If ever there was a fight card dedicated to confirming what we already knew, UFC 107 was it, as the night went off without any big surprises. But a few decisive wins – and losses – went a long way in determining where people really stand in the UFC hierarchy.
BJ Penn’s scrap with Diego Sanchez might not have been the barn burner that a lot of people expected but in a fight that was supposed to represent Penn’s toughest lightweight test ever, he showed up and handled business the way a true champion should. Sanchez was simply out-matched in every aspect of the game. Penn’s striking was miles ahead of his opponent’s and Sanchez grew increasingly frustrated as his repeated takedown attempts yielded nothing but the business end of a few elbows. For five rounds, Penn methodically beat down Sanchez with well-aimed, well-timed strikes until he opened a gash on Sanchez’s head that caused referee Herb Dean to call the bout.
Throughout his entire career, Penn has battled criticism about his motivation and work ethic, but whatever has happened in the past, he’s looking tougher and leaner than ever before. After a performance like this it’s hard to question his conditioning, but it’s even harder to come up with an opponent in the lightweight division right now that can give him a real challenge.
But for argument’s sake, let’s take a look a litter farther down the fight card to find Kenny Florian looking like he deserves a rematch against Penn. When Ken-Flo took on the Champ at UFC 101 he looked flat and timid –he didn’t look like himself. His 107 scrap with the always-tough Clay Guida confirmed that the real Kenny Florian was nowhere to be found in Philadelphia. Chalk it up to title fight jitters, I guess, but the guy who beat Clay Guida inside two rounds is not the same guy who lost a boring scrap to BJ Penn last summer. He’ll need a few more wins to earn a rematch but in my mind, Kenny Florian is still the biggest threat to the lightweight title.
Speaking of rematches, Frank Mir did his very best to prove that he’s determined to earn a rubber match against Brock Lesnar. He spent the week’s leading up to his bout with Chieck Kongo bashing his opponent’s skills and he and the big story was Mir’s retooled training camp that focused on building the muscle that’s necessary to compete with this new breed of super-human heavyweight that’s taking over the division. He definitely backed up his smack talk and made quick work of Kongo, submitting him in the first round, but I’m getting a little tired of hearing about “the new and improved Frank Mir.” He’s been trying to sell that story since he beat Antoni Hardonk at UFC 74 and I’m not convinced that a few extra pounds of muscle is going to give him the edge he needs to topple the monster atop the heavyweight division. I do believe we’re seeing the best Frank Mir ever right now but I don’t see any vast improvements since he beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92. Frank Mir is one of the best heavyweights in the world –he has been for a while– and if he keeps winning like this, it won’t be long until he earns himself the opportunity to take a third shot at Lesnar, I just don’t think he has the tools.
In his Octagon redux, Paul Buentello showed us just how far he hasn’t come since his last appearance in the UFC. He’s a crafty veteran who definitely has a few tricks up his sleeve but he just can’t keep up with the rapidly changing sport. He’s one of the guys who was doing this back in the mid-90’s when it was enough to be really good at one thing, but with this new generation of dynamic fighters, that’s not going to cut it anymore. If you want to be a real factor in the UFC, you need to branch out. Though he may not be making any title runs, he did prove that he can still put on a good show and if the UFC is interested, he can serve as a good test for younger fighters.
The rest of the card broke down like this:
|BJ Penn||Diego Sanchez||Technical Knock Out||5||2:32|
|Frank Mir||Cheick Kongo||Submission (Choke)||1||1:12|
|Jon Fitch||Mike Pierce||Unanimous Decision||3||5:00|
|Kenny Florian||Clay Guida||Submission (Choke)||2||2:19|
|Stefan Struve||Paul Buentello||Majority Decision||3||5:00|
|Alan Belcher||Wilson Gouveia||Technical Knock Out||1||3:03|
|Matt Wiman||Shane Nelson||Unanimous Decision||3||5:00|
|Johny Hendricks||Ricardo Funch||Unanimous Decision||3||5:00|
|Rousimar Palhares||Lucio Linhares||Submission (Leg Lock)||2||3:21|
|DaMarques Johnson||Edgar Garcia||Submission (Choke)||1||4:03|
|TJ Grant||Kevin Burns||Technical Knock Out||1||1:57|