The late money was coming in on Nick Diaz, moving him to a favorite at many sportsbooks by the time his UFC 137 main event with B.J. Penn started. That combined with Penn appearing to be in tears gave the fight a strange feeling before it even got underway.
The opening frame went how many fans and media expected it to go as Diaz got countered by Penn's sharper boxing and B.J. even scored a takedown and got a little work done on the ground, setting himself up well for the fight ahead. Unfortunately for Penn, Diaz and his unrelenting cardio were just too much and wilted B.J. in the second round. For the majority of the second frame it was Diaz trapping Penn against the cage and opening up with the trademark Diaz flurries. Penn came back in the third to go out swinging, throwing his hands even in a losing effort.
Penn lost on the scorecards but put on a fun and exciting fight that should have fans remembering him the right way after he announced his retirement following the loss.
For Diaz, he put on the kind of performance that has many insisting that the UFC should abandon the idea of giving Carlos Condit the title shot against Georges St. Pierre. Diaz claimed after the fight that GSP wasn't really hurt, he was just scared. UFC president Dana White was saying that the outcome of this fight would have no impact on Condit's title shot as recently as this weekend but one has to wonder if that will hold up.
As of the time of this article it's sounding like Diaz may be told that he earned a title shot as soon as the post-fight press conference. (Update: At the post fight presser it was confirmed that the UFC will make Diaz vs. St. Pierre for the title. They are aiming for Super Bowl weekend)
- Before I get to some of the other fights on this somewhat lackluster card I have to say one thing about the broadcast. There seems to have been way more production problems than normal. A lot of missed shots, bad camera angles and other very unusual things for the normally very crisp UFC product. They don't seem fully confident in the new wirecams yet which is probably a part of it.
- Matt Mitrione vs. Cheick Kongo wasn't exactly a thriller but Kongo was able to hand Mitrione his first career loss. Given that this was a heavyweight fight most felt would deliver some action, it was a little disconcerting to see the fighters spend several minutes at a time not throwing strikes. In the end it was Kongo's ability to muscle some takedowns in the third round that took the fight away from Mitrione.
- Mirko Filipovic joined the retirement parade tonight, seeming to hang up the gloves after a TKO loss to Roy Nelson. Mirko simply spends too much time circling and not throwing strikes. He landed on Nelson several times, most notably in the second round when he had Roy hurt and pinned against the fence unloading with strikes. But once he couldn't get the finish he went back to being overly cautious and appeared to quit on the fight. Nelson just finished the fight off at that point to get a big win, but one that is hard to appropriately gauge given Mirko's recent performances.
- Hatsu Hioki was given a split decision win over George Roop in a rather uninspiring UFC debut. I scored the fight for Roop as did Fight Metric as I thought he won rounds one and three. Even the round Hioki clearly won was not exactly much in terms of damage or anything beyond positional dominance. It's simply not the kind of fight that is going to get a fighter the vast majority of UFC fans have heard of a title shot, unless it's on a show in Japan and done to try to sell the event to the locals.
- I feel like I'm being too negative, so let's talk about Donald Cerrone. I may not care for the guy's personality, but he is a straight killer in the cage. His performance since coming to the UFC is so far beyond what he showed in the WEC that it's actually stunning. The way he laid waste to Dennis Siver tonight was very impressive and the kind of showing that proved that he's "in the mix" for a title shot.
- Bart Palaszewski put a serious hurt on Tyson Griffin. Griffin's drop to 145 was the right move, but like many 155'ers who will drop to featherweight it didn't guarantee success. He didn't make the weight cut, lost a quarter of his fight purse and then got knocked out in spectacular fashion. Not exactly a weekend to remember for Griffin. Bart smelled blood and unleashed on Griffin and dropped him in spectacular fashion.
- The "old Brandon Vera" is back. And by that, I mean the Brandon Vera who we've seen the most. There simply is no reason that Vera shouldn't have run through Eliot Marshall, but instead he was hurt multiple times and almost finished twice in the third round. That he escaped with a win instead of a draw is a statement on the flawed state of MMA judging more than anything. Good on Marshall for coming in and fighting like a guy who actually wanted to win and not just be an opponent.
- The night belongs to Diaz and Cerrone as they were far and away the highlights of an otherwise disappointing card. We're heading into a big November for the UFC though
Photo of the Night:
The two main event fighters, both showing the marks of their battle.
Bloody Elbow Fight of the Night
Via Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
I can't change from Diaz vs. Penn. It was the one fight that was truly good start to finish on the card and that we'll still be talking about weeks from now.