In retrospect, UFC 107 could have been named “The B.J. Penn Show.”
Never before during his lightweight title reign had he dismantled a
worthy challenger in such a dominant and masterful fashion.
Sanchez, a well-rounded fighter who had enjoyed success at 185
and 170 pounds, was the clear-cut number one contender entering the
fight. He left it a bloody and beaten mess.
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
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.
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
What happened: After his original foe,
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
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
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,
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
Hendricks, John Howard or
Lennox are all worthwhile.
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
Rothwell next, with his spot in the Octagon on the line.
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
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