Published Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 | 5:35 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 | 11:11 p.m.
Sun Special Section
- Take Five: Penn ﬁghts to be ﬁrst with second (1-31-2009)
- St. Pierre out to prove he’s the sport’s best (1-31-2009)
- Penn ready to back up words (1-31-2009)
- Lesser-known fighters ready to put on big show (1-29-2009)
- Bonnar glad to be back in Octagon (1-28-2009)
- TV show, trash talk fuel next weekend’s megafight (1-26-2009)
- Hype is fervent ahead of rematch (1-24-2009)
- White offers big plans beyond next week's big fight (1-23-2009)
The only thing Georges St. Pierre didn’t do correctly Saturday night was land his celebratory back flip.
No worries though, as the welterweight champ played off his one miscue by snapping back up to his feet as a packed MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd roared with approval moments after the Canadian finished off B.J. Penn in what Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White called “the craziest event by far.”
The Canadian thoroughly dominated Penn in their rematch from St. Pierre’s split decision victory three years ago.
“Last time I won by decision. I really wanted to take him out and I'm glad I did that," said St. Pierre, who immediately after his win offered words of encouragement to his fallen and badly battered opponent.
"I've been training since September and I felt a lot of pressure. My game plan was to make the first and second round a clench and mostly wrestling match. I wanted to make him tired and carry my weight.”
St. Pierre did just that, imposing his will nearly the entire match.
The Canadian was unable to take the Hilo, Hawaii, native to the mat in the first round, but he did so often over the next three stanzas. That’s something Penn, who talked much more trash than St. Pierre on Spike TV’s countdown show “UFC Primetime,” promised wouldn’t happen.
The approximately 15-pound heavier “GSP” opened a cut under Penn’s left eye with a big left in the second round and made things even bloodier with a well-timed punch to Penn’s nose in the third.
St. Pierre dominated the fourth round and almost made referee Herb Dean stop the fight by landing a flurry of blows in the final minute.
“He’s a very tough guy. I think I was trying to finish him hard and the end of the fourth, but I couldn’t,” St. Pierre said.
While White said he was awed by what he thought was the best fight of St. Pierre’s career, he still believes Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“I would say George St. Pierre would be neck-in-neck with Anderson had he not lost to Matt Serra,” White said. “He’s No. 2 no doubt about it. If Georges takes out Thiago Alves, then he’s well on his way.”
When pressed if a fight between Silva and St. Pierre could happen in the near future, White said the possibility exists.
“Would I like to see those two fight?” White asked. “Absolutely. I’m a fan of superfight. I would like to see weight classes cleaned out first. Then when you empty a division and you’re ready for the next challenge, you take it.”
White said Penn, who was taken directly to the hospital, will likely take quite a bit of time off then defend his lightweight title against Kenny Florian.
“He was beat up,” White said. “I’m sure he’ll go back to Hawaii and heal up and rest. Then he will defend his title, but I’m not sure when.”
A smiling St. Pierre said Penn’s comments as part of the promotional “UFC Primetime” show served as bulletin board material.
“He put some extra motivation (out there) when he said some bad things about me and the people I like,” St. Pierre said. “I didn’t fight with my anger, I fought with my heart. That’s very important.”
St. Pierre said he also thinks it’s important to him to remember how far he has come in his career.
“In just a click anything can happen,” St. Pierre said. “But it’s the best day of my career so far.”
B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre
St. Pierre chants begin early as Penn opens with a couple of knees. The two are locked up with GSP trying to force the action.
Penn defends a St. Pierre takedown for a good minute as the Canadian has him up against the cage.
Penn lands a couple of blows. The two break apart at 2:50. St. Pierre tries a leg kick, but misses. Moments later he lands a right.
Penn fires a right, then second later a left. Big right by St. Pierre. Sweeping leg kick by St. Pierre.
Both exchange in the final seconds of first round as the crowd goes wild.
St. Pierre finally gets the takedown a minute into the second round. On his back, Penn takes a big right from GSP.
The two separate but GSP fires a big left seconds later and begins to work Penn’s head with a series of blows as the crowd goes nuts.
St. Pierre is clearly in control and landing big blows, including elbows, from a dominating mounted position.
Penn tried to squeeze out but St. Pierre kept him on his back as the “G-S-P” chants grow.
The Canadian lands two big lefts in the final 10 seconds and Penn is cut under his left eye.
A big left by St. Pierre either created another cut or opened the previous one Penn suffered even more as the Hilo, Hawaii native is bleeding.
St. Pierre keeps control with another takedown. On the mat he continues to push the action as Penn attempts a couple counter strikes.
GSP is mixing up body blows with strikes to Penn’s head.
Penn raises to his feet and the crowd responds with a “B.J.” chant.
After some time spent in the clench, St. Pierre again takes Penn down. GSP lands another sharp elbow amidst a flurry of punches.
Penn hasn’t been able to create any offense.
The open the round with exchanges and St. Pierre yet again puts Penn on his back.
Damaging elbows look to be having an effect on the “The Prodigy.”
Referee Herb Dean makes sure St. Pierre isn’t hitting Penn illegally. Seconds later GSP lands another vicious blow. Penn is taking a lot of punishment.
St. Pierre adjusts his positioning to land stronger blow.
With about 40 seconds left, St. Pierre reigned down a series of punishing blows.
GPS shows his excitement by punching the Octagon, while Penn is wearing the punishment he’s endured on his face.
It's all over, Penn is not able to come out of his corner. Dean stops the fight after ringside doctor advises that Penn should not continue.
Main card (7:00 p.m.)
It’s still early into the evening but the atmosphere inside the MGM Grand, as always seems to be the case on a big fight night, has an electric feel to it.
Even three hours away from the main event between UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn and welterweight titleholder Georges St. Pierre, the Grand Garden Arena is 75 percent full.
While there are plenty of people walking around in Team Penn T-shirts, St. Pierre seems to be the favorite. Not only does the MGM’s sports book peg him as the minus 160 pick, but also in and around the Octagon the number of Canadian flags waving and “GSP” chants being screamed is overwhelming.
But Penn faithful need not worry, the Hawaii contingent is definitely representing Hilo’s finest.
Fans are so thirsty for this match that when the UFC’s upcoming video game, “Undisputed,” showed simulated highlights of Penn-St. Pierre, fans actually let out a loud roar.
There seems to be little doubt the UFC president Dana White’s prediction that tonight will be the “biggest fight in UFC history,” will come to fruition if the buzz for the pay-per-view is anything close to what it is on the Strip.
Breaking up the monotony of the split decisions was a loud roar that went up from the crowd when former UFC champ Chuck Liddell went on the ESPN set inside MGM to give his prediction for Penn-St. Pierre.
The crowd, as boisterous as any in recent memory, was treated to a montage of key fights in the organization's history as the pay-per-view telecast began at 7 p.m.
Moments later the arena became deafening when taped segments between St. Pierre and Penn flashed on the handful of big screens.
Canadian and Hawaiian flags are being waved ferociously. The atmosphere seems to be building to a level that was present at the Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya boxing match, where everyone in the audience barely blinked or breathed in an attempt not to miss a moment of action.
And just to leave no doubt about the enormity of the evening, as if ESPN leading with a preview of the bout on its Web site the day before the Super Bowl wasn't enough, ring announcer Bruce Buffer provided his signature "We are liiivvveee!"
The frenzied level reach another decibel after Guida's victory, when the crowd watched Penn (rocking a Team Hawaii) and St. Pierre (looking suave in a dark suit and blue tie) enter the MGM.
Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame and actor Michael Clarke Duncan seemed to be enjoying the show via their seat near the Octagon.
Liddell flashes a shaka to the delight of Penn fans, before mouthing "Go B.J."
Both Penn and St. Pierre are shown in their dressing rooms getting prepared to the delight of the crowd.
UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans showed his support for St. Pierre, flashing a white head band that GSP faithful have been passing out.
No need for talk before tonight's main event. Everything that wasn't said on Spike TV's "UFC Primetime" show was said in the press. Tonight's main event needed no more build-up. The moment of truth is now.
The two champions came out representing their countries with lightweight champ B.J. Penn bobbing to "Hawaii 78" and welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre playing his patented Canadian rap. The crowd simply went crazy.
Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva
The battle of undefeated light heavyweights didn't take long. Machida finally ended a bout without a decision when he knocked out Silva a second before the first round ended.
A leg trip by Machida put Silva on the mat and a big right hand ended the Brazilian's night.
“I’m very happy to be here. Thiago is tough. But today I was better than him," said Machida, who credited his strong fan support in Las Vegas. "I love my fans in Las Vegas. When I fight here, I feel like it's home.
Jon Jones vs.Stephan Bonnar
It had been 15 months since Bonnar had been in the Octagon. Perhaps there was some rust, but more likely, the undefeated Jones proved that he is a fighter to be reckoned with.
Keeping with the the night's theme, Jones defeated Bonnar by decision (unanimous 30-27, 29-28, 29-28). Jones dropped Bonnar in the first two rounds. Knowing he was down, Bonnar, a Las Vegas transplant, tried for a KO to no avail.
Karo Parisyan vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Parisyan got the win by, yeah you guessed it another decision, (Sidebar: Sadly I'm pretty sure there is no where in Vegas where you could lay down a bet on every fight ending in decision. But if you did tonight you would probably be totally richer than the guy I watched win half a million dollars yesterday at the MGM. Which by the way ranks as one of the coolest things I've seen or probably ever will in Sin City.) but didn't win the crowd.
The veteran fighter was booed heavily following his split decision victory (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). Part of the reaction was for an illegal head kick Parisyan delivered in the decisive third round.
Kim was way better than I expected," Parisyan said. "I'm happy I got the win and the throw on the judo guy.
"I had a tough run last year. I'm back and better than ever now."
Nathan Diaz vs. Clay Guida
If the first bout of the pay-per-view is any indication of how the rest of the night is going to go, the paramedics on hand at MGM better prepared to take care of a lot of patients.
Fans were roaring with satisfaction at the show Guida and Diaz put on.
Like every other match tonight, this one went the distance. Both fighters had opportunities to pull out the victory and the third round featured several wild, all-out moments.
In the end it was the long-haired, super-stoked Guida who recorded the split decision victory (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
After thanking about every single person he could think of Guida made the proclamation that he’s coming for every fight in the lightweight division.
“It wasn’t petty, but it was a win,” Guida said. “I'm coming up to the top of the lightweight division so get ready for me.”
Undercard bouts (5:00 p.m.)
Jon Fitch vs. Akihiro Gono
Leave it up to the plus 600 underdog to steal the show for the second day in a row.
Akihiro Gono, who came out with an oversized afro at Friday’s weigh-in, easily topped that feat when he and his team came out in wigs and dresses dancing to a Japanese-based song.
The gimmick gained the loudest applause of the night. Unfortunately the charade didn’t pay off for Gono inside the Octagon.
Embattled fighter Jon Fitch — who pumped up the crowd in his own right, walking out to Johnny Cash’s “Rusty Cage” took a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) in another bout that last three rounds.
"It feels good to get back in the winner's circle," Fitch said. "I'm a little disappointed I didn't finish him. A lesser opponent than Akihiro Gono I would've finished.
Manny Gamburyan vs. Thiago Tavares
Seriously, at this rate White is gonna save a ton of money on all the post fight bonuses. Yet another bout went to decision. But this time it wasn't split as the more aggressive Tavares, who pushed the action with several takedowns and a strong stand-up game, scored a 29-28 win on all three judges scorecards.
"I think I won the three rounds," said Tavares, who improved to 18-3. "I train a lot of stand-up. Now I'm beginning to stay with the stand-up more."
Chris Wilson vs. John Howard
Beer sales have to be going through the roof right now inside the MGM as the third straight match has went the distance. This time, Howard, who nearly finished Wilson in his UFC debut in the second round, walked away with a 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 decision.
Jake O'Brien vs. Christian Wellisch
This fight, just like the first bout went the distance. Wellisch had the crowd in stitches when he walked out to the Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me." But after the third round, Wellisch himself probably needed incisions to close the profuse cut on his nose. In the end, O"Brien scored a 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 victory.
"When I heard them call his name first, I got nervous," O'Brien said. "It was a much needed win."
Matt Arroyo vs. Dan Cramer
Dan Cramer starts his UFC career with a split decision win over Arroyo (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). "I was hoping for a more exciting fight," Cramer said. "But it was great. To fight on a B.J.-GSP card was great. Everything will now seem easier."
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.