Sherdog Remembers: Day the Lightweight Division Nearly Died

By Jeff Villanueva Feb 28, 2018
On this day 15 years ago at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, UFC 41 was bannered by two heavyweight bouts that promised short, yet action-packed fights and a match that was supposed to determine the new Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion. Unfortunately, it would take three more years to find a 155-pound ace.

UFC lightweight title: B.J. Penn vs. Caol Uno

After Jens Pulver was stripped of his lightweight crown, a 4-man tournament was set for the vacant title where B.J. Penn and Caol Uno emerged as the top contenders. Penn and Uno first met at UFC 34 for the title eliminator, and “The Prodigy” delivered an easy 11-second knockout.

Here’s how former Executive Editor Greg Savage recalled the bout in his weekly “The Savage Truth” column 15 years ago:

As much as I would like to say that fight was a draw, I just can’t bring myself to say it. Penn won rounds one, four and five with Uno taking two and three. It should have been scored 48-47 in Penn’s favor but thanks to the shoddy judging, B.J. will go home empty handed and the title will hang in limbo for another few months until everyone can agree on what to do with it. Penn-Uno III anyone?

It is cliché, but when it comes down to it, any fighter that allows the judges to decide their fate only have themselves to blame when it doesn’t turn out the way they want. That said, I still would be pissed off if I felt I had won three rounds and my opponent had won two and I had to watch my title belt go back into the box instead of going home with me.

So after the press conference I roll back into the media room to send in my recap and low and behold, they have all the results printed out with the judges names and round-by-round scoring. So I start looking them over and notice that the guy who scored the fifth round of the Penn-Uno fight 10-10 was the same guy who scored the Serra-Thomas fight 30-28 in favor of “The Terror.”

So I start asking around, “Does anyone know who this Steven Wright guy is and what is his background?” One of my smartass friends who works for the UFC tells me, “He is a stand-up comic. Haven’t you ever heard of him?” I just chuckled and told him, “No s**t, that explains the scores.”

Sylvia snatched Rodriguez’s title

More from Savage:

Come on? Who in their right mind picked the “Grizzly Bear,” I mean “Maine-iac?” Congratulations to those of you who went on the record with your Sylvia pick, both of you. I saw you guys working. That was one of those “I will pick this guy since no one else thinks he will win and just in case he does I will look brilliant” predictions. Well done, mission accomplished. Hell, the only thing more surprising than Sylvia’s stunning win was the fact that my pal actually bought a round at the bar after the event. I guess there is a first time for everything.

I wonder how long “The Maine-iac Grizzly Bear” (oh, that rolls off the tongue nicely) will get to cinch the UFC gold around his waist since the recent past has not been too kind to the champs. I hope for his sake and the UFC’s as well, he can bring some stability to the picture. The heavyweight champion turnstile that has been spinning out of control since the Barnett suspension has put the clamps on any effective marketing of what should be the most noticeable personality in our sport.

A big congratulations to Sylvia, whom I am sure is enjoying his huge win, made all the more sweet when you add in the fact that just about everyone gave him little or no chance to pull off the big upset. He, who laughs last, laughs hardest. I think I heard that somewhere before.
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