Three fighters went into UFC 127 with tunnel vision of championship glory. Unfortunately, none of them were able to close the distance between themselves and the titles that covet most.
Homecoming was not kind to George Sotiropoulos, thanks to the menacing ways of Dennis Siver. The hopeful, lightweight title contender was unable to implement his game (submissions) into the fight, largely due to Sivers’s striking and low center of gravity. It appeared that the evening’s strategy was to get Siver to the ground and set him up for some sort of lock that would render him to submission. Siver had other plans and executed them accordingly. He dictated the direction of the fight by keeping it in an upright position. Sotiropoulos landed some big shots on Siver as well, but standing up the majority of the fight was not on his agenda. Knowing this, “The Souvlaki” went for what he knew. For every takedown he attempted, it was countered. If it was single-leg takedown, Siver would keep up his balance and punch his way out of that trap, standing on one foot. When he opted for a double-leg takedown, Siver would simply bully him into the cage or on the mat. When Sotiropoulos altered his game plan by dabbling into Siver’s territory, he was outdone. At the 1:41 mark of the opening round, Siver greeted Sotiropoulos with a left hook that quickly sent him to the mat. A few seconds later, he unleashed a thigh kick and another left hook that sat him down a second time. Sotiropoulos tried to lock him in a hold when Siver attempted mounted punches, but to no avail. Siver iced the opening round with a left jab heard throughout the Acer Arena.
As the fight progressed, Sotiropoulos grew more comfortable standing up with Siver, landing some major shots, but it was not his fight. Even when he went back to attempting takedowns, he was dismissed every time. As valiant as Sotiropoulos’ effort was, it simply wasn’t enough to secure an eventual shot at the Lightweight Championship.
B.J. Penn hoped to immediately display his takedown skills against the All American college wrestler Jon Fitch. After missing the opening takedown attempt, he forced Fitch into the cage and worked for a single leg takedown. Fitch hit The Prodigy with knees to the body for his efforts. An exchange of knees came from both men. Fitch went for a takedown himself but is unable to execute it. Penn responded with a takedown of his own, which he lands and works in a body triangle. Fitch countered and is on top of Penn, landing some elbow shots. Penn used his feet to create space in order to stand up. Fitch forced Penn into the cage and followed with another attempted takedown. Fitch finished the round with knees to the body and an elbow. Fitch opened the second round with a high kick to Penn’s head, followed by a takedown. The two ended up on the cage, where Fitch tried to pry Penn away from it. Penn landed an uppercut, but Fitch was kept the distance closed. Fitch worked in multiple strikes. Penn responded with elbows, which resulted in a bloodied eye and nose for Fitch. Fitch gets in a good uppercut as the two broke. Penn executed another takedown and took control of Fitch’s back with rear naked choke. Fitch spun out of Penn’s clutches and concluding the round with strikes. Penn got out of the mounted position and to his feet to the sound of the horn ending round two. The last round saw Fitch impose his will on the future Hall of Famer, keeping him on the ground most of the remaining five minutes. Fitch landed a hard right punch, followed by a takedown. Fitch threw in some body shots and hammer fists, but Penn got back to his feet. Fitch took Penn’s back, forced him to the ground and got him in the half guard position. Fitch smothered Penn and landed every strike possible in that position. It was awe-inspiring to see Penn in a position where his attempts to escape the mounted position were null and void. Whatever angle he went to, his head and face were met with strikes. Penn finally got out of the Fitch’s clutches only because he was saved by the bell. It’s unknown as to what fight the judges were watching, but the decision they came to was anything but correct. Jon Fitch will now have to play the waiting game in a match many felt he won.
What will become of these three contenders who fell short of their championship expectations?
With his road to glory suffering a detour, how much longer will Sotiropoulos have to wait to reach title contention?
In only his second fight in his return to the Welterweight division, he learned that there are some of his classmates who are too big for him. Does this place Penn at the crossroads of his career, wondering what’s next?
The indictment on Fitch that says he is unable to finish his opponents has come back to bite him. What does this mean for him moving forward as a Welterweight? The answers to these questions are eventual and the hope for these fighters and MMA fans alike, is that the booking committee will make better decisions than the judges of the main event.
By Antoine Hoffman