MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In a masterful display of athletic ability, lightweight champion B.J. Penn dispatched challenger Diego Sanchez on a fifth-round cut on Saturday in the UFC 107 "Penn versus Sanchez" main event at the FedExForum.
On the eve of his 31st birthday, Penn dominated Sanchez from the opening bell and reminded the world why many believe he has no equal at 155 pounds.
"I was keeping my mouth shut, but I always wanted to fight Diego Sanchez," said Penn, who has not lost as a lightweight in nearly eight years. "I knew he wanted to fight me, even though he didn't say it. I knew for years he wanted to fight me."
Penn buckled Sanchez with a straight right hand in the first minute of Round 1; it was a punch that would find its mark over and over again during the one-sided five-round affair. The Hawaiian followed with a series of unabated right hands that sent Sanchez to his knees each time he tried to rise to his feet. Showing amazing heart and determination, the challenger rolled forward to avoid the hail of firepower being directed his way. Amazingly, Sanchez gradually got his legs back under him, and even though Penn's pace slowed, he still found his mark with a pair of right hands in the closing seconds of the first period.
The champion settled into a pattern of defending takedowns and striking as the opportunities arose during the next three rounds. Sanchez shot in repeatedly but never came close to taking the match to the floor. Penn defended by pushing down his challenger's head and using his remarkable balance to remain standing, all while picking at Sanchez with punches and elbows in the clinch.
Penn also landed at will while the two exchanged at a distance, and the evidence of his work piled up on Sanchez's face. Bruised and bleeding, Sanchez refused to give in despite the ineffectiveness of his attack.
At the start of the final round, Penn yelled across the ring, and Sanchez, still game, barked back. Penn charged out and resumed his dogged pursuit of Sanchez, landing his first kick of the night, his shin ripping a huge cut in the left side of Sanchez's forehead.
Penn then flurried on his wounded opponent, and once the two separated, it became apparent the title fight had reached its conclusion. A flood of crimson washed down Sanchez's face, and it took just seconds for the cageside physician to mercifully end the lopsided beating 2 minutes, 37 seconds into Round 5.
"B.J.'s a great champion," Sanchez said. "He came in the best B.J. that ever stepped in the ring. I did my best. He came out on top. I'll be back."
Mir chokes out Kongo
Leading into their heavyweight grudge match, Frank Mir told anyone who would listen that he wanted no part of Cheick Kongo's stand-up game. Mir stopped Kongo by choking him unconscious with a guillotine, but it was all set up by a crushing left hand.
Kongo, who made it clear he did not appreciate Mir's attitude and commentary in advance of their bout, pursued him around the cage and seemed to have him on the defensive before the former heavyweight champion sent the Frenchman spiraling to the canvas with a left hand to the chin.
"Talent will only take you so far," Mir said. "I really have tried to put in the hard work to deserve what it takes to be a champion in this sport."
Mir, one of the best grappling heavyweights in the world, took advantage of his fallen foe as he wrapped him in the submission. Kongo fought it for as long as he could, but his right arm went limp when referee Herb Dean checked on his state.
"He's a big, powerful guy," Mir said. "I didn't really want to let that choke go and have him ground-and-pounding me. That's kind of a position I don't really enjoy anymore, so I figured I'd put him to sleep like I said I would at the weigh-ins."
Dean immediately waved off the fight just 72 seconds in, giving Mir the boost he needed in his quest for a rubber match with ailing heavyweight king Brock Lesnar.
"On a personal level, I really hope that Brock Lesnar is healthy," Mir said. "He's a father -- I wish no ill will on him. That being said, get healthy so that I can redeem myself and face you. I will hurt you, and that will be the last of it."
Fitch posts 19th win in 20 fights
Jon Fitch received a little more than he bargained for from relative unknown Mike Pierce. The world-ranked welterweight controlled the majority of the fight save the final 30 seconds. Ahead on the scorecards, Fitch refused to sit back and instead traded openly with Pierce.
It nearly cost him.
Pierce landed a hard right hand that seemed to wobble Fitch, then tried to finish the miracle comeback with a flurry of punches along the cage. However, the veteran Fitch fended off the attack and survived to the final bell. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in his favor.
Fitch opened the bout with a hard kick to the body to set up the clinch. He then took Pierce to the mat and worked his way to back control, but the underdog defended the choke and returned to his feet. Pierce did open up Fitch around his left eye with a wild right hand.
"I wish I could have picked up the pace a little bit more," Fitch said. "I think getting cut in the first few seconds freaked me out a little bit."
The second frame was more of the same from the former title contender. Fitch used good head movement to avoid the bigger strikes being lobbed his way and picked at Pierce as he stalked him around the cage. Fitch grabbed a single-leg and pulled Pierce to the mat but failed to advance position.
Although he could not seem to get any traction, Pierce continued to attack, mostly with counterpunches. His unyielding will nearly paid off when, with less than a minute left in the fight, he landed the bruising right that nearly won him the fight.
"I was fine," Fitch said. "I've gotten hit hard before. I knew I only had a few seconds left. I just didn't want to get caught with the follow-up."
Florian bloodies, finishes Guida
Kenny Florian bounced back from his disappointing loss to Penn with a rear-naked choke submission against Clay Guida in the second round of their lightweight bout. The Boston native overcame the frenetic pace set by Guida and took control of the fight midway through the opening round.
"I'm trying to get better," Florian said. "I want another shot at the title and [to] make you guys proud. That wasn't a good performance [against Penn] last time. I want the real Kenny Florian next time."
After slipping on a high kick attempt, Florian worked his way out of danger by kicking Guida off of him and jumping back to his feet. He never looked back. Florian hit a takedown and worked over Guida with punches along the cage. Guida rose from the canvas with blood streaming down his face, and Florian opened him up worse with a grazing elbow as the two exchanged in the center of the cage. As blood cascaded down the Chicagoan's chest, referee Mario Yamasaki called for the ringside physician to check the cut. The laceration in his hairline was cleaned, and the fight restarted.
Round 2 was all Florian. Guida shot in off the bell, but Florian shut down the attempt with a quick sprawl. Unable to get the fight back to the mat, Guida stepped into the pocket and exchanged with the two-time title challenger, and Florian melted him with a lead left-right hook combination. Guida tried to return to his feet, but Florian hammered him with punches before taking his back and sinking the fight-ending rear-naked choke. Guida fought back but eventually succumbed 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the second round.
"Tonight was my night. That's it," Florian said. "I trained hard. I've been working a lot on sharpening my boxing."
Struve outpoints Buentello
Buentello dug himself a deep hole after spending the entire first round with Struve controlling his back as he looked for a choke. The second round was all Buentello, as he dropped the giant Dutchman twice; the second time, he picked him out of the air with a big right hand as Struve launched into a flying knee.
"I'm honest," Struve said. "He caught me, but I wasn't hurt bad."
The highlight of the bout came with 45 seconds remaining in the round when Struve and Buentello engaged in an unbridled striking exchange. Both fighters connected and neither backed down.
The third and deciding round came down to activity. Struve landed a much higher volume of strikes, including a number of stinging leg kicks. Buentello continuously moved forward but could not seem to pull the trigger until the last minute of the frame.
"I don't feel like a winner right now," Struve said. "It was far from my best. I think it was more of a draw."
Greg Savage is a contributor to Sherdog.com.