(Same time tomorrow? Same time tomorrow. PicProps: UFC.com)
OK, three things: 1) Did Rampage deserve to win? Yes. 2) Was it a great fight? No. 3) After spending much of the last couple years making movies and generally acting disinterested in the fight game, did we think Jackson had it in him to beat Lyoto Machida leading up to UFC 123? No we did not, but we were wrong. Look, we’re not going to try to sell you a bill of goods that says Rampage looked outstanding out there on Saturday night. He didn’t, but he looked better than he has in some time and he implemented a solid, if unexciting game plan. Props to the much maligned Lance Gibson for cooking up a strategy (controlling the distance, punching off the break, trying to mix in some takedowns) that on this night was good enough to win two rounds against a suddenly very ordinary seeming Machida. Do we need to see them do it again? Meh … not really, so we’re glad UFC President Dana White is also opposed to the idea. Feels nice to agree with Dana for once.
BJ Penn is the real story here. Pretty much everyone on the planet said leading up to his third bout with Matt Hughes that the key for the former lightweight and welterweight champion was to come in motivated and in shape. Well, Penn proved very motivated this weekend. Crazy-eyed, mumbling-to-himself motivated. Unintelligible-after-the-fight motivated. So motivated that we had no time at all to see what kind of shape he was in after he came out of his corner like a house of fire and knocked Hughes cold in just 21 seconds. Now, if you thought Penn-Hughes III was a weird booking for Penn following his back-to-back losses to Frankie Edgar at 155-pounds, just wait to hear who Big DW says he’s got next …
Jon Fitch. That’s right, White says Penn will be sticking around at welterweight to take on Fitch in the main event of UFC 127 in Australia. Apologies to Jake Ellenberger – who was scheduled to face Fitch — but you just got bumped, son. White says the winner of Penn-Fitch could be the No. 1 contender for the 170-pound title, assumedly after Georges St. Pierre, Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields all settle their preexisting business.
While Penn staying at welterweight is probably not the long-term fix for what ailed him for much of 2010, it makes a certain brand of sense considering how ferocious he looked against Hughes. A matchup with Fitch – while initially jarring – is also palatable, once we have had a few minutes to get used to the idea. Fitch is a good representative of the physically strong, takedown-oriented style that gave Penn fits against GSP at UFC 94. It will also be hard for Fitch to have a boring fight with Penn, if he comes out blasting like he did against Hughes. Have to say, we kind of like this fight.
For Country Breakfast and his cammie-wearing Tea Party of fans, it was a sad night, especially when the UFC PPV gave us a farewell shot of Hughes leaning against a wall staring wistfully into the middle distance just before it went off the air last night. Obviously, we knew coming in that Hughes’ three-fight win-streak over Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almeida was mostly smoke and mirrors and we knew his stand-up sucked, but damn. We didn’t know all of our worst suspicions about the guy were going to be laid bare so quickly. At this point, the only logical option seems retirement for Hughes. We know he’s bucking to be the third man in the UFC broadcast booth one day and now seems as good a time as any. No reason to drag this thing out longer than we need to.
White was in a fight-booking sort of a mood last night at the postfight presser. Not only did he hand out the Fight of the Night bonus to George Sotiropoulos and Joe Lauzon (really? That was FOTN? Huh.) but he also announced G-Sot’s next fight will be against … Dennis Siver? Seems like a bit of a step backward for the Australian BJJ whiz. For reasons that are totally unknown, the UFC appears intent to slow play Sotiropoulos. Who do they think this dude is, Jon Jones?
Phil Davis nabbed Sub of the Night with his weirdo, bullying-big-brother-style kimura on Tim Boetsch. Penn won KO of the Night, obviously. Speaking of sad, Karo Parisyan got cut for showing up to his “last chance” UFC fight with significant love handles and getting stopped on strikes by Dennis Hallman in the first round.
Now with all that out of the way, let’s all settle in for what we’re sure will be a well-reasoned, well-articulated and entirely polite debate about the 10-point must system in MMA. Take it away, gentlemen.