Former lightweight champion B.J. Penn knocked out Matt Hughes early in the first round Saturday night for an explosive finish to their trilogy of UFC fights, spanning almost 10 years.
Penn had lost his last two fights to current lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, and moved up to the 170-pound welterweight division to face Hughes. The veteran grappler had no chance to use his superior size and wrestling strength as Penn displayed quicker hands and cleaner boxing techniques right from the start, tagging a surprised Hughes with an overhand right and left hook combination in the first few seconds. Hughes threw a few ineffectual left jabs and a right body kick, but "The Prodigy" pounced on his fourth jab, firing an overhand counter right which floored the former longtime welterweight champion.
The Hawaiian native hammered Hughes with three quick clean rights on the ground, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to step in and declare the fight over. The finish came at 21 seconds into the first round, and earned Penn an $80,000 check for Knockout of the Night honors. Penn will stay in the welterweight division and face contender Jon Fitch next at UFC 127.
The co-main event featured a rematch between former light- heavyweight champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyota "The Dragon" Machida. Rampage had early problems walking down the elusive karate practitioner, as "The Dragon" used agile footwork to pivot out of danger and pepper Jackson with sharp counter punches. Machida scored a knockdown and attempted an unsuccessful armbar submission in a close third round, but Rampage's superior punching power and dogged pressure was enough to earn him a split decision victory in the eyes of the judges. It's not clear what fight is next for Jackson, who humbly admitted after the fight that "Machida kicked my ass" and probably deserves a rematch. Both fighters still appear to be in the mix for a shot at the winner of the light heavyweight title match between champion "Shogun" Rua and Rashad Evans in 2011.
Undefeated lightweight Phil Davis (8-0) earned the Submission of the Night award with an innovative modified "chicken-wing" kimura hold on Tim Boetsch, which announcer Joe Rogan dubbed "The Mr. Wonderful" in honor of Davis' nickname in the post-fight interview inside the Octagon. The former Penn State wrestling standout earns an $80,000 bonus check for his efforts.
Australian George Sotiropoulos submitted Joe Lauzon in the "Fight of the Night" to continue his rise up the lightweight ranks, while Chute Boxe-trained striker Maiquel Falcao won his first fight with the UFC, snapping middleweight Gerald Harris' ten-fight winning streak with a dominant decision victory.
Preliminary fights aired free on SpikeTV included middleweight Mark "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Munoz decisioning Aaron Simpson, while veteran Matt Brown suffered a guillotine choke loss to lightweight Brian Foster (15-4), who replaced an injured Rory McDonald. Veteran judo practitioner Karo Parisyan had a disappointing return to the Octagon, following up his drug-tainted January 2009 no-contest with a knockout loss to Dennis Hallman. Hallman finished "The Heat" with an overhand right to the temple, followed off with hammerfists to the cheek with 1:47 remaining in the first round.