TORONTO - The pen may be mightier than the sword, but we still don’t know if B.J. Penn is mightier than Jon Fitch.
On a bizarre night of upsets, cartwheel kicks, a near disqualification and a spitting incident, the Hawaiian and the wrestler went toe to toe for 15 minutes Down Under at UFC 127 last weekend.
But when the much-anticipated battle was over, neither fighter was able to raise his hand in victory thanks to a rare majority draw.
The tie is a win in some ways for Penn, who proved once again he can hang with the bigger fighters in the welterweight division. But it’s a huge step backward for Fitch.
Just about everyone expected the 33-year-old Indiana native to manhandle The Prodigy and come away with another win by decision as he had in seven of his previous eight bouts.
But The Douce went against the grain, backed Penn and almost ended up looking like a genius.
Prior to the fight in Sydney, Australia, I pointed out that Fitch’s inability to finish was a concern.
Considering he spent the last two minutes of the fight beating Penn like a red-headed step-child with hammer-fists and elbows but was unable to get The Prodigy to tap, I’d say Fitch’s killer instinct remains questionable.
We’ll never know if Penn was just being patient, waiting for an opening to submit Fitch as he absorbed blow after blow, or if he was on the verge of tapping.
But had this fight been five rounds, an idea the UFC is toying with for its main events, a clear winner would have emerged.
When the fight began, Penn immediately rushed in, grabbed hold of Fitch and eventually took him down. He then proceeded to out-wrestle the wrestler.
The tactic obviously surprised Fitch, who later admitted he had expected Penn to come out throwing bombs, like the punch that knocked out Matt Hughes 21 seconds into his previous bout.
“It took me to the second round to find my groove,” Fitch told UFC commentator Joe Rogan afterward.
Penn dominated the first round and came extremely close to finishing Fitch with a rear naked choke, but he couldn’t quite lock it in.
The second was more evenly matched, but Fitch was leaking from his nose by round’s end.
Fitch turned things around in the third and controlled Penn by doing what he does best, laying on his opponent and trying to ground and pound him out.
As usual, it wasn’t enough.
When the announcer declared the fight a majority draw, fans booed loudly. One judge scored the fight 29-28 for Fitch and the other two scored the fight 28-28.
Afterward, Penn admitted to Rogan he felt he didn’t do enough to get the decision.
“I think I got some dominant positions in the first two rounds but he kicked my butt in the third,” he said.
However, UFC president Dana White later told espn.com he disagreed with the decision.
“Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight,” White said. “There’s no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn’t a 10-8 round.”
The boss’ perception doesn’t bode well for Fitch, who had won 13 of his 14 UFC bouts and hoped a win over Penn would lead to a shot at Georges St.-Pierre’s belt.
THIS AND THAT
For a card that had few big names on it, there were plenty of big moments at UFC 127.
And many of those moments came during the stunning upset by underdog Brian Ebersole over the heavily favoured Chris (Lights out) Lytle. In his first UFC appearance, the American who trains in Australia had fans on their feet as he dominated the welterweight bout.
Ebersole won by unanimous decision and the bout was deemed the Fight of the Night.
Russian kickboxer George Siver also upset hometown favourite George Sotiropoulos in the lightweight division.
The Aussie native was strongly favoured and a win likely would have led to a title shot, but he was rocked several times early and despite a valiant effort was never able to recover. Siver won by unanimous decision.
Another Aussie, Kyle Noke, looked impressive as he made quick work of Chris Camozzi and was awarded the Submission of the Night. Camozzi gave up his back early in the first round and Noke capitalized, submitting him with a rear naked choke.
As expected, Brit Michael Bisping scored a TKO win over American Jorge Rivera, a fight that ended in controversy.
Also, Ross Pearson beat Spencer Fisher via unanimous decision, Alexander Gustafsson choked out James Te Huna, Mark Hunt took out Chris Tuscherer and earned Knockout of the Night, Nick Ring beat Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision, Zhang Tie Quan submitted Jason Reinhardt with a guillotine choke, Kurt Warburton defeated Maciej Jewtuszko by unanimous decision and Anthony Perosh submitted Tom Blackledge with a rear naked choke.