If you had stuck Diego Sanchez in B.J. Penn’s face circa 2005, it’s very likely he would have taken the challenge as a slight. Training would have been lax, a high-fat diet would have been involved and we might have seen a wheezing Penn fading in the later rounds.
But in preparing for both the Sanchez fight Saturday and the Kenny Florian fight in the summer, Penn has proved that he gets it: that training for yourself, and for the own mark you leave on the sport, is the way. You have to fight at your maximum potential, not the minimum you think is required. He might well have beaten Sanchez with his old, easily-bored attitude. But would that be remembered with the same enthusiasm as Penn’s complete and utter shutdown of a tough, determined maniac who looks like he got infected with rabies before every fight?
FightMetric believes Penn landed 150 strikes to Sanchez’s eight, and stuffed all 27 of his takedown attempts: this is the kind of record that’s talked about long after the hype of a fight weekend has died down.
It was theme night for career maturation: Frank Mir, who created some doubt when he packed 20 lbs. onto an already large frame, absolutely decimated Cheick Kongo in a style exclusive to MMA: putting him down with strikes, then finishing with a constrictor submission.
I had doubts about Mir’s game: his takedown ability, his wind and whether the hands on display vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were just opportunistic violence against a very sick man. But he nailed it Saturday. Both he and Penn aren’t taking it one fight at a time anymore. They’re training with designs on the bigger picture.
Next for Penn: Crickets. There are no challengers available to the UFC that would create much suspense: Gray Maynard might be the last deserving contender. Penn should consider putting on some quality mass and starting a proper run at the 170 lb. title.
Next for Mir: With his goblin Brock Lesnar out indefinitely, Mir should be looking at Shane Carwin; winner meets the Cain Velasquez/Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira survivor for the title.
Next for Kenny Florian/Diego Sanchez: Each other.
Consolidated action between Alan Belcher and Wilson Gouveia earned them a $130,000 split for Fight of the Night; DaMarques Johnson earned $65,000 for Submission of the Night, a triangle on Edgar Garcia, which rightfully should have gone to Mir subbing Kongo for the first time in Kongo’s career…Penn’s trainer, Rudy Valentino, told Japanese submission machine Shinya Aoki to “come on down” following Penn’s win over Diego Sanchez. This will never happen, as Aoki is a prop in the Dream/Strikeforce partnership. Even if that dissolves, Zuffa would never give anyone a title shot without a suffocating contract…13,896 attendees were at the FedEx Forum in Memphis for the show: at least 3,800 were disappointed at the lack of Jerry Lawler…Talk about media baiting: According to the Las Vegas Sun, Dana White sported a Tiger Woods baseball cap for the post-fight press conference. When asked about the significance, he said that the coverage over Woods’ infidelity “gets old” and to “leave him alone.” Following White’s defense of dog fighting kingpin Michael Vick, you have to wonder what’s going on in this guy’s free time….White also mentioned Hawaii was on tap for 2010. Considering the tumbleweed landscape of the 155-pound division, it may be the only thing that gets Penn excited.