If this was to be the retirement fight for former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn, this was hardly the best way to go out as Frankie Edgar put on a clinic against Penn in the main event at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday night.
Penn opened the bout literally on the balls of his feet and Edgar began with what he normally does, lots of movement with jabs and other assorted offense. Edgar managed to score a takedown early with Penn using variations of open and butterfly guard. Edgar was three times able to stand out of it and dive back in, but didn't land anything significant with a diving entry back into Penn's guard. Edgar was also content to beat up the legs of a Penn content to lay on his back.
Referee Herb Dean eventually forced the fight back to the feet, but Edgar went right back to work, tagging Penn with short shots and punches at the end of combinations.
The second round started much the same way the first round ended as Edgar bobbed and weaved on the outside while Penn, on the balls of his feet, followed him around the cage. Edgar landed a takedown roughly two minutes into the frame and again, this round looked similar to the first with Edgar doing all the offense. This time, however, Edgar was able to open up with a series of hard elbows and hammer fists as he pinned Penn into the canvas.
By the third round, things started to get uglier. Edgar was able to do whatever he wanted, when he wanted. Edgar eventually took the Hawaiian to the mat and from there, Penn could do nothing but hang on. Edgar couldn't pass guard very far, but was able to began landing hard shots without Penn being able to control his posture. The strikes began to mount and Penn looked increasingly helpless to the point where referee Dean had no choice but to halt the bout.
The TKO end came officially at 4:16 of the third round.
"I got nothing but respect for B.J.," Edgar said after the fight. "It's a bittersweet victory. I said I wanted to finish because he's never been finished. I knew how tough he was, but I almost feel bad about it in the same sense.
"Going into this fight, I didn't want to worry about what BJ. I just wanted to worry about what I did."
As for what's next, Edgar said matter of factly his goal is a featherweight title opportunity.
"I want to fight for the title or a fight to get me to the title."
As for Penn, the all-time great signaled this could be the end of his career, something UFC President Dana White said he would push for should Penn lose the contest.
"Frankie did a great job," Penn said. "I shouldn't have came back. I shouldn't be in the ring tonight, to be with the top level like Frankie Edgar. Much respect to him.
"Of course, Dana said it was over. I gotta agree with him at this point. I'm glad I got to take the chance. I started fighting, my father told me when I was a little kid every time I got hurt to think past the pain and here am I still to today."
Penn's record drops to 16-10-2 while Edgar improves to 17-4-1. The win marks the third time Edgar has bested Penn inside the Octagon. Edgar first defeated Penn at UFC 112 to capture the lightweight title in April of 2010 via unanimous decision. He defended it against Penn at UFC 118 in August of 2010, also winning by unanimous decision.