diego then puts BJ over as the greatest fighter in the world and says that these things happen, but heíll be back.
Amazing fight from BJ Penn then, first off. I think a lot of it came down to the fact that the styles just meshed hugely in favour of Penn in that Diegoís tendency to rush forward throwing flurries played right into BJís hands, as heís one of the best counter-strikers in the game and he was able to catch the challenger over and over. Once the first big bomb landed in the first round Diego was never truly in the fight, and the fact that he couldnít come close to taking BJ down Ė where he couldíve tested his cardio in the scrambles Ė proved to be decisive too. To take nothing away from Diego though, the guy has the heart of a lion and never gave up, not for one second, which is a testament to his willpower, but heíd never been beaten down like this in his career. One of BJ Pennís greatest career performances and watching this, itís almost unthinkable that just four months later heíd be dethroned by Frankie Edgar of all people.
-And the highlight reel ends our night.
Ignoring the fact that the result of the main event was hard for me to stomach, UFC 107 is an absolutely stellar show top to bottom. Thereís just one dull fight on the card (Fitch-Pierce) and everything else pretty much rocks, from the crazy back-and-forth prelims (Burns-Grant, Johnson-Garcia, Belcher-Gouveia) to the highlight reel finishes for Florian and Mir, a hell of a brawl in Struve-Buentello, great submission in the Toquinho fight and then a virtuoso performance from Penn in the main event made into a more entertaining fight by the sheer heart and toughness of Diego. I said earlier in the year that UFC 102 was probably the best UFC PPV of 2009, and looking back I think I was probably wrong Ė more of my favourites won that night making it a more enjoyable show for me from that standpoint, but for fight quality alone UFC 107 is the best of 2009. Thumbs way up.
Best Fight: Johnson-Garcia
Worst Fight: Fitch-Pierce
Overall Rating: ****3/4
UFC: 108-112, Fight Night 20 & 21, Versus 1
WEC: 47 and 48
King of the Cage: Various shows