Penn, ‘Cro Cop’ retire after UFC 137 losses
LAS VEGAS – On a night when the career of legendary heavyweight Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic came to an end at the hands of Roy Nelson, Nick Diaz sent another of the UFC’s biggest names into retirement.
Diaz, the Strikeforce welterweight champion, made his UFC return memorable, pummeling B.J. Penn on Saturday in the main event of UFC 137 to win a unanimous decision. Judges had it 29-28 twice and 29-27 for Diaz. Yahoo! Sports also had Diaz winning, 29-28.
Diaz earned a shot at UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, his originally scheduled UFC 137 opponent, with the victory. The two will likely meet on Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas, assuming St. Pierre can return from a knee injury in time.
Penn, a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, had his left eye swollen badly by the onslaught and afterward, he said he is hanging it up.
“I want to perform at the top level,” Penn said. “I’ve got a daughter and another on the way. I don’t want to go home looking like this.”
Diaz was supposed to fight St. Pierre at UFC 137, but he was yanked from the main event by UFC president Dana White after he skipped two press conferences.
White moved Condit up to face St. Pierre and made the Penn-Diaz bout. But when St. Pierre injured a knee in training, St. Pierre-Condit was postponed and Diaz-Penn became the main event. But Diaz, whose bad boy image has made him one of the sport’s big stars, got the crowd riled up by shouting at St. Pierre, seated at cageside.
“I don’t think Georges was hurt,” Diaz said. “I think he was scared.”
At the post-fight press conference, it was announced that Condit had agreed to step aside and Diaz would fight St. Pierre.
Penn had a strong first round, but Diaz’s high-volume punching turned the bout in his favor early in the second. From there, Penn did little but eat punches.
[ Related: Why Penn-Diaz fight was a classic ]
In a co-main event that had the crowd booing loudly, Cheick Kongo took a unanimous decision over Matt Mitrione. Kongo won by scores of 30-27, 30-28 and 29-28. Yahoo! Sports had it 30-27 for Kongo.
They did next to nothing in the first, a round that was more like shadow boxing. Kongo picked up the pace slightly in the second, and clearly won the third. He nearly closed Mitrione’s left eye with a punch and slammed him to the mat twice before controlling him on the ground.
Filipovic, meanwhile, had his legendary career came to an end with him flat on his back and with Nelson firing big shots at him. Referee Steve Mazzagatti had finally seen enough as Nelson was battering Filipovic and halted it at 1:30 of the third.
Filipovic, who announced his retirement in the cage while doing a post-fight interview with UFC analyst Joe Rogan, had a moment of glory in the second. He took a big shot from Nelson, but reeled off a flurry of punches, landing to the head and body and bloodying Nelson’s face.
But Filipovic, the one-time PRIDE legend, didn’t have the stamina to continue that pace. Nelson knocked him down in the third with a right-left-right combination and then finished him off.
“The UFC has been so good to me over the years and it is hard to leave this company and this sport,” he said. “Even though I didn’t do as well in the UFC as the rest of my career, I feel like I did everything that I could to have an overall successful career.”
He ends his career having lost three in a row, but he made his reputation in the now-defunct PRIDE Fighting Championship. He had epic wins over men like Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Wanderlei Silva and was the PRIDE Grand Prix champion.
He finishes with a 27-10-2 record and 20 knockouts. He was 4-6 in the UFC, which he joined amid much hoopla in 2007.
Nelson, who had lost two straight, was effusive in his praise of Filipovic.
“It was awesome to fight with a legend,” Nelson said. “It’s good just to be back in the ‘W’ column. ‘Cro Cop’ can still tear it up. My game plan was to strike and mix it up so you see a little bit of everything.”
Scott Jorgensen ground out a tough victory over Jeff Curran in a taut fight. Jorgensen won by scores of 29-28 and 30-27, but each round was highly competitive and very close. Yahoo! Sports had Jorgensen, 30-27.
Jorgensen took Curran down several times and managed not to get caught in Curran’s submissions, which is likely what won him the fight.
“I wasn’t as explosive or exciting as usual, but I fought the fight I wanted to,” Jorgensen said. “I trained hard and got better. This is the first time I had a jiu jitsu coach. I worked on technique and it showed out there.”
Hatsu Hioki, the highly touted Japanese featherweight, won his UFC debut in less than spectacular manner, eking out a split decision over George Roop. Judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Cecil Peoples had Hioki, 29-28. Dave Hagen had Roop 29-28, the same as Yahoo! Sports.
The difference in the fight was the first round. Morse Jarman and Peoples scored that round for Hioki and Hagen had Roop. All three judges scored the final two rounds the same, with Hioki taking the second and Roop the third.
Hioki took Roop down and controlled him on the ground for most of the second round, working for a submission. He never seemed to get close to anything, however, and Roop had the edge in the striking game.
“I was getting my takedowns just fine, but I couldn’t get my jab established like I thought I could,” Roop said. “I wasn’t surprised that he took me down, but I was surprised by how long he was able to keep me down. I spent so much time trying to not get caught in his submissions, that I couldn’t focus on the escapes. I’ll have to go back and check the tapes to see if I agree with the scores or not, but I know the entire fight was extremely close.”
Donald Cerrone continued his amazing year with a sensational performance against Dennis Siver, finishing the German kick boxer in their lightweight bout with a rear-naked choke after battering him with kicks and punches. Cerrone become the only fighter thus far in 2011 to win four UFC bouts.
Cerrone landed a hard right that sent Siver down. Cerrone quickly got Siver’s back and finished it with the choke at 2:22 of the first round.
But the damage began earlier in the round, when Cerrone blasted Siver with a left kick to the face. Siver staggered all around the cage and fended off an attempt by Cerrone to finish. The next time Cerrone caught him, though, there was no fending him off.
“Donald hits very hard,” Siver said. “Both shots got me pretty wobbled and I was unable to collect myself after the second one. That made it very easy for him to sink in the submission and there was nothing I could do.”
Cerrone, who is putting himself into conversation for Fighter of the Year, said he wants to fight again before the year is through.
“There were a couple of things I should have done differently, but I’ll work on it,” Cerrone said. “Bring it on. I don’t want to wait.”
Bart Palaszewski said he thought he broke both of his hands in his featherweight bout with Tyson Griffin, and it was no wonder.
Palaszewski cracked Griffin with a pair of left hooks that hurt the Xtreme Couture fighter and sent him staggering back to the cage. Palaszewski then finished it, landing three big right hands in a flurry that forced Mazzagatti to jump in and stop it at 2:45 of the first.
“It was an emotional fight for me,” Palaszewski said. “It took 10 years to get here and it was a long road. Now that I’m here, I’m here to stay. My strength hasn’t gone down, but my speed has gone up. I saw him stumble and I saw my opportunity, so I took a deep breath and went after him.”
Griffin went off as a 3-1 favorite at the Mandalay Bay sports book, despite missing weight on Friday by three pounds. The fighters agreed to make it a catch-weight fight at 148 pounds and the Nevada Athletic Commission fined Griffin 20 percent of his fight purse. Half of that went to Palaszewski and the other half to the commission.
According to CompuStrike, Palaszewski landed 20 of 53 strikes. Griffin was upset by the loss, but was also philosophical.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” Griffin said. “What else can I say? That’s what happens when you fight with four-ounce gloves.”
Brandon Vera survived a third-round onslaught to win a unanimous decision over Brandon Marshall in a light heavyweight bout. All three judges, as well as Yahoo! Sports, scored it 29-28, giving Marshall the third.
[ Yahoo! Sports Radio: GSP on injury, Diaz]
The first round was fought at a fast pace, but controlled by Vera, who stung Marshall several times with the right hand. He also landed several knees that had an impact.
In the third, though, Marshall connected with a jab and a right hand behind it that clearly hurt Vera. Marshall went in for the kill, but Vera was able to recover.
“I wanted to stay in his face,” Vera said. “He also wanted a win badly. It was a must win for both of us. I wish my performance was better. I was trying to get a knockout, but it wasn’t happening.”
Ramsey Nijem used his wrestling to repeatedly take Danny “Boy” Downes to the mat, where he worked on a series of chokes en route to a one-sided unanimous decision victory. Judges had it 30-25, 30-26 and 30-27 in favor of Nijem, the runner-up on Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Yahoo! Sports favored Nijem, 30-26.
Downes, who had trained with former Olympic wrestler Ben Askren, simply was unable to keep the fight standing and spent most of the night trying to pry Nijem’s arms from around his neck.
“He did exactly what I thought he was going to do,” Downes said. “He executed his game plan to perfection. I didn’t perform up to my full abilities. Losing is the worst feeling in the world and I don’t plan on this happening again.”
On the other side of the ledger, Francis Carmont, a teammate of St. Pierre’s, made his UFC debut an impressive one. After a slow first round, Carmont opened up in the second and took a unanimous decision victory over ex-TUF contestant Chris Camozzi.
The judges had it 30-27 twice and 30-26. Yahoo! Sports also had it 30-26, giving Carmont a 10-8 edge in the second round.
In the middle round, Carmont hurt Camozzi with a good right as they were fighting along the cage. The punch hurt Camozzi, backing him up, and he was never the same after that.
But the highlight of the round was a massive slam by Carmont. He lifted Camozzi up to about shoulder height and then drove him into the mat. It was one of the best slams in the UFC in several years.
Carmont had to fight off a couple of submission attempts, but he controlled the final round enough to pull off the win.
“I just wasn’t able to pull the trigger on him,” Camozzi said. “His distance really threw me off the entire bout. I had a great training camp. I really felt prepared for this. I just have to go back and work on a few things.”
In the card’s opener, a battle between unbeaten fighters making their UFC debuts, Clifford Starks’ wrestling helped him to take a unanimous decision victory over ex-Quincy University quarterback Dustin Jacoby.
Both fighters appeared nervous in a very tentative first round, though it was Starks putting on the pressure and trying to make the fight. Jacoby opened the second round with a good straight right hand, but it was one of his few highlights.
Starks took Jacoby down several times and used top position to do some damage via ground-and-pound.
“It felt amazing being out there and it was a great way to make my UFC debut,” Starks said. “It definitely brought my confidence up. I was going for the knock out but this was great, too. I’ll take it!”
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