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UFC 80 Thoughts & Commentary

B.J. Penn, in shape and focused at 155 lbs., is an unstoppable force.

And that’s a fact. What he’s done to his last two opponents is simply destroyed them. He carved through Jens Pulver and he completely dominated Joe Stevenson last night. It’s not due to Stevenson’s lack of preparation or skill level, either. Stevenson is highly skilled and has a very bright future ahead of him but he just happened to run into a buzzsaw in B.J. Penn. Penn was better at every facet of the game last night. Striking, grappling, wrestling, jiu jitsu, top control, you name it, B.J. was better.

It was almost like he was toying with Stevenson in the first round. He had him mounted a couple of times but didn’t do much with it. Once the cut opened up on Stevenson’s head, however, B.J. went in for the kill. Even if Stevenson wasn’t cut open during the fight, B.J. would have dominated him. If B.J. continues to fight like he has been in arguably the UFC’s most crowded division, he’s going to catapult himself into the talk for the #1 pound for pound spot in the world. For me, the lasting image of the night was B.J. licking Stevenson’s blood off his gloves directly after the fight. Is that the image of a warrior? I certainly think so.

Fabricio Werdum made a statement.

And the statement was that not only is he one of the best heavyweights in the world, but he’s not the same fighter that we saw against Andrei Arlovski. It was evident in the first round that Gonzaga’s gameplan was to take Werdum’s legs out from under him with killer leg kicks and he executed that plan to a tee, knocking Werdum down several times. At that point it looked like Gonzaga was on his way to a victory but the way that Werdum was able to adapt to Gonzaga’s gameplan in the second round was ultimately what won him the fight.

In the second, Werdum kept his distance from the leg kick and checked a few, countering with punches every time Gonzaga threw a leg kick. This allowed him to close the distance, clinch Gonzaga up, and pour on some brutal Chute Boxe style knees, eventually ending Gonzaga’s night via TKO. Werdum did two things last night. He erased the terrible performance against Arlovski and he let everyone know last night that he’s not a joke in the heavyweight division.

What happened to Gabriel Gonzaga?

Where did his toughness go? He looked very good in the first round but once Werdum adapted to his gameplan he had no answer. He looked gassed in the second round when almost no damage was landed on him in the first round. At this point in his career I think it’s safe to say that Gonzaga is a hot and cold fighter. He has flashes of brilliance but his cardio is always a factor and looked to be a factor last night. Sometimes Gonzaga is tough as nails. Other times he folds up like a chair. If Gonzaga can be more consistent and work on that cardio he could be a force in the heavyweight division. Right now, though, he’s got more questions surrounding him than answers.

Marcus Davis deserves a chance to fight a contender.

Davis has done enough for himself to earn a shot against one of the 170 lbs. division’s contenders. While I thought that his fight with Liaudin could be fight of the night, I was clearly wrong and Liaudin got slept in the opening minute of the fight. While it’s not likely that Davis will end up being a worldbeater or the next Georges St. Pierre, his heavy hands, knockout power, and winning streak in the UFC should earn him a shot against someone along the lines of Josh Koscheck or Diego Sanchez. Davis could surprise some people with his power at the top of the division but I think it’s due time for him to see where he stands against the division’s top dogs, not the Jess Liaudins of the world.

Wilson Gouveia’s got some serious power.

Hats off to Jason Lambert for controlling Gouveia for the first round and dominating the fight, but leaving your hands down and letting Gouveia create distance to let his hands go was a pretty bad mistake. Lambert paid for it dearly by eating a face full of leather and then a face full of canvas in the opening moments of the second round. Gouveia needs some work on his wrestling and he could be a legitimate top ten light heavyweight. As for Lambert, the loss is a disappointing one but he did show that he could be on the cusp of competing at a higher level in the UFC. Just gotta keep those hands up.

Kendall Grove did his best Steve Nelmark impression.

Kendall Grove is not a guy who takes fights lightly or doesn’t come to bang. He usually comes in top shape and ready to go. He may have taken Jorge Rivera lightly, however. Jorge was in his face all fight, punching him repeatedly and it looked like Kendall panicked. He panicked, tried to scramble, and left himself in bad positions to take more punishment. In the end, Jorge slept him and did to Kendall what Tank Abbott did to Steve Nelmark back in 1996 and that knockout was brutal. I don’t know where exactly Kendall Grove goes from here. He certainly stays in the UFC and continues to fight based on his name recognition and the middleweight division’s lack of talent. How much of a factor he will be from here on out is the big question. He’s been fed two guys who were tailor made for him to beat and lost badly on both occasions. Not good for Kendall Grove.