The past crossed paths with the future inside the unforgiving Octagon, and it was not a pretty sight.
Yair Rodriguez destroyed former two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder B.J. Penn in the UFC Fight Night 103 headliner on Sunday at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. Rodriguez (10-1, 6-0 UFC) brought down the beloved Hawaiian with a front kick to the face, a searing right hand and a violent, sustained volley of hammerfists, forcing the stoppage 24 seconds into Round 2. Penn (16-11-2, 12-10-2 UFC) was given every chance to recover before referee John McCarthy moved in to rescue him.
It was a springboard performance for Rodriguez. “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” winner wrecked Penn with a variety of kicks to the head, legs, body and arms, establishing his superiority in the first round. Early in the second, Rodriguez connected with a front kick and sent “The Prodigy” careening to the canvas with the right cross that followed behind it. Penn tried unsuccessfully to defend himself, as he was met with one hammerfist after another from the gifted Mexican star.
Controversial Decision Goes to Lauzon
Joe Lauzon won for the fifth time in eight outings, as he took a contentious split decision from Bellator MMA veteran Marcin Held in their three-round lightweight co-main event. Two judges struck 29-28 scorecards for Lauzon, while a third saw it 30-27 for Held.
Afterward, Lauzon (27-12, 14-9 UFC) shook his head at the decision and affirmed his belief that Held deserved the nod.
Lauzon had the 24-year-old Pole in real danger early in the first round, where he countered a bid for a takedown with a burst of devastating clinch elbows to the side of the head. Held (22-6, 0-2 UFC) bailed on the attempt, recovered from the barrage and reset himself on the feet. He later secured a takedown, passed to side control and started to chip away at Lauzon with positional dominance and ground-and-pound. Over the second and third rounds, Held ducked in repeatedly for takedowns, chewed up clock and freed himself from an armbar. He rose to his feet with a smile on his face when the final horn sounded, thinking he won a clear-cut decision. The scorecards told a different story.
Returning Saunders Tops McGee
A steady diet of kicks to the body, legs and head carried Ben Saunders to a unanimous decision against “The Ultimate Fighter 11” winner Court McGee in featured welterweight clash. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Saunders (21-7-2, 8-4 UFC), who returned to the Octagon for the first time in nearly a year.
McGee (18-6, 7-5 UFC) had to swim against the current after a slow start. Saunders opened a cut near his left eye in the first round and continued to assault “The Crusher” with shin-to-skin contact. McGee picked up his pace in the middle stanza and hit the accelerator in the third round, where he appeared to daze Saunders with a sneaky right hand and head kick. He executed a takedown midway through the final frame and spent two-plus minutes grinding on Saunders with elbows, forearms and punches. It was not enough.
Pettis Outduels Competitive Moraga
Roufusport rep Sergio Pettis continued his steady climb on the flyweight ladder, as he captured a unanimous decision over onetime title challenger John Moraga in a three-round showcase at 125 pounds. Pettis (15-2, 6-2 UFC) was awarded 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks by the judges.
A replacement for the injured Jussier da Silva, Moraga (16-6, 5-5 UFC) could not match the former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion’s output on the feet. Pettis answered single punches from his counterpart with two, three and sometimes four of his own. He buckled Moraga with a left hook and sat him down with a straight right hand in the first round and withstood takedowns in the second and third. Pettis punctuated his most significant victory to date late in the fight, as he escaped an attempted heel hook and struck for a last-second takedown.
Pettis, 23, has rattled off three straight wins.