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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Frankie Edgar used a varied striking attack to outbox B.J. Penn and capture the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title with a unanimous decision victory on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 11,008 at Ferrari World.
The judges had it 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 for Edgar, who fell to his knees when the verdict was announced. Yahoo! Sports scored it 49-48 for Edgar.
The fight, both the UFC's Middle East debut and the company's first outdoor card, was contested nearly totally on the feet. Edgar took Penn down twice, the first time in six years a lightweight had taken Penn down, but Penn bounced up quickly each time.
Penn was never able to find the range with his jab and seemed to have difficulty with Edgar's movement. Edgar mixed punches and kicks expertly and changed the distance to confuse Penn.
At one point, Edgar faked a takedown, Penn backed up and Edgar stopped and ripped him with a sharp kick to the body.
It was a stunning victory over one of the world's top fighters. Penn came into the bout ranked No. 4 pound-for-pound in the Yahoo! Sports rankings, but he had no answer for the former collegiate wrestling star whose nickname is "The Answer."
In the evening's other title fight, pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva clowned around repeatedly and got the crowd extremely angry at him, but he still won a unanimous decision victory to retain his middleweight championship.
It was his record sixth successful title defense, but it had to do much damage to his reputation. He clowned repeatedly and hardly threw a punch in the final two rounds.
After the fight, he said, "I don't know what got into me, but I apologize." As he said that, the crowd booed lustily.
Silva, who extended his UFC record with 11 consecutive victories, was far too quick and far too athletic, but he played more than he fought.
In any event, it wasn't a classic Silva performance and the crowd let him know.
Matt Hughes used his striking, not his wrestling, to pound out a third-round stoppage victory over 43-year-old veteran Renzo Gracie, who was making his UFC debut.
Hughes softened Gracie early in the fight with a series of leg kicks. By the middle of the second round, Gracie was moving gingerly on his front leg and had little offense to offer.
Gracie ran out of gas in the third and Hughes took advantage. He raked Gracie with a combination, forcing Gracie to slump to the floor. Referee Herb Dean jumped in to stop it at 4:40 of the third.
Hughes said he used his striking as a means to neutralize Gracie's jiu-jitsu.
"Fighting a Gracie, someone like Renzo, I had to put the odds on my side," Hughes said.
Gracie was fighting for the first time since Feb. 10, 2007, and it showed. He wasn't sharp and he had poor conditioning.
"It was very hard," Gracie said of the layoff. "I was two-and-a-half years without training at all. I had six months [to prepare] and I had a tough guy like Matt Hughes."
The win was Hughes' 17th in the UFC, breaking a tie with Chuck Liddell to set a new record.
- Frankie Edgar
- Matt Hughes