The young phenom, Yair Rodriguez did what many expected him to do last night – defeat former two-weight UFC champion BJ Penn in what ended up becoming a very-one sided beatdown.
The Octagon kicked off its 2017 schedule with a return to Phoenix, Arizona, with UFC Fight Night 103, headlined by the generations matchup that on paper always looked like a mismatch.
Penn was making his return after a two and a half year hiatus following a self imposed retirement in the aftermath of his third loss to Frankie Edgar in the summer of 2014. But getting matched up against 24-year-old ‘Al Pantera’, a 9-1 Mexican sensation no less, always felt like the Hall of Famer was getting thrown to the lion.
Right from the opening bell Rodriguez controlled the fight and laid into Penn with a variety of kicks to the leg, body and head. Penn just about survived the first round and it didn’t take too long for Rodriguez to get the job done early in the second with a front kick to the head followed up with some ground ‘n’ pound before referee John McCarthy waived it off.
Speaking in the post fight media scrum, Rodriguez, now 10-1 and still undefeated in the UFC, spoke of his admiration for BJ. “I was ready to die or to win,” Rodriguez said. “I talked to him after the fight, and he said, ‘Hey man, no disrespect, this is part of the game. I said all this stuff because it’s part of the strategy. But all due respect.’
“I told him, ‘Hey man, listen, I know it’s part of the strategy.’ We all do the same thing in different ways. So I’m not mad at him, he’s not mad at me, and I respect him even more right now after I fought him. He’s a legend and a powerful guy, and I’m pretty happy to have the victory.”
The general consensus from the MMA community seemed to be McCarthy could’ve stopped the fight sooner, however, Rodriguez believes Penn was still showing signs of fighting back.
“I don’t think so, and less with a guy like BJ. He’s a legend. When I started punching him on the ground, he was moving. So I was being careful of him up-kicking me or grabbing a submission. When I saw the referee stop the fight, it was an amazing moment.”
As for whether Penn returns to retirement or not will be ultimately up to him, but Rodriguez did provide some positive feedback after sharing some cage time with him.
He added: “It’s part of his life and his career. “It’s up to what he wants to do. I felt he was strong, but it’s up to him what he wants to do. I can’t pick.”