Nick Diaz (27-7-1) reintroduced himself to the UFC in spectacular fashion, earning a grueling three-round decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-28) over B.J. Penn (16-8-2) at the main event of UFC 137 in a likely fight of the year candidate. Afterward a bloodied and emotional Penn abruptly announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
"This is probably the last time you'll ever see me here," Penn declared. "I've got a daughter, another daughter on the way. I don't want to go home looking like this. I'm done."
The surprising revelation overshadowed what could easily have been the most exciting fight of the former champion's career. For fifteen minutes Penn and Diaz threw caution to the wind and engaged in an knock-down, drag-out war. While Penn held his own in the initial exchanges, momentum clearly swung in Diaz's favor midway through the second frame as the former Strikeforce champion opened up with a series of precise flurries that brutalized the face of his opponent.
Diaz continued his assault throughout the final round, mixing punches to the head and body in a brilliant display of boxing ability. After the final bell, the 28-year-old took to the mic to call out his original opponent.
"I don't think Georges (St. Pierre) is hurt. I think he's scared," Diaz brashly exclaimed. "What's up? Where you at Georges?"
Matt Mitrione vs. Cheick Kongo
Matt Mitrione's (5-1) heavyweight hype-train derailed after the former NFL lineman dropped a listless unanimous decision (30-27, 30-28, 29-28) to French striker Cheick Kongo (27-6-2) in the night's co-main event. The unusual performance marked the first blemish of Mitrione's career after a promising 5-0 start in the UFC.
Action was tempered throughout much of the first two rounds, as the Las Vegas crowd grew restless and pelted the fighters with boos several times. Kongo finally broke through in the final five minutes, securing a pair of takedowns before employing a series of punches and elbows from the top that opened a cut above Mitrione's eye. The damage would be enough for the judges, who awarded the 36-year-old the third victory of his last four fights.
Roy Nelson vs. Mirco Filipovic
Similar to Penn, the legendary career of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (27-10-2, 1 NC) ended on a down note. Roy Nelson (17-6) handed the Croatian his third straight loss, finishing Filipovic via TKO 90-seconds into the final frame of the heavyweight duel. Afterward, "Cro Cop" announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
"I knew before this fight this was going to be my farewell fight," he emotionally explained. "Unfortunately, I didn't make it. I wanted to say goodbye with a victory, but Roy was better tonight. I want to thank all you guys, especially the UFC fans. I was treated like a king."
Despite the result, Filipovic looked like he would exit on top. After scoring on the feet for much of the first round, the former-Pride open weight champion flashed back to his old-self midway through the contest, ambushing Nelson against the cage and unloading a brutal flurry that nearly ended the fight. With no clear escape, "Big Country" was forced to cover up and survive until his opponent decelerated.
Bloodied and battered entering the final frame, Nelson found the mark early with a straight right hand. Sensing an opening, the rotund "TUF 10" champion instantly followed up with a short left and Filipovic hit the mat. A series of unanswered punches from the top was all it took for referee Steve Mazzagatti to step-in and stop the fight.
"I'm guess I'm going to do a Chael Sonnen right now," Nelson lightheartedly said after the fight. "I'm supposed to call somebody out. Who's fighting next week? I think Junior [dos Santos] and [Cain] Velasquez. I want the championship. I'm getting too old for this [expletive], so that's who I want."
Scott Jorgensen vs. Jeff Curran
Bantamweight contender Scott Jorgensen (13-4) pushed his UFC record to 2-0 after defeating longtime veteran Jeff Curran via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) in a closely-contested technical contest. The victory was "Young Guns" seventh in eight fights, and second straight since falling to UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz at WEC 53.
Jorgensen dominated from the outset with an oppressive wrestling attack, repeatedly taking Curran down and working from the top. "Big Frog" countered in round two, peppering his opponent in the stand-up and briefly sinking in a guillotine before Jorgensen squirmed to safety, transitioned into top position and worked the ground-and-pound. The final frame was a similar back-and-forth affair with each man methodically trading combinations and Curran setting the pace.
"I feel good," Jorgensen happily said afterward. "It's the first time I've ever had an actual jui-jistu coach, so the sky's the limit from here."
Hastu Hioki vs. George Roop
Hatsu Hioki's (25-4-2) heavily anticipated UFC debut didn't go as planned, even if the former Shooto and Sengoku landed in the win column with a narrow split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) against "The Ultimate Fighter" veteran George Roop (12-8-1). The hard-fought victory was Hioki's fifth straight and first ever on American soil.
Roop opened the action early with a staggering right hand, but the Japanese veteran rallied back with stifling dirty boxing and a series of textbook outside trips to control much of the first two rounds. Frustrated by his opponent's game-plan, Roop erupted with ten seconds remaining in the second frame and landed a jolting upkick to Hioki's face before standing up and swinging for the fences. The American carried that momentum into round three, securing a pair of early takedowns to ride the fight to the final bell.
Hioki was candid when asked if he was surprised to receive the decision. "Yeah, a little a bit," he sheepishly said. "He was stronger than I expected ... Even though we are in a tough situation, Japanese MMA is not dead. It's time for a change."
UFC 137 main card results:
Nick Diaz def. B.J. Penn via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-28)
Cheick Kongo def. Matt Mitrione via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-28, 29-28)
Roy Nelson def. Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic via TKO (referee stoppage) at 1:30 of round 3.
Scott Jorgensen def. Jeff Curran via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Hatsu Hioki def. George Roop via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).