MEMPHIS, Tenn. – B.J. Penn retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title with one of the elite performances of his Hall of Fame career against Diego Sanchez on Saturday at the FedEx Forum in the main event of UFC 107.
He systematically took Sanchez apart, inflicting huge amounts of damage before stopping Sanchez at 2:37 of the fifth round.
"I was keeping my mouth shut, but I always wanted to fight Diego Sanchez," Penn said.
It was one-sided from the opening seconds, as Sanchez had no answers for Penn. The Hawaiian knocked Sanchez down in the fight's opening seconds and nearly finished him in the first 45 seconds.
After that, it was just a beatdown until the fight was stopped because of a massive gash on Sanchez's forehead. Penn landed a kick to the head, followed by a knee and a series of uppercuts before referee Herb Dean stopped it to ask the doctor to examine the cut.
The ringside physician advised that the fight should be stopped and Penn was declared the winner.
"It happens," Sanchez said of the one-sided loss. "He's a great champion and that was the best B.J. ever to step in the ring. I did my best."
On the undercard, Frank Mir, the former UFC heavyweight champion, and Cheick Kongo engaged in a lot of smack talk before the fight. Mir had derided Kongo as having the worst ground game in the UFC.
Mir, though, used his punching power to win the bout in just 72 seconds. Mir ducked under a Kongo right and then unloaded a huge left hand that sent Kongo to the canvas in a heap.
Mir followed immediately and slapped a guillotine choke on Kongo. Referee Herb Dean saw that Kongo was out from the choke and stopped the bout at 1:12.
"He's a big, powerful guy and I didn't want to let that chokehold go and have him ground and pound me," Mir said.
In perhaps the most anticipated fight other than the main event, Kenny Florian rebounded form his loss to Penn in the main event of UFC 101 by choking out Clay Guida at 2:19 of the second round.
Guida controlled much of the first round, but he was cut badly on the left side of his forehead by a Florian elbow late in the round.
In the second round, Florian landed a left and followed with a hard straight left that dropped Guida to the canvas. Florian pounced and landed a number of hard shots. As Guida tried to roll away to get out of trouble, Florian transitioned to a rear naked choke and forced Guida to tap.
Florian credited improvements in his boxing for the win. As he was in the cage being interviewed on the pay-per-view broadcast by Joe Rogan, Rogan told him to look at the screen and describe the replay.
When it didn't come up, Florian joked, "It was so fast, you couldn't even see it."
But he credited coach Firas Zahabi with his improved striking.
"I've really worked hard to tighten up my boxing," said Florian, who said he hopes to earn a third shot at the lightweight title.
"I admit my last performance wasn't good," Florian said of his fourth-round submission loss to Penn in a bid for the lightweight title at UFC 101. "I'm trying to get better every day. I want another shot at the title."
One-time welterweight title challenger Jon Fitch managed to survive a tough challenge from Mike Pierce and pulled out a unanimous decision victory. All three judges scored it 29-28 for the former Purdue wrestler.
In the pay-per-view opener, Stefan Struve won a majority decision over Paul Buentello in a heavyweight fight, though Buentello landed the harder, more telling blows. Twice in the fight, Struve tried a flying knee, only to be knocked down hard by Buentello.
Struve won by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-28. Judge Nelson "Doc" Hamilton scored it 10-8 for Struve in the first, but gave Buentello each of the last two rounds to come up with the 28-28 score.
The show began with a series of excellent fights on the preliminary card. T.J. Grant, who is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, the same small town as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, opened the show with a first-round technical knockout of Kevin Burns.
Burns drilled Grant early and knocked him down and was seemingly on the verge of stopping him. Grant survived the onslaught and, about 10 seconds before the round was over, he landed a wild right on Burns' jaw.
Grant pounced and finished him with ground and pound, as referee Greg Franklin dove in to stop it.
"I thought I was going to run out of time," Grant said. "I was going for it. I wanted to end this thing."
But that wasn't anything compared to the next fight, as Edgar Garcia and DaMarques Johnson put on a spectacular back-and-forth show. The fight encompassed all aspects of MMA and had the high-intensity crowd roaring its approval.
Garcia, who is a very hard puncher, clipped Johnson and knocked him down and briefly, it seemed Johnson was in a bad position. But he very quickly maneuvered into position for a triangle choke and forced Garcia to tap.
"That was spur of the moment," Johnson said of transitioning to the triangle. "That was some straight up Jeremy Horn fight-jitsu. I can't really remember much because he hits so hard."
Rousimar Palhares submitted Lucio Linhares with a heel hook at 3:21 of the second round in a fight that featured a variety of slick submissions and escapes.
Johny Hendricks, a collegiate wrestling All-American at Oklahoma State, dominated Ricardo Funch with punches, knees and slams in winning a wide unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27 twice and 30-25.
"I just wanted to show that I have jiu-jitsu and I did it against a purple belt," Hendricks said. "He's a tough dude. I hit him with everything I had."
Matt Wiman's physical strength and punching power were too much for "Sugar" Shane Nelson as Wiman pulled out a unanimous decision. All three judges had it 30-27.
And Alan Belcher ended the preliminary card with a first-round stoppage of Wilson Gouveia in a fight that was contested at a catchweight of 195 pounds. Belcher and Gouveia traded hard shots for much of the round, but as the fighters were clinched along the cage, Belcher landed a hard right uppercut that hurt Gouveia, who slumped to the canvas. Belcher pounced on Gouveia and finished the bout at 3:03.
I want to show I can finish fights," Belcher said. "I can knock guys out. I came into the UFC and I was young. All I knew was the UFC. But now I'm ready to step up and be the next contender. I want that belt."