Your heroes get old.
That’s the story of Yair Rodriguez’s rather soulcrushingly predictable demolishing of B.J. Penn, a 38-year-old legend of MMA who has been competing in the sport since the man who just knocked him out tonight was 9 years old. Rodriguez was physically more imposing, his speed and power advantage was massively in his favor, the primary reasons for predicting a Penn win tonight were mostly nostalgic, and partly just belief that a young fighter like Rodriguez would make a mistake and Penn’s veteran skills, more than his actual physical abilities in 2017, would see him through to the end.
Welcome to sports. Father time is undefeated. You can be as motivated and pumped and excited and determined as possible, but aging curves affect everyone. Peyton Manning, Wayne Gretzky, Roy Jones Jr, Kevin Garnett, Derek Jeter, the list goes on and on. They all become old. Some age more gracefully than others, but they all get old, their bodies break down, they get past their physical prime, and cease to be the athlete you fell in love with and idolized. To expect MMA to be any different than boxing in this regard is wishful thinking.
Tonight was sad. Yair Rodriguez looked awesome, and I take nothing away from that, but this fight may as well have been 1988 Mike Tyson fighting 1980 Muhammad Ali. I enjoy watching Yair Rodriguez fight, but I did not enjoy watching a faded legend come back for even more punishment (with what I felt was a late stoppage by John McCarthy). Penn suffered the 1st knockdown of his entire career tonight, and the finish soon followed.
More thoughts on tonight’s card:
- Yair Rodriguez should be fighting top 10 featherweights, I’d rather not see B.J. Penn fight again. I cannot imagine any good reason to watch Penn unless he moves up to welterweight and fights CM Punk, and even that’s a sad sideshow.
- Joe Lauzon got the nod over Marcin Held by split decision, and being the awesome, honest guy that he is, said that he disagreed with the call and said it wasn’t his night. I can’t recall too many instances of that happening in MMA. If you could argue in favor of a Lauzon win, keeping in mind the new judging criteria rules in place, Held did close to nothing with his takedowns, and Lauzon at least threatened with an armbar in round 2, and repeatedly scrambled his way back to his feet. From there, however, I thought Held did enough with his striking to win rounds 2 and 3. In defeat, this was a much better performance from Held than in his UFC debut vs. Diego Sanchez, but hopefully the former Bellator contender gets an extremely favorable matchup in his next fight, just to get a win under his belt.
- Ben Saunders and Court McGee had a very close fight, with Killa B getting the unanimous decision nod. Both guys had their moments on the feet, but it wasn’t either one’s best performance, especially from an entertainment perspective. To be completely biased, I had Saunders winning 30-13. Score one for a Bloody Elbow favorite, and thanks for the post-fight shoutout of BE, Ben!
- Sergio Pettis turned in a measured, effective performance, scoring a 1st round knockdown and generally picking apart John Moraga with his superior striking to win a unanimous decision. The younger brother of Anthony Pettis has won 3 straight at flyweight, and at 23 years old, continues to come along as a future contender in the division.
- Lightweight prospect Drakkar Klose dominated Lookin’ For a Fight signing Devin Powell, who had virtually no answer for Klose’s pressuring, bullying style. Klose took this fight on short notice, filling in for Jordan Rinaldi.
- Augusto Mendes and Frankie Saenz put on my favorite fight of the night. It was a back-and-forth thriller with both guys getting rocked with heavy strikes. There was a sequence in round 2 where Mendes hurt Saenz with a left hook, only to be floored by an elbow a few moments later. I don’t think anyone had this fight being thrilling mostly because of the striking exchanges, but that’s what we got. Good win for “Tanquinho” in his 2nd UFC fight (his debut was on short notice vs. Cody Garbrandt), while the unlucky Saenz has dropped his 3rd straight.
- Oleksiy Oliynyk (this is how his name is spelled in our database, but there are seemingly 150 ways to spell it) pulled off an Ezekiel choke on Viktor Pesta ... while he was FULLY MOUNTED! That’s insane! I’ve never seen that pulled off in MMA before.
- Tony Martin controlled and outgrappled Alex White in a pretty uninspiring fight, but it gets Martin on his first career UFC winning streak.
- Nina Ansaroff was excellent tonight. She showed good striking and an overwhelming ground game in her eventual rear-naked choke win over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger. Ansaroff is finally in the UFC win column on her third try, so it’s been a good last two weeks for Ansaroff and her partner, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
- Walt Harris turned in the best performance of his career, showcasing smooth footwork, technical striking, and vicious power to put away the admittedly defensively porous Chase Sherman.
- Joachim Christensen disintegrated Bojan Mihajlovic in round 3 of an otherwise un-exciting contest, but the right uppercut that finished Mihajlovic off was certainly a violent one.
- French heavyweight Cyril Asker kicked things off by stopping Dmitry Smolyakov with ground-and-pound strikes, with Smolyakov looking incredibly helpless when Asker gained full mount.