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UFC 123 Main Card: Penn Blitzes Hughes

AUBURN HILLS, MI, November 20 – 21 seconds. That and the idea of fighting an old rival was all it took for BJ Penn to get his mojo back, and he did just that, knocking out Matt Hughes in their rubber match to break a two fight losing skid and send the crowd at The Palace at Auburn Hills into a frenzy during Saturday’s UFC 123 co-main event.

Hughes vs. Penn
“Matt you’re my idol, you will always be my idol,” said Penn, who ran out of the Octagon after the bout, recalling the time he did the same thing after halting Caol Uno in 11 seconds in 2001. When he returned, it was as a triumphant hero in his first welterweight bout since 2009. The win also brought him back to prominence after he lost his lightweight title and back-to-back bouts to Frankie Edgar. See post-fight interview

Penn came out firing at Hughes immediately, looking sharper and more intense than he has in a long time. Hughes tried to weather the storm, but after firing a kick and having it caught by Penn, ‘The prodigy’ turned up the heat even more, landing with a right hand that sent Hughes to the canvas. A follow-up barrage ended matters at the 21 second mark.

“He hit me hard,” said Hughes. “I thought it was a knee or a kick.”

The loss ended Hughes’ three fight winning streak. As for his future, the 37-year old Hall of Famer was non-committal.

“I had a lot of momentum and I had a lot on the line. I don’t know what happens from here.”

With the Knockout of the Night win, Penn improves to 16-7-1; Hughes falls to 46-8. The two fought twice before, Penn winning in 2004, and Hughes returning the favor in 2006.

Harris vs. Falcao
With a burst of intense action bookended by nearly two rounds of tedious “action”, Brazilian middleweight Maiquel Falcao scored his first UFC win, ending Gerald Harris’ three fight Octagon winning streak via unanimous decision. See post-fight interview

Scores were 29-27 and 29-28 twice for Falcao, who improves to 26-3 with 1 NC; Harris falls to 16-3.

A tentative opening from both fighters was greeted with boos from the fans in attendance, and rightfully so, as Harris was doing little and Falcao was doing nothing. With less than two minutes left, the Brazilian finally woke up, firing off a flurry of punches and a knee that allowed him to get Harris to the mat. He continued to fire off punches there as well, eventually sinking in a rear naked choke. It looked like the end was near, but Harris powered out. Harris got caught again moments later, but the bell intervened. Unfortunately, Falcao didn’t immediately release the hold, prompting a warning from referee Dan Miragliotta.

Looking to keep the momentum going, Falcao landed a hard punch to the head to start the round and Harris went back to the canvas. He bounced up immediately, swinging haymakers at his foe, but it was Falcao who got Harris on the mat, sinking in yet another rear naked choke. Harris broke loose again, standing and pinning his foe against the fence. Now it was Falcao’s turn to break loose, and he did bringing the fight back to the center of the Octagon. Harris shot in for a takedown, but was turned away. With 1:50 left, Harris slammed Falcao down, but “Big Rig” shot right back up and went back to his striking attack as well as some solid takedown defense.

The first four minutes of round three mimicked the opening stages of the bout, with the lack of action igniting the crowd – and not in a positive manner. With a minute left, Harris shot for a takedown, but didn’t get it, and the two went back to circling each other and throwing single shots that came up short, drawing a loud chorus of boos after the final bell.

Davis vs. Boetsch
Unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis delivered perhaps his most impressive UFC performance to date, dominating always tough Tim Boetsch before submitting him in the second round. See post-fight interview

The two former college wrestlers spent the first half of the opening round kickboxing, with both landing their share of shots. Midway through the round, Davis (8-0) shot in for his first takedown and he got it, proceeding to go to work with strikes from all angles. After a prolonged period of punishment, Boetsch (12-4) was able to make it to his feet in the final minute, but Davis kept him locked up, finishing off an impressive round with more strikes.

Davis picked up where he left off in the second round, getting the fight to the mat just before the two minute mark. While there, Davis attempted a kimura, modified it and forced Boetsch to tap out at 2:55 of the frame. The innovative armbar earned him Submission of the Night.

Sotiropoulos vs. Lauzon
Lightweight George Sotiropoulos finished 2010 with a bang, ending a 3-0 run this year with an impressive second round submission win over Joe Lauzon in a bout named Fight of the Night. See post-fight interview

The two exchanged punches to begin the bout, with Lauzon the sharper of the two. Sotiropoulos responded moments later with a takedown attempt, but Lauzon fought it off and went back to peppering his foe with strikes. With two minutes left, a mad scramble of a takedown attempt from Sotiropoulos ended up with Lauzon on top and scoring with ground strikes, but the Australian kept moving, and he was able to reverse position and wind up on top. The high-level grappling from both men didn’t stop though, and by the end of the round, it was Lauzon on top and in control.

After some more scrambles to start round two, Sotiropoulos made a concerted effort to attack Lauzon’s body with punches and knees, and after a series of both, he got Lauzon to the mat and went to lock up his arm, but Lauzon pulled loose. The second time Sotiropoulos got his arm though, there would be no escape, as a tight kimura produced a tap out from Lauzon at 2:43 of the second round.

With the win, Sotiropulos, who also defeated Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino this year, improves to 14-2; Lauzon falls to 18-6.