By Thomas Gerbasi
PHILADELPHIA, August 8 – Written off by many after his failed quest for the welterweight title against Georges St-Pierre in January, BJ Penn returned to the lightweight division Saturday night and showed why he is still the best 155-pounder in the world as he submitted number one contender Kenny Florian in the fourth round of their UFC 101 main event bout at the Wachovia Center.
It was Penn’s second successful defense of the title he won against Joe Stevenson in 2008.
Penn and Florian flew out of the corner to start the bout, with Penn missing a wide right hand. A second right moments later briefly dropped Florian, but ‘Ken Flo’ immediately got his bearings back and began to settle into a groove as he moved around the Octagon. Twice the two would lock up and trade close-range shots, neither man holding a clear advantage against the cage. With under 90 seconds left, the two broke loose and went back to long-range striking, with Florian pushing the action this time, but by the end of the round, Penn was back in control as he jarred the challenger before the bell sounded.
Florian came out in a wide stance to begin the second, and after a hard leg kick, he bulled Penn into the fence in search of a takedown. Penn fought off the attempt and worked his way free, and he calmly looked to pick his shots as Florian advanced. Two minutes in, Florian again sought a takedown, but Penn wasn’t interested, and despite the Boston product’s aggression, Penn’s defense was rock-solid, and he didn’t allow Florian to get any sort of momentum going.
The third saw Florian again bullying Penn against the fence, with his strategy either to get the takedown or wear Penn down. And while the former wasn’t working, the latter had to have been having some effect, and Penn’s offense stalled for much of the round, with only a late reversal and flurry getting a rise out of the packed house.
In the fourth round, Florian kept his strategy intact, but this time Penn turned the tables in the second minute by ripping off a flurry and then taking the challenger to the canvas. While there, Penn went on the attack, getting into the mount and then taking Florian’s back as he fired off kicks and strikes. The kicks did the trick, as Florian left his neck exposed for the split second Penn needed to sink in a rear naked choke. Florian fought valiantly to break free, but it was to no avail, with the tap out coming at 3:54 of the fourth round.
With the win, Penn improves to 14-5-1; Florian falls to 13-4 in his second unsuccessful title challenge. He previously lost to Sean Sherk in 2006.Watch Now!