BJ Penn showed some ultra-sharp boxing skills as he picked Sean Sherk apart at UFC 84 “Ill Will” at the MGM Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday evening, but The Prodigy, after almost three full rounds of pugilistic perfection, reached into his tool belt and broke out a killer left knee that had his foe in la-la land at the end of the third round. It was an overwhelming conclusion to a fight that Penn controlled throughout, a grudge match that left zero suspense as to who the better man was at 155 pounds.
In the lightweight title beef, the Hawaiian Penn (13-4-1 entering, age 29) weighed in at 155 pounds, while the 34-year-old Sherk also weighed 155 pounds.
The Minnesotan Sherk (36-2-1 entering) had been the lightweight king, but was stripped of his belt last summer after he tested positive for steroids. The former UFC welter champ Penn beat Joe Stevenson in his last outing for the vacated strap. Sherk came to Vegas to get back what he believed was his property; the Muscle Shark maintains to this day that the positive test was erroneous, while Penn had verbally abused him leading up to the tussle for being a cheat.
In the first, the men tossed shots with mean intent. Sherk landed a heavy left hook but Penn barely blinked. Penn worked a relaxed but stiff jab, while Sherk's quick, hard blasts were delivered by shorter arms. It was a tight round, but Penn's jab may have given him the edge. he marked up Sherk's face with his accurate tags.
In the second, Sherk worked some inside leg kicks but BJ came back with body work. By moving his feet, Penn controlled distance, and kept pecking away with the jab. He won the round, on the TSS card. Sherk had a slice under each eye, visible post round.
In the third, Penn came out with an unmarked face, and he kept at the same strategy. Both men, actually, seemed content to stay on their feet, rather than test each others' strength, wrestling and submissions. Was Sherk hoping Penn would get gassed late in the game? Penn seemed to be saving up some for later, as he calmy, cooly popped the jab, and kept the feet moving side to side. Sherk added some more leg kicks to the mix, but that may have been because his right hand was hurting him. Penn landed a left flying uppercut knee that sent Sherk back into the cage, and leaped on the MInnesotan, looking to finish with a flurry of punches and hammers as the round ticked down. The horn sounded to end the round, as ref Mario Yamasaki looked to step in and save Sherk from more pain. Sherk declared himself unable to continue, Bruce Buffer said, so the bout was halted. However, afterwards Sherk did not indicate that he verbally declared that he could not continue, so it seems the exact manner of the finish is still murky. It's actually immaterial, as Sherk was beat, and Penn smelled blood on the Shark.
After the bout, Penn ran over to Sherk, and smeared some of the loser's blood on his hand, and licked it off. He then said he'd go after Georges St-Pierre, and asked the crowd to give Sherk a hand.
In his perhaps final UFC appearance, Californian Tito Ortiz (age 33, entering at 16-5-1 ) took on Brazilian Lyoto Machida (age 29, entering at 12-0) in a 205 pound scrap. Machida's quickness won him the first. He took Ortiz down like he had a 25 pound weight advantage, secured side control and pounded Tito's head. The bell may have saved Jenna's boytoy. Machida bothered Tito with inside leg kicks in the second. Ortiz screamed at the evasive Machida to stand and trade at the end of the round. He was quite frustrated. Also he had a bad slice on his right eye that needed attending to. In the third, the ref Yves Lavigne fell, and the crowd hooted. Ortiz yearned for a takedown, but his foe was strong and cunning. He landed a leaping knee to the liver that dropped Tito at the 1:20 mark, and worked in the guard, and was almost caught in a triangle/armbar. The judges spoke and named Machida the victor, 30-27 times three. The crowd booed as Machida, who fought his typical smart, borderline boring to some, technically adept fight, spoke to Joe Rogan. Machida called Ortiz a “legendary fighter.” Ortiz, the former five time light heavyweight champion, then spoke to Rogan. He said that Machida ran a lot, and that he tried to press the action. He said he'll fight for another three or four years. He said it's too bad he's leaving, but he'll be fighting a lot more. He plugged his autobiography, thanked his posse and Jenna, his wife, er, ex wife and left the Octagon, possibly for the last time. Give him and Dana two years to chill out, and we could so Ortiz fight in UFC again. Never say never, Dana told me earlier in the week.
In another 205 pound scrap, New Mexico's Keith Jardine (age 32, entering at 13-4-1 ) faced Brazilian Wanderlei Silva (age 31, entering at 31-8-1). It didn't last long. The Axe Murderer went to work ASAP, and hurt Jardine with a right to the side of the head, followed that with four blows, and Jardine started to the mat. Silva hopped aboard and started pounding away. The end came at :36 as ref Steve Mazzagatti saw Jardine's eyes go blank. He lay on the may for a spell after the flurry, but rose to his feet, happily, on his own. Silva, a classy killer, thanked all for watching and shook Jardine's hand and hugged him as he left.