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UFC Fight Night 103 results: Yair Rodriguez brutalizes B.J. Penn

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Rodriguez vs Penn Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As B.J. Penn walked out to the Octagon at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix for his return bout after a retirement of more than two years, it seemed time stood still. The former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion’s traditional Hawaiian music blared over the arena loudspeakers and he looked healthy and ready to go.

Then his UFC Fight Night 103 main event against Yair Rodriguez started, and Sunday night turned into a visceral reminder that the fight game can turn ugly for even the best-loved fighters if they stay in the game too long.

Rodriguez (10-1), the TUF Latin America 1 champion, absolutely savaged the UFC Hall of Famer in a featherweight matchup before winning via TKO at the 24-second mark of the second round.

Rodriguez used a wide range of kicks, of the conventional and spinning variety, in the opening round, and landed to the head, body, and legs. Penn took enough damage in the round that you had to wonder if the corner would wave the bout off between rounds.

They let Penn return, and Rodriguez finished the fight with the quickness. He opened the round with a wicked front kick which dropped Penn, then landed roughly two dozen uncontested punches before referee John McCarthy finally called the fight off.

Rodriguez, a native of Chihauhua, Mexico, has won eight in a row and is 6-0 in the UFC.

“This is an amazing fight for me I fought a legend tonight,” Rodriguez said after his fifth career finish. “He deserves a lot of respect, I want to say thank you so much to BJ Penn for the fight.”

Penn (16-11-2), who announced his retirement following a July 6, 2014 loss to Frankie Edgar, dropped his fourth straight fight and is 1-6-1 in his past eight. His last win was over Matt Hughes in Nov. 2010.

The co-feature bout was an interesting grappling matchup as salty vet Joe Lauzon took on up-and-coming Marcin Held. And when Lauzon was announced as a split decision winner in the lightweight bout, many disagreed -- including Lauzon himself.

“I disagree,” Lauzon said after getting 27-30, 29-28, and 29-28 scores. “I got screwed in my last fight [a controversial decision loss to Jim Miller], I disagree with this one 100 percent. It was not my night.”

Lauzon convincingly won the opening round with a brutal series of elbows, which nearly finished the bout. Held survived and came on strong in the second. But Lauzon worked hard for submissions late in the round, which was enough for him to sway two judges. Held convincingly took the third round against a fast-fading Lauzon.

Lauzon (27-12), who has been with the UFC since 2006, earned his 14th lightweight win, tying him for third with Rafael dos Anjos in the division history. He’s also won two of his past three. Held (22-6) has dropped three of his past four.

In a welterweight matchup, veteran Ben Saunders kicked off his third career UFC stint with a unanimous decision victory over Court McGee. The 33-year-old Saunders peppered McGee with body kicks over the course of the bout, which was enough to win him the first two rounds on the scorecards, enough to negate a strong McGee effort in the third, and earn him across-the-board 29-28 scores.

“I knew going into this fight that he was going to be super tough,” Saunders said. “I’ve said this about Court time and time again. He has a big heart and endurance for days. I knew if it went to the third, he would come out strong so I tried to finish it in the first two.”

Saunders (21-7-2) was 3-3 in the UFC from 2007-10 and 2-2 in a stint which lasted from 2014 through last January. McGee (18-6) has dropped two straight and three of his past four.

Sergio Pettis had the most noteworthy win of his UFC career in the flyweight main-card opener. Now 23, the fighter best known as Anthony Pettis’ little brother is making his way on his own merits, and that was on no more clear display than in his unanimous decision victory over Phoenix’s own John Moraga.

Pettis (14-2) got off to a fast start in the opening round against Moraga, who took the bout on a few weeks’ notice after original opponent Jussier Formiga dropped out. Pettis battered Moraga and dropped him with a nifty right hand in the round’s closing seconds.

Moraga (16-6) rebounded with a solid effort in the second round, but Pettis picked up the pace again in the third and sealed the deal. He won on a unanimous decision with a pair of 29-28s and a 30-27.

“I was just trying to strike him out,” Pettis said. “I was surprised by how strong he is! I hit him with some bombs and he had good stand-up. He showed a lot of aggression and showed his veteran skills. I felt he was a big test for my career. I think I break the Top 10 now. I want Formiga now.

Pettis has won three in a row and five of six; Moraga has dropped three straight fights.

In an undercard finish of note, heavyweight Aleksei Oleinik submitted Viktor Pesta via submission at 2:57 of the first round. And while that might seem mundane, the way it happened sure wasn’t: Pesta had full mount on Oleinik when the latter caught him in Ezekiel choke. Pesta threw punches from top until he realized he was caught and tapped, giving Oleinik submission via the move in UFC history.

Oleinik (51-10-1) improved to 3-1 in the UFC, while Pesta (9-5-1) dropped his third in a row.

“It is an honor to have the first Ezekiel choke in UFC history. However, this is a choke I have used many times in Russia. In fact, many in Russia call this the ‘Oleinik Choke’. I noticed that Pesta has a long neck and that he does not protect it so I knew I could use this to my advantage.

In the Fight Pass feature bout, Nina Ansaroff (7-5) recorded the first win of her UFC tenure with a third-round finish of Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-4) in a strawweight matchup. Ansaroff, the partner of UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, used a rear-naked choke to finish the bout at the 3:39 mark of the final round, and shook off a two-fight losing streak in the process.

“2017 is going to be our year; mine and Amanda’s,” Ansaroff said. “I’m going to take about a month off but then I’m getting right back in there. I want to keep the momentum going.”

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