BJ Penn Smashes Through Diego Sanchez, Continues Ruling 155 Division

BJ PennMEMPHIS -- BJ Penn was born on a tranquil island of peace but seemingly created to fight.

The UFC lightweight champion cemented his claim as the greatest 155-pounder in mixed martial arts history, bloodying and battering Diego Sanchez en route to a fifth-round stoppage TKO at UFC 107 before 13,896 at FedEx Forum.

Penn dominated from the opening seconds to the finish, looking razor sharp with his power strikes. He nearly finished the bout in the opening frame, flooring Sanchez with a right and pummeling him with a rapid-fire series of ground strikes. Sanchez was able to withstand the onslaught and escape to fight on, but he was never able to put Penn in any troubling situations.

Though he often fights a blistering pace, Sanchez seemed more reluctant than usual to engage, instead opting to try takedowns in an attempt to bring the fight to the ground. Penn, who before the fight said, "If he tries 14 takedowns, I'll sprawl 15 times," proved prophetic with the prediction, stuffing each and every one.

Finally, in the fifth, Penn landed a kick that opened a deep gash over Sanchez's left eye. Referee Herb Dean quickly called a timeout to have the ringside doctor check the cut, and the physician ruled Sanchez unable to continue.

"He looked great," said UFC President Dana White, who informed the media that Sanchez was taken to the hospital immediately after the match. "We've been waiting for this for years, for him to take it seriously and put in the time and effort. He's the real deal, but he was coasting on talent for 10 years. Now he's taking it seriously, and you see the results."

Penn (15-5-1) now has five straight stoppages in the lightweight division dating back to his return at the weight class in 2007.

In the past, Penn has always flirted with grander plans, fighting men 15, 30, even 45 pounds heavier than him. But after losing to Georges St. Pierre in January, he seems content for now at 155.

Asked what he considers the next challenge ahead of him, Penn decided to live in the moment.

"I have nothing to comment on that," he said. "I don't want to think that far ahead. I'm just going to enjoy this."

While Penn was making a statement at lightweight, Frank Mir was doing so at the high end of the scale.

Mir spent the last few days badmouthing Cheick Kongo, and promising he'd expose the holes in his game. The former heavyweight champion showed how to properly back up fighting words, destroying Kongo with a lopsided win via guillotine choke in just 72 seconds.

"It was a statement for myself and my camp," Mir said. "To bounce back from a loss to Brock [Lesnar]. A loss would've been detrimental to my career. I felt I had to decisively smash him or otherwise it wouldn't have elevated my status. It was a lot of pressure, but how do you deal with pressure? I guess you can see from my face, I deal with it pretty well."

He did, indeed.

While the guillotine was the finishing method of choice, the end came about because of a crushing overhand left that felled Kongo like an axed tree. Mir followed him to the ground, and after connecting with a few ground strikes, he cinched in a guillotine. Kongo never tapped, leaving Herb Dean to pull Mir off Kongo a split-second after he fell limp.

Former No. 1 contender Kenny Florian got back on the winning track, rebounding from his August title fight loss to Penn with a second-round rear naked choke submission over Clay Guida.

After a close first round, Florian turned things around using his jab in the second. The end came suddenly when Florian caught a charging Guida with a straight left, right hook combination. Guida went down to his knees, and Florian threw a rapid-fire series of punches from the side before rapidly transitioning to a fight-ending rear naked choke.

Florian attributed the fight-changing combo to his new striking coach Firas Zihabi, who he says has tightened up his punches, making them quicker and more accurate.

"I found my range," he said. "I was able to keep him outside, and as he was going forward, to use his aggression against him. I caught him with nice, short punch. Even the elbow I landed was short. It worked out well. I have an amazing group of coaches. They're very, very smart guys."

In the pay-per-view opener, rising 6-foot-11 prospect Stefan Struve overcame some scary moments against returning veteran Paul Buentello, edging out a tight majority decision in a thrilling bout.

Buentello floored Struve in the second round when the Danish fighter moved in for a flying knee. Buentello timed the move perfectly and landed an overhand right that crumpled Struve to the floor.

Struve's ridiculous size and reach advantage had given Buentello fits in the first round, and so instead of engaging him on the ground, Buentello let him up. Struve took the opportunity to steal a few extra seconds of left, and made it through the round. In the third, he was able to outstrike Buentello using a series of thudding leg kicks.

"The gameplan was to take him down and submit him. It didn't go that way," Struve said afterward. "I gassed a little too quick. I'm not used to that. I usually have a good gas tank. I decided to bang with him, and it went pretty good."

Welterweight contender Jon Fitch was hoping for a dominant performance against Mike Pierce. He didn't get a showcase win, but he did emerge with a hard-fought victory in a three-round war of attrition.

Fitch could never truly break through Pierce's defense. Showing a strong wrestling game and good hands, Pierce was nearly up to the task of upsetting Fitch, who has only lost once in his last 20 fights (his 2008 title fight against Georges St. Pierre).

"He was very tough," Fitch said. "I got to his back, but he had a good base. It was hard to break him down to dominant positions to do damage. He had a good chin. I landed some good punches, and he took them."

The non-televised fights included a bout which equaled the excitement of Buentello-Struve, but lasted less than one round between DeMarques Johnson and Edgar Garcia. Momentum shifted several times throughout the bout during striking exchanges.

After one particularly brutal series of shots, Johnson moved to the middle of the cage and did a bodybuilder pose, taunting Garcia, who fired back immediately with an overhand right that floored Johnson. Seemingly in trouble, seconds later, Johnson connected with an upkick, and Garcia fell right into a triangle.

"That was spur of the moment," Johnson said afterward. "That was some straight-up Jeremy Horn Fight-Jitsu. I can't really remember much because he hits so hard."

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