Michael Bisping (file photo) may have soured an impressive performance with his postfight antics. | Sherdog.com
In a title eliminator that wasn’t, Jon Fitch and B.J. Penn battled to a majority draw Saturday night.
In a bout that showed the best and worst of Penn, and the unbending tenacity of Fitch. The welterweights had an intense first two rounds, with Penn’s brilliant athleticism and grappling pulling him ahead on the scorecards, only to falter in the final round, losing it 10-8 on two cards as Fitch steamrolled him over the final five minutes.
In the semi-main event, Michael Bisping let off some steam both during his second round KO of tormentor Jorge Rivera, as well as afterward, having what can be best described as a “Brock Lesnar Lite” post-fight meltdown, while Dennis Siver upset George Sotiropoulos.
It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly: the UFC 127 Stock Report is here.
Jon Fitch: While some fans may fuss over the draw he got against Penn, Fitch’s performance was a reminder of why he’s 13-1-1 in the UFC, his sole loss to Georges St. Pierre.
It’s hard to remember the last time Penn had someone’s back twice in a fight and was unable to finish, yet Fitch survived this typically doomed position, wrenching his way back into the fight.
Ultimately, the third round was to be Fitch’s moral victory, if not enough to win the bout. After landing a pinpoint right hand to stun Penn, Fitch nailed a takedown in the opening moments, and proceeded to punish Penn for the rest of the stanza.
The fight is technically a draw, but there’s no question Fitch proved who the better welterweight was tonight. And while five-round non-title bouts aren’t currently employed, is there any question who wins a five-rounder?
And outside of St. Pierre, I’m not sure of anyone else that wouldn’t be an underdog taking on Fitch. Jake Shields will have something to say about that April 30, when he challenges GSP for the belt, but for now, Fitch remains Fitch, and that’s good enough to beat just about anyone at 170 pounds. Draw or not.
B.J. Penn: Penn’s stock went up tonight, because in terms of his career prospects, the draw is a good result. I don’t think a third match with St. Pierre was particularly saleable if he’d won the decision (which would’ve happened if two judges hadn’t scored the final round 10-8 for Fitch, which was the correct call, in my opinion). However, with the draw, Penn can still take on tough contenders and be a sort of proving ground.
A match against Thiago Alves would be a dynamite style collision, as Alves is one of the few welters that would willingly bang with Penn. As tonight suggested, Penn’s got a ton of fire in the belly when taking on someone who comes to overwhelm him. While content to stand around and get outsped against the quicksilver likes of a Frankie Edgar, fighting bigger guys seems to bring out the battler in B.J.
Also, Penn has an ace in the hole that few fighters have: he can simply drop down to 155 at any time, where lucrative prospects and matches await.
The lightweight division is the deepest in the organization, and once the Edgar/Gray Maynard situation resolves itself, there’s a ton of talented guys for him to face.
Motivated and renewed, Penn is literally an exchange or a takedown away from beating any lightweight in the world. It’s just a case of whether or not he has the fire in the belly to fight that way. Tonight he did, at least while his cardio carried him through two brilliant rounds before tiring in the third.
Put it this way: there are no lightweights in the world who could do what Penn did against Fitch, or come close to it. Wherever B.J. decides to fight, he has a ton of options available to him, and he’s always a threat.
Dennis Siver: Siver wins the unofficial “Road Warrior” award, with an outstanding performance against streaking George Sotiropoulos, who was 7-0 in the UFC coming into the bout as a hometown Aussie favorite.
Using a blend of spry takedown defense and well-timed punches, Siver exposed holes in Sotiropoulos’ game that other lightweights were unable to exploit, and looked excellent doing it. Siver’s kickboxing and athleticism make him a handful for anyone; if his takedown defense can continue to improve, he’ll be able to compete with the top wrestlers in the division.
Brian Ebersole: A late sub for the injured Carlos Condit, Ebersole was the surprise of the evening, upsetting Chris Lytle in a unanimous decision. Whether it was his weird ring entrance, where he was clad in headgear, or the awesomely over-the-top arrow-shape shaved into his chest hair, the veteran delivered in his UFC debut.
Ebersole escaped some threatening sub attempts in the first round, then surged in the second, delivering a knee to stun Lytle (and a foul knee immediately afterward which the ref missed, along with two head butts on the ground as the round ended).
Despite some absentee refereeing, though, Ebersole was in command. However, his attempts at a cartwheel kick only proved that such things should be left to the likes of Anthony Pettis.
Ebersole’s win was a feel-good story for a veteran of some 60 fights, and it’s always nice to see a guy like him get a win. Both collected a $75,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus for their efforts.
Alexander Gustafsson: After a slow start against James Te Huna, Gustafsson surged back, using some slick grappling to reverse the momentum and sink home a finishing rear-naked choke after 4:27 of the opening round.
Gustafsson’s improvement is obvious, and he shows a cool head for tactics, especially in scrambles. While the light heavyweight division is top-heavy in terms of fearsome talents, there’s some room for the likes of him, and being Swedish is always a plus as the UFC looks to expand internationally.
Riki Fukuda: Japanese product Fukuda was straight robbed in a decision loss to Nick Ring, inexplicably beaten by the judges after basically winning a grappling heavy bout with few clean shots landed on the feet. Fukuda showed a decent ability to apply his strong wrestling and top control; the judges merely blew it.
Tiequan Zhang: “The Mongolian Wolf” got back in the win column, hanging a quick loss on Jason Reinhardt, who was 20-1 coming into the bout. Reinhardt’s previous loss was in his first UFC appearance, where he was dispatched by Joe Lauzon in 74 seconds.
Mark Hunt: Hunt exists in the UFC for one reason, and that’s to smash people like few others can. He delivered against Chris Tuchscherer, finishing with a walk-away K.O. after landing a booming right uppercut. Hunt will always be fun to watch, because he’s built like your plumber, yet hits like a truck.
Michael Bisping: Bisping beat Rivera, which is exactly what was supposed to happen. But after a bunch of trash talk and a postfight meltdown, Bisping spit through the cage after stopping Jorge, then yelled more unmentionables at him before being separated.
It only reminded us why guys with bad blood need to be kept apart after fights. Fortunately in this case, Bisping didn’t need a half-dozen security guys to intervene, which was the case when Lesnar flipped out on Frank Mir at their infamous UFC 100 rematch.
Chris Lytle: The savvy veteran remains one of the most durable fighters in the game, absorbing a pounding from Brian Ebersole. Lytle’s hallmark has been giving an exciting fight and, often, plenty of his blood in the process, and he never disappoints. The loss might warrant a “Stock Down” rating, except for the fact that obviously foul blows in the second round clearly scrambled his eggs; yet to his credit, Lytle neither complained nor stopped fighting.
Ross Pearson: A good win over vet Spencer Fisher, where Pearson scratched out a decision win. However, with the ultra-competitive lightweight division wrestler-heavy and athletically tilted, Pearson needed a stoppage win to truly raise his stock here. He didn’t get it, hence the “hold” rating.
Nick Ring: Ring got a decision in his long-delayed UFC debut against Fukuda, one he didn’t deserve. It’s not his fault, though, and he did show some resilience in neutralizing the powerful Fukuda on the ground, though he couldn’t mount much offense, and his standup seemed stiff and limited. He’s a work in progress.
Jorge Rivera: Rivera’s limited takedown defense was exactly where it was supposed to be, allowing Bisping to score them when he needed them, in addition to thumping him up on the feet. A tough loss for Jorge, who was riding a three-fight win streak, albeit it against modest opposition.
George Sotiropoulos: George’s slick jiu-jitsu and improving all-around game were the high points of a great story. At 7-0 in the UFC, the Aussie had become a legit contender at 155. However, against Siver, his takedowns and limited standup were exposed. However, there’s one bright spot here: after getting hammered in the opening round, Sotiropoulos rallied back, digging his heels in when it became obvious he couldn’t get a takedown, and fighting better on the feet than anyone would have expected after a brutal opening round.
He’ll definitely learn from this one and be back. But in the tough lightweight division, you have to excel in every area, and his work is cut out for him, here.
Chris Camozzi: A quick loss to Noke, and Camozzi drops to 2-1 in the UFC. There’s not a lot to make of quick losses, other than you made a mistake and paid for it. Camozzi has looked better in wins against Dongi Yang and James Hammortree, and he’ll have to show it in his next bout.
Spencer Fisher: Fisher’s always been a standup stylist, and his decision loss to Pearson was close if not the thriller some thought it would be. The veteran slugger is always exciting to watch, though wrestlers will always be his Kryptonite. It’s hard to tell if the bout was a case of Pearson’s improvement, or Fisher merely showing the mileage of a hard career and wars aplenty, but the loss here, his third setback in four bouts, doesn’t do him any favors.
James Te Huna: Fast start, and a bad finish: this pretty much defined Te-Huna’s loss to Gustafsson. He gassed out after a promising opening sequence, where he came out guns-blazing.
Jason Reinhardt: At 41, Reinhardt should be commended for going 20-2, with not a single win via decision. At 0-2 in the UFC, with both fights adding to 2:02 in the Octagon, he probably shouldn’t be expecting a call from the UFC at this point. Unless they plan on expanding to Luxembourg, and need an opponent for a show there.
Chris Tuchscherer: Say this for “The Crowbar” -- the guy couldn’t make a boring fight if he tried. After getting a nasty cut to his eye against Hunt, he soldiered ahead, only to be stopped with a doozy of an uppercut. Tuchscherer, now 1-3 in the UFC, is definitely on the bubble here. The big question is why didn’t he shoot to take down Hunt earlier, instead of after absorbing the big punches that led to his demise?
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