- UFC 137
Diaz leapfrogs Condit for GSP fight after retiring Penn
Nick Diaz earned himself a shot at Georges St-Pierre after a phenomenal stand-up battle with BJ Penn in Saturday's UFC 137 main event, on a night when Penn and Mirko Cro Cop both retired from the sport.
Diaz, on his return to the UFC, was forced to survive a first-round beating by former two-time champion Penn, but the Strikeforce champion came roaring back in rounds two and three with a brutal display of boxing. By the end of a pulsating contest that saw both men bloodied, swinging until the final klaxon, it was Diaz who claimed a 29-28 29-27 29-28 decision.
It was undoubtedly one of the fights of the year. Diaz had to be held back by security at the stare-off, and then he had to negotiate a lesson in jabbing and striking from Penn that left the American badly cut. A single-leg takedown also saw Penn take Diaz's back, in a round that undoubtedly went to the Prodigy.
The second stanza changed everything. Diaz backed Penn towards the cage, and a series of body shots quickly absorbed the Hawaiian's cardio, allowing Diaz to unload hooks and body shots as Penn's face became even more bloodied than his own. Never has Penn been so beaten up on his feet as he somehow survived until the bell.
Penn tried to stem the flow in the third, firing plenty back at Diaz, but the Stockton-born fighter continued to pour it on. By the end they were both swinging, but Diaz was landing three to every one of Penn's strikes, proving once again what a dangerous human being he is.
"I don't think Georges is hurt. He's scared. Where you at mother******?" Diaz roared afterwards. The question was answered by Dana White, who later announced Carlos Condit would be replaced by Diaz as St-Pierre's next clash.
As for Penn, the Prodigy's illustrious career finally appears to be over: "Y'all, probably the last time you'll see me in here. I want to compete at the top level, that's probably it," he announced.
In the co-main event, Matt Mitrione's undefeated UFC record came to an end after Cheick Kongo edged a largely cautious fight 30-27 30-28 29-28 in the eyes of the judges. Victory brings up the 10th of the powerful Frenchman's career, and it came as a result of a change of tactics towards ground-and-pound.
The first round was an instantly forgettable affair as neither man found an opening, but in round two Kongo began to chop away at his foe with a series of leg kicks. He then made a late switch to implement his almost-forgotten takedown offence in the third, twice getting Mitrione to the mat to bloody him up for an impressive victory.
Mirko Cro Cop's career looks set to end in defeat after he announced that his third-round TKO loss to the Dan Hardy-cornered Roy Nelson was his farewell fight. Cro Cop, owner of a quite savage career in Pride, was stopped at 1.30 in the final stanza after a big right hand scrambled his senses.
The Croat had earlier been on the verge of beating Nelson when he rocked his rival close to the cage, unloaded a frightening series of uppercuts that - perhaps - only Nelson could have survived. Bloodied up, Nelson then completely sucked the life out of Cro Cop with a mounted crucifix, before finishing things with some heavy blows in the third.
"I thought before this fight that it would be my farewell fight," Cro Cop said. "Unfortunately I didn't seal it with victory. Roy was just better tonight and all I can say is congratulations. I was treated like a king by UFC headquarters, and by UFC fans. All I can say is I'm sorry."
In the featherweight division, Hatsu Hioki's UFC debut ended in a controversial split decision victory over George Roop. Hioki struggled to adjust from the ring to the Octagon and appeared to have dropped rounds one and three to the more fluid striking game of Roop, who was only dominated in the second. However, two of the judges rendered a 29-28 score in Hioki's favour, to the clear disappointment of Roop.
Elsewhere, at bantamweight, Scott Jorgenson used his superior wrestling and displayed some fine jiu-jitsu defence to score a unanimous decision win over Jeff Curran. Jorgenson was handed a 29-28 29-28 30-27 triumph that extends his recent record to seven wins in eight fights.
And there was a dominant first-round submission victory for Donald Cerrone, who improved his lightweight title credentials against Dennis Siver. Cerrone twice dropped Siver, once with a head kick that Cro Cop would have been proud of, before eventually locking on a rear nake choke midway through the opening stanza.