Already a UFC Hall of Fame fighter, Penn returned to the Octagon after being retired for the past two-and-a-half years. Rodriguez is the wave of the future for the fight promotion, having won The Ultimate Fighter Latin America and riding a seven-fight winning streak coming into the fight.
Rodriguez set the tone from the opening bell, immediately meeting Penn in the center of the Octagon and landing a hard kick to the body.
From that point on, Rodriguez became a blur of legs attacking from all angels. Late in the round, he lit Penn up with several consecutive head kicks before switching to an assortment of kicks to the body and legs that left the Hawaiian on wobbly legs.
His confidence having grown as the first round wore on, Rodriguez carried his momentum into the second frame, immediately dropping Penn with a front kick to the face, which was followed by a right hand.
The instant Penn his the canvas, Rodrgiuez pounced, dropping a blur of hammerfists and punches, relentlessly unloading on the legendary fighter until referee Big John McCarthy called a stop to the punishment at the 24-second mark.
“This is an amazing fight to me. I fought a legacy tonight,” Rodriguez said after the fight.
Adding an eighth consecutive victory to his streak, Sunday’s win was by far the most impressive of Rodriguez’s career. He surely etched his name among the Top 10 fighters in the UFC featherweight division.
Immediately after the fight, it was unclear what Penn’s next move might be, but he certainly doesn’t appear to be en route to the 145-pound title shot that he had set as a goal upon his return.