Photo by Mark Weber
The Ultimate Fighting Championship made its debut in Memphis Saturday night with UFC 107, an 11-fight event that was headlined by a lightweight title clash between champion B.J. Penn and top contender Diego Sanchez. Penn won in the fifth round by TKO.
The co-main event matched two heavyweights who do not like each other. At Friday’s weigh-in, Cheick Kongo, a 230-pound Frenchman, revealed his distaste – no, disgust – for former champion Frank Mir by turning his back on him during the posed photo-op.Kongo felt that Mir had disrespected his abilities, and Kongo went so far as to suggest last week that Mir considered him a “piece of (expletive).”
That set the general mood for Saturday’s fight, and Mir struck quickly. He sent Kongo tumbling to the canvas with a hard left, then strangled him until he passed out. Referee Herb Dean rushed in to stop the proceedings just 72 seconds into the fight. By the time Kongo woke up, it was over.
In another of the most anticipated bouts of the night, lightweight Kenny Florian defeated Clay Guida with a rear naked choke hold in the second round.
Make-or-break showdown for Florian (14-4), who was pummeled by Penn at UFC 101 in August.By the end of the first round, blood was dripping from Guida’s forehead and covering much of his torso.In the second round, Florian caught Guida, a clear fan favorite, with a right cross that dropped him to his knees. Florian pounced, wrapping his right arm around Guida’s neck. Guida (25-8) had no choice but to tap out at the 2:29 mark.
“This was my night,” Florian said. “I want another shot at the title.”
Struve and Buentello, the first fight broadcast live to a national pay-per-view audience, went all three rounds with Struve (23-3) winning by split decision.
Alan Belcher provided some early fireworks. A native of Imboden, Ark., Belcher had expressed disappointment that he was left off the main card. He took out his frustrations against Wilson Gouveia, a top-flight Brazilian.
Fighting at 195 pounds, Belcher uncorked eight answered punches that dropped Gouveia to the canvas. Referee Herb Dean finally stepped in to stop the bout at the 3:03 mark of the first round.
“We wanted to show that I could finish fights,” said Belcher, who improved to 14-5. “I can knock everyone out in the UFC. I want that belt, baby.”
In other fights:
Welterweight Jon Fitch narrowly avoided an upset loss to relative unknown Mike Pierce. Fitch won by unanimous decision, 29-28 x 3.
Rousimar Palhares won his middleweight bout against Lucio Linhares via second-round tap out.
Johny Hendricks, a two-time national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State, teed off on Ricardo Funch, piledriving him three times and using his face as a piñata before winning via unanimous decision.
In a stand-up slugfest, lightweight Matt Wiman opened up on Shane Nelson in the first round and never stopped punching. Wiman won all three rounds and the fight.
Welterweight T.J. Grant, a 25-year-old Canadian who bore more than a vague resemblance to a lumberjack, stunned Kevin Burns with a strong right hand and then, with 3 seconds left in the opening round, finished him off with several more blows to the face.
After escaping a “Peruvian necktie” (don’t ask), welterweight Demarques Johnson defeated Edgar Garcia with a triangle choke at the 4:03 mark of the first round.
“I can’t really remember too much,” Johnson said, “because he hits so hard.”
By Scott Cacciola
Posted December 12, 2009 at 10:23 p.m. , updated December 13, 2009 at midnight