Monday Morning Reverie: Ultimate England

By Mike Sloan Jan 21, 2008
If I could only use one adjective to describe this past Saturday's UFC, it would be "incredible."

Only one of the televised bouts went the distance, and that fight was exhilarating from beginning to end. Since the event was filled with fights that nearly all ended early and emphatically, Zuffa was able to squeeze in every single off-TV bout save for the Sam Stout (Pictures)-Per Eklund (Pictures) battle.

The story of the night was without question B.J. Penn (Pictures)'s utter domination of Joe Stevenson. It was sheer wizardry: a dazzling array of strikes, agility, athleticism and, of course, magnificent submission prowess.

It wasn't as if Penn fought some stiff that was pulled out of the crowd. Stevenson came into battle as prepared as he ever has been before and made it entertaining. He was able to pull Penn back to guard after "The Prodigy" achieved full mount with grapevines more than once. Even when B.J. dropped "Daddy" with a compact left uppercut seconds into the fight, a woozy and wobbly Stevenson regrouped and made things interesting.

Yet with all that Stevenson escaped and fended off, it was nowhere near enough as Penn seemed four or five steps ahead every second of the contest. The Hawaiian did whatever he wanted almost whenever he wanted, and it was just a matter of time before a perplexed and battered Stevenson would succumb.

As it turned out, thanks heavily to Stevenson having suffered a horrific gash on his forehead, Penn sunk in a textbook rear-naked choke and forced his opponent to tap out.

It's hard to say whether Penn ever looked better. His obliteration of Matt Hughes (Pictures) in their first fight, the all-too-easy submission of Jens Pulver (Pictures) in their rematch or the destruction of Caol Uno (Pictures) in their initial encounter were fights of mythic proportions. It's just a little difficult to envision either of those conquests sizing up to how decisively Penn outclassed Stevenson in England. It's that B.J. Penn (Pictures) that has made him one of the most beloved and ballyhooed fighters in MMA's relatively short history.

But Not So Fast …

After Penn triumphed over Stevenson, he shouted into the microphone, "Sean Sherk (Pictures), you're dead!" His win, coupled with Sherk's failed urinalysis after his win over Hermes Franca (Pictures), multiplied with how angry Sherk was after he was called out, makes for one hell of a showdown.

But before you lay down mortgages on another impressive Penn victory, take a closer look at Penn's win over Stevenson. Did anybody else notice how exhausted Penn appeared when he was talking to Joe Rogan? Heck, he was leaning up against the commentator, and it looked as if he was about to pass out from fatigue.

Revisionist history is too easy, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that had Stevenson not suffered such a grotesque laceration, he may not have fallen victim to the choke. And had the fight gone into the third, I wouldn't be too quick to suggest that maybe Penn would have tanked like he did against Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) and against Hughes in their rematch.

Considering Penn's propensity to gas out in recent years during his contests, it's amazing that 83 percent of the nearly 25,000 poll-taking Sherdog readers tab him to beat Sherk. I'm sorry, guys, but Sherk won't go out that easily when he tangles with Penn. Sherk's gas tank is akin to those snazzy new hybrids.

In a nutshell, Sherk will be able to fend off the first two rounds of attrition from Penn and drag him into sherk-infested waters: rounds four and five. Don't be surprised when Sherk winds up stopping a depleted Penn late in the fight to showcase the true UFC champion at 155.


On Saturday afternoon I covered the live news conference/fighter tryouts for the brand new fight club, Xtreme Fighting Association. The owners of the organization seem genuinely excited about how successful their particular brand of fighting could be in the coming months.

The XFA is a standup-fighting only organization not unlike the fledgling World Combat League, though their brand takes place inside a regulation-sized boxing/kickboxing ring. Fights will all be three three-minute rounds, and everything but elbows are allowed in the battles.

Owner Harold Reis and president Chris Reis proclaim that they have a solid network television deal and will host several shows throughout the year, their first being in March in Las Vegas. They also boast that their fighters will not be locked down to exclusive contracts, and the promotion will be family friendly and not tolerate profane language or actions or drug use of any kind.

Despite their energy and passion, the Reis duo has an uphill battle ahead of them. The WCL has not taken off and K-1, Asia's biggest and most successful fighting organization, has struggled mightily in North America. K-1 has had extreme difficulty selling out the smallish convention center rooms in both the Bellagio and Mirage, and let's not even discuss the promotion's U.S. pay-per-view presence, or lack thereof. Furthermore, I've been hearing rumors lately that K-1 won't even bother to make an appearance in Vegas in 2008 after only one show came to fruition in '07.

Don't get me wrong, the Reis guys seem like wonderful human beings, and I absolutely love striking. But after hearing and seeing their discomfort in answering some of my questions and considering how WCL and K-1 have faired here in America, it seems the XFA has a serious uphill battle if it's going to find success.

Misc. Debris

As the title of this column deftly suggests, UFC 80 should not have been titled the cheesy "Rapid Fire" (who at Zuffa comes up with these tacky monikers anyway?). It sure would be swell if the UFC would go back to naming its events after the countries they're held in, like Ultimate Japan and Ultimate Brazil. UFC 80 should have been labeled "Ultimate England." Maybe one day we'll see Ultimate Antarctica inside some igloo. …

I'm a bit puzzled following what transpired in the Jorge Rivera (Pictures)-Kendall Grove (Pictures) fight. After watching most of Rivera's professional fights and his slow decline, I figured the younger and more athletic Grove was going to bounce back from his loss and trounce him. I was wrong. Now the question begs: Is Grove vastly overrated or has Rivera finally taken a step in the right direction? We should have the answers in their next outings. …

And speaking of overrated, I'm starting to think that maybe Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures)'s massive obliteration of "Cro Cop" was a fluke. Sure, he looked good in the Octagon against Randy Couture (Pictures) before being stopped. But he wound up being pummeled by Fabricio Werdum (Pictures), a fighter I'm still not totally sold on. I could be a bit off base here, but it seems like "Napao" has fallen in love with his kicks. Or maybe he, like Grove, is overrated. …

Hey Rogan and Goldberg! Antoni Hardonk (Pictures) scored the TKO over Colin Robinson (Pictures) because he delivered a perfectly disguised straight left onto Robinson's chin. After about a dozen replays, the two commentators kept gushing over the leg kicks that took out Robinson. I saw the punch when it happened and said to myself, "Oh, good sneaky punch!" It wasn't until Hardonk pointed it out to Rogan that the funnyman realized what had happened. Predictably, Goldberg still didn't see it and talked about the leg kicks that knocked out Robinson at the closing of UFC 80. …

Who does Marcus Davis (Pictures) think he is? A guy that size shouldn't be allowed to carry explosives in his fists. I'm starting to think that Davis would be able to bowl a perfect game just by punching bowling balls down the lanes. …

I watched UFC 80 several hours after it was live because I had to do some errands and cover the XFA open tryouts. Also, the Felix Trinidad-Roy Jones fight came first because, well, I named my stinkin' dog "Tito" after Puerto Rico's greatest boxer. Enough said. Suffice it to say, poor Trinidad was dropped twice and lost a wide unanimous decision. I was beyond bummed out, and unless UFC 80 was exciting, I wasn't going to be cheered up. Luckily for yours truly, UFC 80 wound up being arguably the greatest, most action-packed UFC event in the Zuffa era, maybe of all-time. Naturally I'll have to review my list of greatest UFCs, but off the top of my head, I can't recall an event that was filled with so many explosions from start to finish. Kudos to our chums within Zuffa's walls.

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