Draw throws wrench into welter scene
But not this many.
The 170-pound division is completely in the air now, as Penn (16-7-2) and Fitch (23-3-1) fought to a majority draw Sunday afternoon local time at Acer Arena.
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With current champion Georges St. Pierre fighting Jake Shields in April and likely moving up in weight after, it was unclear what would happen to the winner of Sunday's fight. Now, due to the draw, the title picture is even less clear.
UFC president Dana White admitted he had no idea how things will shake out, but did believe Penn did enough to get the win over Fitch.
"I didn't think it was a draw," White told ESPN.com. "I looked at the scorecards and the two judges who had it a draw scored the first two rounds for Penn and the third round a 10-8 [for Fitch].
"Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight. There's no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn't a 10-8 round."
The fight was close basically from start to finish. Penn surprised Fitch in the first by landing an early takedown and transitioning to his back.
“While Fitch had prepared during camp to have Penn on his back, he hadn't expected him to come out and shoot like he did.
Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight. There's no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn't a 10-8 round.” -- Dana White
"I was disappointed because I should have known better than to avoid a part of my training, which was wrestling defense," Fitch said. "B.J. had a great strategy coming out. He threw me off when he came out and shot and took me down."
Based on two scorecards, Penn held a 20-18 advantage headed into the third, when the fight took a huge turn in momentum.
It was Fitch who landed an early takedown this time and Penn was unable to get off his back the rest of the round. Fitch did enough damage from the top to earn 10-8 marks from both judges who had Penn ahead, changing the outcome of the fight.
Penn, who told Joe Rogan immediately after the fight he felt he lost, told ESPN.com he can see how many thought he won the fight and admitted his comments to Rogan were due mostly to his frustration on how the fight ended.
"I'm just kind of disappointed in myself," Penn said. "I let the fight get to the point to have the judges sway the fight towards his side. I guess in the third round I was going to relax for 30 seconds and then explode, but he put me down.
"It was definitely a fighter's mentality, [regarding my postfight comments]. Everybody has been telling me I won the first two rounds. I got stuck in the fighter's mentality that he was hitting me when the bell sounded so that was the last thing I remembered."
There are a few routes the division could go now, in light of Sunday's result.
Should Shields upset St. Pierre at UFC 129 in April, one of either Penn or Fitch could move ahead to fight for the title. If St. Pierre wins and vacates the belt to move to 185 pounds, as he's expected to if he wins, the two could rematch with the belt on the line.
Fitch would like the latter to happen if Shields loses. However, if Shields is the new champ come April 30, Fitch hopes that his track record of 13-1-1 in the UFC would earn him the shot.
"If rumors are right and GSP moves up to 185, let me and B.J. fight for the belt," Fitch said. "All I do is go out and do work and win fights. That should speak for itself."
Penn is not against a rematch with Fitch, if he fights again. The former lightweight and welterweight champion admitted postfight he would have considered retirement had he lost to Fitch.
Without the finality of a win or loss, Penn is open to a rematch.
"For me, it's the kind of things that run through your head," Penn said. "I'm 33 years old with a daughter. When am I going to stop this and go watch my daughter?
"I guess, if I do fight again, I should probably rematch Jon Fitch."
Although White said the fight was close enough he wouldn't consider it 100 percent a win for Penn, he stuck to his opinion the fight should have gone to Penn.
And what he saw from Fitch was not enough to green-light him to the title.
"Fitch is one of these guys that goes, 'Oh, I want my respect,'" White said. "He just fought a 155-pound guy and went to a draw with him and in my opinion, he lost the first two rounds -- and he's crying for a title shot?
"You've got to get in there and decisively beat people. You have to have fans clamoring for you to fight for the title."
Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.
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