Thrills abound at UFC 80
Ultimate Fighting Championship 80 featured six fights that ended by TKO or KO, one that ended by submission, and only two that went the distance. With a plethora of early stoppages, viewers were treated to an unheard-of eight fights during the UFC 80's pay-per-view telecast (with apologies to
Fans and Newcastle, England, attendees also got to witness the crowning of a new lightweight champ, a reshuffling of the heavyweight ranks, another dominant victory by a rapidly ascending welterweight, and a former up-and-coming middleweight beaten down for the second-straight time.
Those words that left
To set up that bout, and the escalation in the war of words that is certain to occur in the months to come, Penn had to first overcome Stevenson in what was Penn's third attempt at winning the UFC lightweight title (he fought
The apparently rededicated Penn looked quite fit as he stepped into the Octagon and as he proudly drew attention to his abs in the post-fight interview. He looked even better once the Octagon doors were locked. Penn staggered Stevenson early in the first round with combinations, took control as the fight went to the ground, and spent most of the round fighting from the top. The tide turned dramatically in Penn's favor when he opened up a big gash in the middle of Stevenson's forehead with a right elbow and the first round came to an end.
In the second round, Penn used another combination to once again stagger Stevenson. This time, Penn pounced when the two went to the ground, achieved full mount, locked his legs as he gained Stevenson's back and forced Stevenson to tap with a deep rear naked choke.
While Penn's desire to compete at a level commensurate to his vast talents often has been questioned, he has said all the right things recently about his legacy as a fighter. On paper, Penn was the superior fighter against Stevenson both standing and on the ground and it was nice to see the Hawaiian live up to his potential.
While Penn is now the undisputed titleholder, a victory over Sherk is necessary to legitimize his title reign. Penn hasn't been shy about calling out Sherk for his positive steroid test in 2007 -- doing so even during the buildup for the Stevenson fight -- and there is bad blood between the two. The lead-up to the Penn-Sherk fight should be just as entertaining as the fight itself.
The other featured bout of the night was a rematch between heavyweights
Gonzaga controlled this fight early on, first by working from half-guard when the fight went to the ground and then by utilizing right leg kicks that knocked down Werdum twice. But Gonzaga missed with a head kick late in the first round and Werdum took advantage to control him on the ground and land elbows from half-guard as the first round ended.
Werdum continued to roll in the second round with knees that seemed to drain the energy out of a tiring Gonzaga. Werdum ended the fight by pinning Gonzaga against the cage on the ground and raining down undefended right hands to Gonzaga's head, forcing the ref to stop the fight.
With a second straight loss, Gonzaga must reassess his strategy going forward. Werdum was his equal when standing up, even though that was presumably Gonzaga's major advantage. While many fans remember Gonzaga's head kick against
Werdum, on the other hand, overcame his lackluster showing against
Davis, aka "The Irish Hand Grenade", who continues to dominate opponents having now won six straight UFC fights, has shown that his hands truly do have grenade-caliber explosiveness. He has to be considered ready to fight the likes of top five welterweights
After winning the The Ultimate Fighter 3 middleweight crown and starting out 3-0 in the UFC, the sky was the limit for Team Punishment middleweight
Grove's TKO loss to
Gouveia has won four in a row in the UFC -- all by stoppage -- and should be facing a top 10 fighter in his next bout. His all-around skills make him someone to look out for in a couple of years.