When a knee injury forced welterweight king Georges St. Pierre to withdraw from the UFC 137 main event against Carlos Condit, he left a significant void behind. Enter former two-division champion B.J. Penn and onetime Strikeforce titleholder Nick Diaz. Problem solved.
Penn checked in at 169 pounds for his once-unlikely matchup with Diaz (170) in the UFC 137 headliner on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The eight other men slated for duty on the main card, including co-headliners Cheick Kongo (234) and Matt Mitrione (255), also made weight without incident at Friday’s official weigh-in.
Penn -- who ranks fifth on the promotion’s all-time appearances list with 20 -- last competed at UFC 127 in February, when he battled the world-ranked Jon Fitch to a draw at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The 32-year-old Hawaiian owns notable victories against former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight boss Takanori Gomi, three-time UFC title contender Kenny Florian, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez and four former UFC champions: Matt Hughes (twice), Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver and Matt Serra. A decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Penn has secured 13 of his 16 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Only two men -- St. Pierre and Hughes -- have finished him, both in five-round fights.
A Cesar Gracie protégé and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Diaz last fought under the Strikeforce banner in April, when he stopped British slugger Paul Daley on first-round punches in a riveting back-and-forth bout at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. The 28-year-old Stockton, Calif., native will carry a career-best 10-fight winning streak into his first UFC appearance since 2006. Victories over ex-UFC middleweight champion Frank Shamrock, reigning Dream welterweight titleholder Marius Zaromskis, Japanese star Hayato Sakurai and onetime EliteXC lightweight kingpin K.J. Noons anchor the Diaz resume. He has not tasted defeat in nearly four years.
UFC 137 “Penn vs. Diaz” -- which will air live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT -- will also feature a heavyweight scrap pairing 2006 Pride open weight grand prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (235) with Roy Nelson (252.5), a bantamweight duel pitting the world-ranked Scott Jorgensen (135) against Jeff Curran (134) and a featherweight tilt matching former Sengoku Raiden Championship titleholder Hatsu Hioki (145) with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semifinalist George Roop (145). An hour prior, Spike TV will carry a pair of preliminary fights, as surging Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout Donald Cerrone (156) meets Dennis Siver (155) and Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative Tyson Griffin (*149) collides with Bart Palaszewski (146).
Meanwhile, the four remaining undercard matchups will stream on the UFC’s Facebook page at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT: Brandon Vera (205) vs. Eliot Marshall (204), Ramsey Nijem (155) vs. Daniel Downes (155), Chris Camozzi (185) vs. Francis Carmont (185) and Dustin Jacoby (185) vs. Clifford Starks (186).
UFC 137 “Penn vs. Diaz”
Saturday, Oct. 29
Mandalay Bay Events Center
B.J. Penn (169) vs. Nick Diaz (170)
Cheick Kongo (234) vs. Matt Mitrione (255)
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (235) vs. Roy Nelson (252.5)
Scott Jorgensen (135) vs. Jeff Curran (134)
Hatsu Hioki (145) vs. George Roop (145)
Donald Cerrone (156) vs. Dennis Siver (155)
Tyson Griffin (*149) vs. Bart Palaszewski (146)
Brandon Vera (205) vs. Eliot Marshall (204)
Ramsey Nijem (155) vs. Daniel Downes (155)
Chris Camozzi (185) vs. Francis Carmont (185)
Dustin Jacoby (185) vs. Clifford Starks (186)
* Tyson Griffin failed to make weight, and will be fined. The fight will go on as planned.