By Thomas Gerbasi
Leading up to the UFC 112 lightweight title fight between BJ Penn and Frankie “The Answer” Edgar Saturday night at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, the talk wasn’t if Penn would win and defend his title, but what he would do after beating the New Jersey underdog.
But Edgar didn’t listen to the talk, and when the bell rang he performed like the favorite, using speed, movement, and a solid standup attack to score a five round unanimous decision victory over Penn to win the UFC lightweight championship. See post-fight interview
“BJ’s the greatest lightweight ever, and I just beat him,” said Edgar. “I hope I can be half the champion he was.”
Scores were 50-45, 48-47, and 49-46 for Edgar, who improves to 12-1; Penn falls to 15-6-1.
Edgar made a concerted effort to stick and move as the bout began, and he mixed things up striking-wise as Penn stalked. Penn remained patient as Edgar peppered him, and he was soon able to get on the board with hard strikes at close range on a couple of occasions as the round progressed.
The first minute of round two kept to the same pattern, with Edgar falling short on a takedown attempt just before the second minute began. Penn’s accuracy level continued to improve in the round, but his scoring was sporadic as Edgar continued to use every inch of the Octagon real estate in order to keep Penn off-balance. Edgar was able to get Penn to the canvas for a split second in the final minute, but the champion sprung up and got back to the business of stalking his foe.
Penn’s strides got longer and more urgent to open round three as he tried to cut Edgar’s movement off, but Edgar kept to the gameplan and was showing no signs of wear as he got in on Penn with his strikes and shot right back out. In fact, as the minutes kept ticking by, Edgar seemed to be getting more confident, despite being tossed aside on his takedown attempts.
Edgar got stuffed on his first two takedown attempts of round four, but undeterred, he got back to his movement-based attack, this time even playing the role of aggressor as he mixed up his punches and kicks. Penn, quiet for much of the round, began to land more in the final 90 seconds, reminding the challenger that he was not going to let his title go without a fight.
With both men showing the effects of battle on their faces, the fifth round began with Edgar meeting Penn in the middle of the Octagon and scoring a takedown after a quick flurry. Penn shot right back up, but didn’t show much urgency in terms of getting even with his foe. Midway through the round, Edgar landed his best punch of the fight, a right to the head, and though Penn was unaffected by the blow, it was a point-scoring one. Two sloppy takedown attempts by Edgar followed, with Penn easily tossing them aside, but again, there was no significant retort from Penn as the bout approached its final minute. Instead, Edgar just kept up the pressure, seemingly fearless in the face of a final charge by Penn that was too little, too late.
And now the lightweight division just got a little bit more interesting.
Hughes vs. Gracie
Future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes put a victory over another Gracie on his resume, spoiling the debut of Renzo Gracie via a third round TKO. See post-fight interview
“I was pretty happy,” said Hughes, who defeated Gracie’s cousin Royce in 2006. “Renzo was throwing looping punches, so I tried to stay in close and keep things simple.”
“I was two years and a half without fighting and then I had six months to get ready for a fighter like Matt Hughes,” said Gracie, who saw a three fight winning streak snapped. “It wasn’t an easy task.”
The action was tentative early on, but in the third minute, Gracie started landing with strikes, including a short left hook that got Hughes’ attention. The more aggressive Gracie got though, it played into Hughes’s hands, as he was able to bull his foe into the fence. Gracie’s defense was solid though, allowing him to break free and avoid any damage for the remainder of the first stanza.
The bout remained standing in round two, with Hughes’s first concerted takedown attempt tossed aside by Gracie. Hughes was trying to push the action though as Gracie stood back and countered, drawing some boos from the restless crowd. By the end of the round, Hughes looked to be getting closer and closer to his foe as he scored with a leg kick and pinned Gracie to the fence.
Hughes’ leg kicks continued to score in the third round, and he mixed in punches to the body and head, putting more points in the bank as Gracie tired. As the three minute mark approached, Hughes dropped Gracie twice with leg kicks, and a punch to the head with a minute left did the trick again. Finally, with under 30 seconds to go, a final barrage of punches forced referee Herb Dean to step in 4:40.
With the win, Hughes improved to 45-7; Gracie falls to 13-7-1, with 1 NC.
Etim vs. Dos Anjos
Brazil’s Rafael dos Anjos continued to impress in lightweight action, submitting British prospect Terry Etim in the second round to score his third straight UFC win. See post-fight interview
Etim came out firing kicks, and dos Anjos responded with kicks of his own before shooting for the takedown. Etim caught dos Anjos in a guillotine choke on the way down, but after some dicey moments, the BJJ black belt fought loose, and got into side control. His offensive attack was stalled when he was warned by referee Marc Goddard for knees to the back, and Etim took advantage by getting in the top position when the two hit the mat again. Dos Anjos stayed active from his back, searching for Etim’s leg before the bell sounded.
The two traded kicks in round two, with Etim throwing in a close range knee before dos Anjos scored with a takedown and got into side control. While there, dos Anjos landed with hard strikes while trying to get into the mount position. With two minutes left, he got it, but Etim got loose quickly. The Brazilian remained in control though, and with under 40 seconds left, dos Anjos caught Etim’s arm and submitted him via armbar at 4:30 of round two.
With the win, dos Anjos improves to 14-4; Etim falls to 14-3.
Grove vs. Munoz
Middleweight prospect Mark Munoz pulled off the biggest win of his young career, roaring back from a horrid first round to stop Kendall Grove via a ferocious second round ground and pound attack. See post-fight interview
“I was (hurt), but you have to have the will to survive in the cage,” said Munoz. ”You need that if you want to be a champion.”
Grove’s six inch height advantage was immediately evident, but Munoz was still able to close the distance quickly and take his foe to the mat. After a quick ground strike by Munoz, Grove got back to his feet and then dropped Munoz with a hard right uppercut. Munoz immediately shot for the takedown, but Grove fought it off. Munoz still looked woozy as he bulled Grove into the fence, and after a stalemate, referee Marc Goddard called for a re-start. Three subsequent takedown attempts from Munoz almost resulted in submissions for Grove, but ‘The Filipino Wrecking Machine’ was able to slip free.
Continuing to catch Munoz sleeping on defense, Grove landed with more hard shots early in round two, and he tried to submit his foe again, but Munoz again showed his resilience by escaping and firing off thudding ground strikes. As the round progressed, Munoz was getting more and more confidence, and after a series of unanswered blows, Goddard called a stop to the bout at the 2:50 mark.
With the win, Munoz improves to 8-1; Grove falls to 13-7 with 1 NC. Both fighters received Fight of the Night bonuses for the bout.