On a night (or afternoon) where many fans complained of a lack of "exciting" match ups for UFC 80, we were graced with several exciting finishes.
In fact, out of the nine fights on the card only two ended in decision. There were SIX knockouts/technical knockout and one thrilling, blood-soaked submission.
Former welterweight champion BJ Penn solidified his place in history with a dominant win over Joe Stevenson in the main event to earn the vacant lightweight title, becoming just the second person ever to hold a belt in two different divisions (Randy Couture is the other).
It's an achievement he has been chasing since a loss to then 155-pound champion, Jens Pulver, in 2002 and a disappointing draw with Caol Uno in 2003.
Last night it's safe to say Penn looked better than he has ever looked in his career. Clearly, he needs to be mentioned with George St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Rampage Jackson as the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
There is a lot in store for Penn in the future. First and foremost, however, we now know that he will defend his belt against former champion Sean Sherk most likely in May.
That match up should be exciting and filled with animosity, especially if the scene inside the Octagon immediately following the championship fight is any indication.
Looking even farther ahead if Penn beats Sherk then he might be on a b-line for a rematch with St. Pierre. He wants that fight bad. With a win he'd also be the first man to hold two belts in two separate UFC weight classes at the same time.
Clearly, the 170-pound division is stacked. But UFC president Dana White is a shrewd businessman and he knows a big score when he sees one.
Of course, if Penn defeats Sherk he can then fight Kenny Florian (if he can beat Joe Lauzon on April 19). However, if Lauzon wins it's doubtful that Penn would take on his young student.
St. Pierre vs. Penn II would be one for the ages and I am one of the fans who believe Penn deserved the decision victory in their first encounter.
I for one think this fight NEEDS to happen if all the cards can fall into place.
For now we'll just all enjoy the ride. "The Prodigy" is at the top of his game and he has declared that Sherk is a "dead man."
That's a showdown that can't come soon enough.
The rest of UFC 80 was extremely interesting and exciting.
In the co feature of the evening Fabricio Werdum weathered the early storm of vicious leg kicks by Gabriel Gonzaga to knockout "Napao" in round two. Gonzaga looked great in the first round, but once again his conditioning was his downfall as he came out in the second stanza looking sloppy and gassed.
Werdum capitalized and put on a much more exciting fight than his previous scrap with Andrei Arlovski to earn some respect in the heavyweight division. Werdum now needs to be considered a top five heavyweight.
Gonzaga needs to re-evaluate his career so that we don't begin to think he is the man who got lucky with a head kick against Mirko Cro Cop and thats it. I wouldnt mind seeing Gonzaga and Cro Cop tangle again. It's a rematch that could sell tickets and be extremely interesting.
The rest of the main card action was quick and fast.
Jorge Rivera took his career off life support with a devastating knockout of up-and-comer Kendall Grove. It's good to see a guy like Rivera get a victory to save his career. How can you not respect a man who is fighting to support his family and not to become a millionaire?
Grove, on the other hand, seems to have let his head become way too big. This latest result is back-to-back devastating losses for Grove. And you have to wonder if he's training hard enough or if he's trying to live the superstar life before he's a superstar.
Usually I wouldnt question a fighters desire, but seeing Grove's undeniable talent in his three straight victories over Ed Herman, Chris Price and Alan Belcher makes you wonder where his hunger and drive went. The talent is still there, yet hes been knocked out in two straight versus fighters with less talent but more heart.
Hopefully, this will be a wake up call for Grove and his career because he has the talent to be a top caliber fighter in his division.
Wilson Gouveia threw a left hook out of nowhere for a stunning victory over Jason Lambert.
Before the blow Lambert dominated the entire fight from start to finish and had Gouveia on his heels. But he got sloppy and took one on the chin.
This is real tough tough loss for Lambert and an escape for Gouveia. I wouldn't mind seeing these two fight again.
Marcus Davis showed he should be considered a top five 170-pound fighter. With his dominant knockout over Jess Liaudin, Davis now needs to be mentioned with the big boys after a string of impressive victories.
I for one wouldn't mind seeing him tangle with Jon Fitch.
Alessio Sakara picked up a much-needed and solid victory over a well respected James Lee. Sakara was being dominated with the ground game; however, he found a way to unload a barrage of right hands and he took the win.
Sakara now should have his career back on track and some momentum heading into his middleweight debut in his next contest. With a few convincing victories there he could work his way towards the top the talent shallow division.
Paul Kelly and Paul Taylor put on a Liddell/Silva-type exchange to start off the fight and set the tone for what was a great fight.
Taylor was sharp on his feet and won the stand up exchanges, but Kelly was also game and never backed down. In the end Kelly's dominance on the ground proved to be the difference.
Both these fighters should see some more days in the UFC and deservedly so they put on a great fight.
Antoni Hardonk made quick work of Colin Robinson with a vicious leg kick and cross that put Robinson to the ground.
Hardonk was finally able to show his stand up skills that made him a feared heavyweight. However, if he cant develop something that resembles a ground game he will end up being nothing more than a gatekeeper for the heavyweight division.
Sam Stout won a lackluster decision over Per Eklund. And although his standup still looked crisp as usual you have to wonder if Stout will also ever be more than a gatekeeper who's capable on putting on a great standup show when the match up is right.
All in all it was a great night for MMA.
Tonight's fights cleared up some of the muddy waters in the heavyweight and welterweight divisions with Werdum and Davis' wins.
In addition, Penn cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time, but I think this is just the beginning of the peak of his career great things are still to come.
Take note Sean Sherk. You're a dead man!
For detailed UFC 80: "Rapid Fire" results hit up or blow-by-blow commentary post right here.