by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
LAS VEGAS – It’s hard to explain, but you just feel the current of energy flowing through your body when a special fighter makes his way to the Octagon. It’s the same feeling as watching Michael Jordan rise to the occasion in championship basketball game or John Elway in the Super Bowl. That’s the feeling that B.J. Penn instilled at UFC 84, making his way to the ring before a crowd of 14,773, Hawaiian music drifting on the air and Hawaiian flags dotting the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Twenty minutes later, Penn was once again strapping the UFC lightweight title around his waste, having dispatched of Sherk at the end of the third round in defense of his championship.
Sherk and Penn said they would stand and bang, and they lived up to that billing. But at the end of the day, Sherk’s face bore the evidence of who the more effective striker was in the bout.
Penn used his jab effectively throughout the fight, chiseling away at Sherk’s stone-like physique and bloodying his face. Nearing the end of round three, Penn rocked Sherk with a combination of punches, put him on his backside with a knee to the face, and finished the fight with a jackhammer of right hands reminiscent of his stunning finish of Caol Uno several years ago.
Despite all of the harsh words and hard feelings leading up to the fight, when all was said and done, Penn said simply, “Sean, always respect.”
As for the fight, the popular Hawaiian fighter said the win was “very satisfying. Sean Sherk is a great competitor.”
Although UFC president Dana White says that he believes there is still another fight waiting for Penn in the 155-pound division, namely the winner of the UFC 87 bout between Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta on Aug. 9, Penn seems to believe otherwise. He used his position on Saturday night to call for a mega-fight with current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
Heee’s baaacckk! Wanderlei Silva, entering his bout with Keith Jardine on a three-fight skid, in 36 seconds re-instated his “Axe Murderer” moniker. He dropped the Greg Jackson-trained fighter not once, but twice, before following him to the canvas. With one hand on Jardine’s throat, holding him down, Silva unloaded with devastating right hands to the face, ending Jardine’s rise towards the light heavyweight title.
Though he has recently talked about a possible move the middleweight division, such an impressive win over a fighter like Jardine, will likely keep the Axe Murderer in the midst of the 205-pound division, at least for the near term.
As White said following the bout, “If Wanderlei came to me and said that these guys are huge at 205, I want to move to (185), I wouldn’t say no to somebody like that. But there’s one interesting fight for him at 185 pounds. I think there are a lot of interesting fights for (Wanderlei) at 205.”
Silva scored “Knockout of the Night” honors and a $75,000 bonus check, although White also noted UFC newcomer Shane Carwin’s impressive knockout of Christian Wellisch and indicated that he would also be rewarded for his efforts.
Say what you will about Tito Ortiz, the man knows how to excite a crowd. Entering the Octagon with “Fight the Power” blaring over the sound system, Mexican and American flags in hand, he still receives one of the most raucous welcomes in the sport.
Chants of “Tito, Tito” wafted through the building as he took the center of the Octagon, only to consistently be eluded by Lyoto Machida. It wasn’t pretty, but for 14 minutes and 30 seconds of the fight, the Brazilian employed a strategical counter attack, shutting down Ortiz’s takedown attempts and pot-shotting him at will, visibly frustrating the former light heavyweight champion.
But with 30 seconds left in the bout, Ortiz shot in once more, only to be met with a sharp knee to the ribs that put him on his back. Machida followed him down, but a recovering Ortiz nearly secured a triangle-armbar combination before the Brazilian slipped out as the bout came to a close. An electrifying finish not only to the bout, but quite possibly to Ortiz’s tenure as a UFC superstar.
Amongst an outpouring of boos for an effective, if not crowd-pleasing performance, the judges scored the bout unanimously in favor of the undefeated Machida.
Machida, talking about Ortiz’s submission attempt, later said, “It was a big surprise to me. I was thinking, I’m gonna die, but I’m not gonna tap.” He was, however, pleased with the outcome. “I’m very happy with this fight. Tito is a tough guy and a legend of fighting for the UFC.”
Oritz returned Machida’s respect, saying, “He’s very elusive and it was tough to chase him down. He’s a great fighter.”
As for his future with, or without, the UFC, Ortiz was not as adamant that he would not return to the Octagon as he was prior to the fight. “I haven’t decided at all,” he replied when asked about his future with the only organization that he has ever called home.
The much-publicized animosity between Ortiz, White and the UFC continued later in the night, when Ortiz was being told by UFC staff that he was not allowed to partake in the post-fight press conference. After much ado about his participation, Ortiz was allowed to remain before the media, though he was not allowed to be approached outside of the official question and answer period, a restriction not placed on the other fighters in attendance.
In the evening’s swing bout, debuting Croatian fighter Goran Reljic had to go deep into the second round of a hard-fought battle, but he caught American Top Team fighter Wilson Gouveia with a right hook and followed him down to finish him off with strikes for the victory. It was one of many successful Octagon debuts on Saturday night and earned the two combatants “Fight of the Night” honors and bonus checks.
An unknown in the Octagon, Antonio Mendes made an immediate statement, sending undefeated light heavyweight Thiago Silva crashing to the canvas… the result of a crushing left kick to the head. Silva, however, regained his composure, worked the fight to the mat and did what Mendes couldn’t, finish the fight. Landing several unanswered, punishing blows, Silva kept his undefeated streak intact at 13 straight victories.
Rousimar Palhares… remember that name. He stepped into his first bout in the Octagon with one of the better grapplers in the world in Ivan Salaverry. Not only did he defeat Salaverry, but did so in stunning fashion. He took Salaverry down, immediately starting to work for a rear naked choke. Salaverry nearly sat up out of the choke at one point, but Palhares pulled him back and smoothly transitioned to a fight finishing armbar at 2:36 of round one.
The armbar earned Palhares “Submission of the Night” and his own check for $75,000.
After a disappointing performance against Lyoto Machida his last time out, Sokoudjou redeemed himself at UFC 84. He opened the bout with strong leg kicks and knees, but Kazuhiro Nakamura earned his way back into the fight midway through the round, landing a flying knee and overhand right. The bout seemed to stall out after that, but just as the round was closing out, Sokoudjou stunned Nakamura with an overhand right and followed with a couple hard punches to the on the mat as the bell sounded.
Nakamura was unable to continue and the bout was waved off in between rounds, putting Sokoudjou back on the winning track.
As he exited the ring, Sokoudjou left the crowd with, “Just one thing… Shogun!”
Rich Clementi, returning to the Octagon just one month after his last bout, used his takedowns and controlling ground and pound game to neutralize Terry Etim’s considerable Muay Thai skills, scoring a unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Clementi.
Yoshiyuki Yoshida was the third debuter in as many of the night’s opening bouts, and exactly like the first two, he came out victorious. Working from the clinch, he executed a judo throw and quickly secured an Anaconda choke, finishing the fight at the 56-second mark of the bout.
One word, domination, best describes Korean fighter Dong-Hyun Kim’s UFC debut. He continually put his opponent, Jason Tan, on his back and brutalized him with an attack of punches and forearms from various positions through the first two rounds. As the third round opened, Kim executed a high judo throw and immediately finished Tan off with strikes.
“I have a lot of confidence in my abilities and I think I match up very well with the welterweights in the UFC,” said Kim following the bout.
Denver fighter Shane Carwin opened the night’s fights with a bang… literally. Electing to immediately trade blows with American Kickboxing Academy’s Christian Wellisch, Carwin connected early with a hard right cross that sent Wellisch to the mat, finishing him off with strikes just 25 seconds into the opening round.
-B.J. Penn def. Sean Sherk by TKO (Unable to Continue) at 5:00, R3
-Wanderlei Silva def. Keith Jardine by TKO (Strikes) at 0:36, R1
-Goran Reljic def. Wilson Gouveia by TKO (Strikes) at 3:15, R2
-Lyoto Machida def. Tito Ortiz by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Thiago Silva def. Antonio Mendes by Submission (Strikes) at 2:24, R1
-Rousimar Palhares def. Ivan Salaverry by Submission (Armbar) at 2:36, R1
-Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou def. Kazuhiro Nakamura by TKO (Unable to Continue) at 5:00, R1
-Rich Clementi def. Terry Etim by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Yoshiyuki Yoshida def. Jon Koppenhaver by Submission (Anaconda Choke) at 0:56, R1
-Dong-Hyun Kim def. Jason Tan by TKO (Strikes) at 0:25, R3
-Shane Carwin def. Christian Wellisch by TKO (Strikes) at 0:44, R1