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LAS VEGAS -- B.J. Penn can now rest his head at night knowing what it's like to defeat Jens Pulver.
Penn had obsessed about grabbing a rematch with Pulver after losing to the then-UFC lightweight champion in 2002 and finally, after half a decade of clamoring for a shot at redemption, his dream came true.
He didn't go for the easy submission. He tried to beat the hell out of me. I respect him more and more every minute. B.J.'s a savage; he's very good.
The 28-year-old from Hilo, Hawaii, left no doubt as to who the better man was tonight, punishing Pulver from the start before choking out his bitter rival 3:12 into the second round at Palms Hotel's Pearl Concert Hall.
But Penn didn't just score a submission -- he tried his best to torture "Little Evil" before making the 32-year-old Miletich fighter tap out from a rear-naked choke.
Penn easily scored takedowns in the first round and was able to systematically break Pulver's will. Penn landed stinging elbows and punches while in the opponents guard and if that wasn't bad enough for Pulver, the "Prodigy" was able to achieve full mount almost at will.
Penn looked like the hungrier and more skilled fighter, even though Pulver gave it his all. There were a few times during the skirmish when it appeared as though Penn (11-4-1) could have ended the fight early and gone for either an armbar or rear-naked choke, but he seemed content to keep a slower pace in an effort to administer a more potent beating.
"He didn't go for the easy submission," said Pulver after the disappointing loss. "He tried to beat the hell out of me. I respect him more and more every minute. B.J.'s a savage; he's very good."
It wasn't as if Pulver, whose record fell to 21-8-1, just stood around and took a beating because he enjoyed it. He tried to make a fight out of it. He landed some crisp punches in the first and second rounds and he delivered a few solid knees to Penn's ribs while in the clinch. But Penn withstood the strikes and, whenever he wanted, either slammed Pulver down hard or just sucked him onto the canvas with single-leg takedowns.
Every time Pulver was down he found a world of trouble -- armbars, triangles, omoplatas and rear-naked chokes. Pulver masterfully escaped each attempt save for the final choke, a submission that was strung together perfectly.
Pulver knew it was coming and defended Penn's arms and hands. Penn quickly maneuvered his left leg to the front of Pulver's body and trapped the Bettendorf, Iowa-based fighter's left arm so he was unable to defend the imminent choke. From there Penn sunk in the submission and forced Pulver to tap.
The first UFC 155-pound champion had planned on retiring from active competition following his last fight -- a shocking knockout loss to undercard fighter and "TUF 5" cast member Joe Lauzon -- but after receiving the offer to fight Penn a second time and following six grueling weeks as a coach on the reality television series, Pulver had a change of heart.
Even with the loss tonight, Pulver was adamant that he's sticking around and will continue to grow as a fighter.
"This is almost our way of saying goodbye," Pulver said of himself and Penn. "I'm going down to 145; I think he wants to go back up to 170. So we just put a stamp on a phenomenal weight class that I hope you guys love, enjoy, and will always embrace in the UFC: 155."
Penn was unavailable for comments moments after the triumph over Pulver, his rival-turned-future training partner. Instead, Penn shouted into the microphone for everybody to visit his personal Web site -- bjpenn.com -- which ironically crashed due to a likely surge in traffic.
In the co-main event, Nate Diaz became The Ultimate Fighter 5 champion basically by accident, as opponent Manvel Gamburyan injured his right shoulder 20 seconds into the second round.
"When I [went] for his left leg, I popped it out," a disappointed Gamburyan said about his shoulder. "He sprawled really good and I popped it out. I thought I broke my shoulder and neck [at the] same time. I was hurt really bad. I know I can fight hard but it was really bad pain. I can't continue."
It was doubly disheartening for the scrappy Armenian as he was in total control of the battle. Gamburyan took Diaz down almost at will and when he was in the Stockton, Calif., lightweight's guard, he dished out plenty of punishment along the way. Diaz had a tremendously difficult time trying to pull off any submissions as Gamburyan was in the zone, virtually unable to do anything wrong or ill-advised.
Diaz couldn't seem to solve the riddle and after a hellish first five minutes of action, it was obvious that the younger brother of welterweight Nick Diaz had to resort to Plan B. That ancillary plan probably didn't involve stuffing a double-leg attempt that would result in the end of the contest. But a win is a win and Diaz was grateful for it.
"I'm glad this all went down for me today," Diaz said. "Actually, I felt like I should have got off to a better start. Manny did an awesome job."
It's uncertain as to how the fight would have unfolded had Gamburyan not sustained the injury. Diaz seemed to acknowledge that he was in trouble early, but he certainly wasn't complaining about becoming the ninth mixed martial artist to win the SpikeTV program.
"I know he works hard, I [trained] with him in the house," Diaz said about Gamburyan. "He's a very hard worker. And he's a good guy. A good, respectful guy. I got a lot of respect for him. It was a tough fight, regardless of the end of it. I got off to a slow start and he did awesome."
Nothing was said as to whether or not the two will fight again, but it seems logical that they'll have a rematch to find out who is the better fighter.
Thales Leites choked out Floyd Sword with an arm-triangle choke at 3:50 of the first round. The Brazilian light heavyweight took control of the bout early on and never relented.
Even when Sword scrambled up to his feet. Leites threw the New Mexico resident to the canvas with a perfect judo toss. It was only a matter of time before the fight was over when Leites climbed on Sword's back and tried a rear-naked choke. Instead, Leites opted to slither downward just a bit and latch on a beauty of an arm-triangle. Sword had no choice but to tap with the end coming at 3:50 of the first round.
Roger Huerta took some time to adjust before stopping opponent Douglas Evans in the second round. Evans won the first round based on his sheer octagon control and solid ground-and-pound tactics.
Even when Huerta -- the Sports Illustrated cover boy who's quickly made a name for himself in the UFC lightweight division -- would battle out of uncomfortable positions and get the fight back to his feet, Evans was the better man in that area as well.
A veteran of the obscure Alaskan Fighting Championship, Evans landed some crisp punches to both the body and head as well a sneaky standing elbow. It seemed like Huerta might be on his way toward his first loss in the UFC, but he eventually changed things around.
Evans took Huerta down early in the second after a decent exchange, but Huerta reversed him and gained side-control. Evans was able to pull full guard but Huerta eventually seized his back after a failed sweep attempt from Evans.
Huerta tried to secure a rear-naked choke but Evans' defense prevented it so Huerta instead unloaded a series of strikes to the head. Finally, after what seemed like 20 or so unanswered punches, referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in and pulled Huerta away. The official time of the TKO was 3:30 of the second round.
"I finally got position, got a good angle, started going for a rear-naked choke," Huerta said after the fight. "I couldn't finish it. You could tell he's a real good ground guy, real good wrestler. He didn't want to get choked out. But I just kept going, wanting the ref to finish it."
It was another impressive win for Huerta, who seems destined to be the first Latino superstar in the UFC with potential to bring in millions of Hispanic fight fans.
Joe Lauzon had his hands full with the tough Brandon Melendez before getting his opponent to submit with a textbook triangle choke in the second round.
Melendez was the aggressor in the opening round and tried to keep Lauzon on the defensive for the majority of the stanza. However, Lauzon was able to score some powerful double-leg takedowns and easily moved to full mount. Melendez bucked off Lauzon once mount was achieved, but that only led to Melendez being caught in a rear-naked choke. Melendez escaped and scrambled back to his feet, only to be taken down again.
Melendez survived the various submissions thrown his way for the first six-plus minutes of the battle until he found himself stuck in Lauzon's guard and caught in a triangle. Lauzon applied the pressure needed to force a tap out and Melendez did just that. The official time of the submission came at the 2:09 mark of the second round.
Matt Wiman dominated opponent Brian Geraghty from the start and pummeled his foe until referee Yves Lavigne stopped the mugging. Wiman scored a slick single-leg takedown early and proceeded to smother Geraghty with vicious elbows and punches.
Knowing he had to do something to avoid the punishment, Geraghty gave up his back, a move that didn't work. Wiman quickly secured control and rained down roughly 10 unanswered blows to the side of Geraghty's head, forcing a referee stoppage. The time of the TKO was 2:09 of the first round.
Leonard Garcia had to earn his first UFC victory almost as much as he had to earn his first UFC loss after Alan Berube almost choked out him out twice.
Berube was able to score a takedown from within a clinch and quickly latched on a guillotine choke. However, Garcia popped his head free and reversed the tide, catching Berube in a guillotine of his own. Eventually, after a few mad scrambles on the canvas, Garcia took Berube's back and secured a deep rear-naked choke, forcing "The Lobstah" to tap out at the 4:22 mark of the first round.
Cole Miller was awarded the knockout of the night after he dropped opponent Andy Wang with a kick to the head early in the first round. Wang fell onto his back and the lanky Cole immediately pounced, unleashing dozens of punches. Finally, after Wang couldn't properly defend the bombardment, the fight was stopped and Miller was awarded a TKO. The official time of the stoppage came at 1:10 of the opening round.
In what will go down as one of the most bizarre endings in the history of the UFC, the thrilling war between Gray Maynard and Rob Emerson was deemed a no contest.
Emerson took the fight right to Maynard, which paved the way for intense action both on the ground and standing upright. Maynard hurt Emerson early with a loopy overhand right but that only led to Emerson scoring a beautiful hip toss.
Emerson couldn't keep Maynard on his back as he was soon swept and from there Maynard unloaded a furious ground attack. The intensity reached an all-time high late in the opening stanza when Maynard delivered a brutal punch to Emerson's body and secured full mount. Maynard pounded away until the round closed.
The action continued immediately after the second round started as Maynard buckled Emerson's knees with a vicious right uppercut. Maynard closed the gap, scooped up his opponent and slammed him down hard onto the canvas a la Matt Hughes.
Once the fighters crashed on the mat, Emerson tapped out because his ribs were badly injured. Referee Steve Mazzagatti quickly waved off the fight because of the tap from Emerson but he failed to realize that Maynard had knocked himself out in the process.
After several minutes of mass confusion, the Nevada State Athletic Commission overruled Mazzagatti's call and deemed the fight a no contest.
The crowd and Maynard hated the verdict, as there was no clear-cut winner even though Mazzagatti originally stopped it because Emerson tapped out. There has yet to be any comments from Maynard stating whether or not he will appeal the result.
Mike Sloan covers mixed martial arts for Sherdog.com
B.J. Penn can now rest his head at night knowing what it's like to defeat Jens Pulver.