In other featured matchups, former heavyweight champion Frank Mir made quick work of Cheick Kongo, and world-ranked welterweight Jon Fitch outworked Mike Pierce.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts at UFC 107 “Penn vs. Sanchez,” which emanated from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.
Stefan Struve def. Paul Buentello -- Majority Decision
What happened: Struve has progressed nicely since his freshman appearance inside the Octagon -- a quick technical knockout loss to Brazilian bomber Junior dos Santos. Since the defeat, he has choked out two entry-level opponents and showed admirable composure and maturity against Buentello, a former King of the Cage champion who has enjoyed success in Strikeforce and the UFC. While it remains an awkward sight to see a 6-foot-11 Dutchman pull guard, the “Skyscraper” out-grappled Buentello in the first round and held his own during the stand-up exchanges in the second and third; his work earned him a majority decision over the 13-year veteran.
Forecast for Struve: Ending his first year in the UFC with three wins in four fights, Struve has entrenched himself in the middle of the promotion’s heavyweight division. Fellow mid-carders Pat Barry, Tim Hague or Mike Russow could play into his immediate future.
Forecast for Buentello: The 35-year-old seems to have trouble with fighters from the Netherlands, as his last two defeats have come against Struve and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. This could make for a nice angle in a clash with fellow Dutchman Antoni Hardonk, who represents a good style matchup for Buentello. A meeting with fellow Texan Heath Herring would also be intriguing.
Kenny Florian def. Clay Guida -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:19 R2
What happened: Guida had his moment early in the first round when he pushed the two-time lightweight title challenger to the ground following a missed head kick. Afterward, Florian exposed the holes in Guida’s high-octane game, most notably striking, reach and positioning on the ground. Florian cut Guida with one of his patented elbows, knocked him down with a nice left-right combination, pounced on the Chicagoan and sank the choke midway through round two.
Forecast for Florian: The change from Sityodtong USA to Montreal’s Tristar Gym seemed to sharpen Florian’s already potent game, as he outclassed an opponent many believed might give him considerable trouble. A rematch with Sanchez, the man who ended his run on Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” seems like a no-brainer, and both men have expressed interest in a rematch.
Forecast for Guida: Even though “The Carpenter” received one of the loudest pops among all fighters on the card, his shtick seems to be growing old, as he has only broken even in 10 UFC appearances. While his style remains entertaining, he has not proven good enough to hang with top 10-level opponents in the lightweight division. Still, compelling matchups could pit him against Jim Miller, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson or Jeremy Stephens.
Jon Fitch def. Mike Pierce -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: After his original foe, Thiago Alves, went down with a knee injury, Fitch had to make due with Pierce, a stocky wrestler who used a unanimous decision win over former World Extreme Cagefighting contender Brock Larson as a springboard to the main card. Fitch again showed his evolution as a mixed martial artist, but somewhere between his muay Thai and jiu-jitsu training, his killer instinct disappeared, as he went the distance for the third time in as many fights. Granted, Pierce stood as a tough challenge, but a Fitch starving for success should have finished him nonetheless.
Forecast for Fitch: His bouts against Pierce, Akihiro Gono and Paulo Thiago have all taken on another-day-at-the-office type of feel. While such efforts were explainable against a seasoned veteran like Gono and Thiago, the man who had just knocked out his teammate, Josh Koscheck, going the distance with Pierce was somewhat of a surprise. Few challenges remain in the welterweight division, outside of rematches with Alves and champion Georges St. Pierre. An eventual change of scenery would offer him a host of fresh matchups, especially in Strikeforce, home to Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and former International Fight League champion Jay Hieron.
Forecast for Pierce: The 29-year-old Oregonian has the build of a lightweight. Perhaps a cut down to 155 pounds would provide a spark to his career. At welterweight, fights against Johny Hendricks, John Howard or Jesse Lennox are all worthwhile.
Frank Mir def. Cheick Kongo -- Technical Submission (Guillotine Choke) 1:12 R1
What happened: Mir dropped Kongo with a well-timed left hand, cinched a guillotine and choked out the Frenchman with the first serious attack of the fight.
Forecast for Mir: The former champion should face the winner of the UFC 110 showdown between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez. Such a fight could come as early as May, with the winner moving on to meet a returning Brock Lesnar in the summer or fall.
Forecast for Kongo: The UFC invested a lot of time in the Frenchman, elevating him to contender’s status by feeding him a trio of build-up opponents in 2008-09. Struck down by decisive back-to-back defeats -- one by decision, one by submission -- Kongo’s glaring weaknesses, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, have been exposed yet again. The 34-year-old could face Struve, Todd Duffee or Ben Rothwell next, with his spot in the Octagon on the line.
B.J. Penn def. Diego Sanchez -- TKO (Doctor Stoppage) 2:37 R5
What happened: The fight was almost over inside the first minute, when Penn nailed Sanchez with a counter right and had him reeling with a violent volley of punches from the gut-wrench position. Sanchez miraculously managed to hold on. For the next three rounds, he tried to move the fight to the mat, only to be stonewalled by the man with arguably the best takedown defense in the business. Penn kept winning those rounds with minimum effort and was rewarded for his masterful performance when doctors ruled Sanchez unable to continue after he ate a powerful high kick that badly cut him above the left eye.
Forecast for Penn: UFC analyst Joe Rogan entertained the idea of matching “The Prodigy” with Japanese champion Shinya Aoki, though it seems unlikely at best. While Aoki has proven a cerebral fighter with great gameplans, his world-class ground game does not appear strong enough to put Penn in trouble. What’s worse, he would find himself woefully outmatched on the feet. How about a handicap tag team match pitting Penn against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcelo Garcia?
Forecast for Sanchez: Florian appears the most likely candidate for Sanchez’s return trip to the Octagon. Once he recovers from the beating Penn dealt him, he could also wind up near the top of the card in the UFC’s first foray into Mexico, perhaps against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Efrain Escudero.