Thomas Gerbasi, UFC – It was the biggest fight of Georges St-Pierre’s career, and against BJ Penn, the UFC welterweight champion delivered a Master Class, shutting down the lightweight champion completely before forcing a stoppage at the end of the fourth round in the UFC 94 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, January 31 – It was the biggest fight of Georges St-Pierre’s career, and against BJ Penn, the UFC welterweight champion delivered a Master Class, shutting down the lightweight champion completely before forcing a stoppage at the end of the fourth round in the UFC 94 main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It was a sweet victory for St-Pierre, who had scored a close split decision win over Penn in their first fight in 2006.
This one wasn’t nearly as close.
“The last time I won by decision,” said St-Pierre, who retained his title for the second time. “I really wanted to take him out and I’m glad I did it.”
The crowd roared as soon as the lights came down for the main event, and got even louder as Hilo, Hawaii’s Penn made his way to the Octagon. But the loudest cheers were reserved for the welterweight champion from Montreal, who looked more focused than ever. Flashbulbs lit up the arena in the moments before the opening bell with chants of “GSP” and “BJ Penn” melting into one eruption of noise.
The two champions locked up at the bell, with St-Pierre bulling his smaller foe into the fence while throwing the occasional short-range strike. While the two moved around the perimeter of the cage, St-Pierre looked for a takedown, but despite having Penn’s leg locked up, he couldn’t get him down. As the bout entered its third minute, St-Pierre released the leg and the two exchanged blows, with St-Pierre briefly jarring Penn with a right hand. Shortly afterwards, St-Pierre again went for the single leg takedown but was rebuffed, and a 1-2 by Penn got GSP’s attention. St-Pierre responded with another sharp right hand, and while the champion couldn’t take Penn down, his crisp strikes and busy workrate gave him an early edge.
Between rounds one and two, there was some commotion in the St-Pierre corner as a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission reprimanded one of the champion's cornermen for allegedly wiping vaseline on the back of St-Pierre, a rules violation that was quickly addressed as the fighter was toweled down before the bell rang.
The second stanza opened with some brief exchanges, but the crowd booed as St-Pierre pushed Penn to the fence and sought another takedown. This time St-Pierre got it though, and the two commenced their first battle on the mat. St-Pierre’s ground strikes were effective, and he quickly worked into side control, putting Penn in trouble as he fired away with punches to the head and knees to the side as the crowd chanted for him. Penn tried to land punches from his back, but St-Pierre shook them off and kept firing his own heavy artillery. With under a minute left, St-Pierre remained in control, bruising Penn under the left eye as he continued to punch until the bell sounded.
St-Pierre raced out of his corner to start the third round and his strikes sent blood spurting from Penn’s nose. Moments later, St-Pierre took Penn down and looked to continue the ground assault he instituted in the previous round. And he succeeded, pounding away as Penn tried to find an opening for a submission from his back. With two minutes left, after eating a series of shots to the face, Penn rose and looked for his own takedown as he pinned St-Pierre to the fence. GSP reversed the position though and got yet another takedown, this one the most emphatic of the fight thus far. Now Penn was stuck against the fence, and St-Pierre began to tee off with punches to the head and body, with the bell eventually intervening.
The left jab was St-Pierre’s primary weapon in the beginning of round four, and after landing a few of those, he took Penn to the mat and landed in side control, where the punches started to rain down again. Pinned to the canvas, Penn was unable to get out of the way of St-Pierre’s blows, and the end seemed to be near for the lightweight champion. And while Penn wouldn’t surrender, the fight was now one-sided in St-Pierre’s favor, with little light at the end of the tunnel for Penn, who was watched closely by referee Herb Dean in the closing seconds of the round.
There wouldn’t be a fifth round for Penn, who was wisely kept in his corner by Octagonside physician William Berliner, as well as his own cornermen.
The scores at the time of the stoppage were 40-35 and 40-34 twice for St-Pierre, who improves to 18-2. Penn, a former welterweight champion who currently holds the 155-pound belt, was attempting to become the first man in UFC history to simultaneously hold titles in two weight classes. He falls to 13-5-1.