After all was said and done, the news around UFC 137 turned out to be bigger than the event itself.
Nick Diaz battered B.J. Penn, who joined Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in announcing his retirement after losing Saturday at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Cro Cop lost by TKO in the third round to a slimmed down Roy Nelson, then confirmed that he was calling it quits. After Cheick Kongo scored a unanimous decision victory over Matt Mitrione in a lackluster heavyweight match, Penn got outpaced by Diaz, especially over the final two rounds, and then said it was his last time fighting.
For his troubles, Penn earned an extra $75,000 — as did Diaz — for taking part in the fight of the night. Penn also needed a trip to the hospital instead of the post-fight press conference.
There was only one submission, a rear naked choke by Donald Cerrone in the first round against Dennis Siver, and one other knockout, as Bart Palaszewski pounded out Tyson Griffin in 2:45. Each winner earned the $75,000 bonus for submission and knockout of the night, respectively.
The wins by Cerrone and Palaszewski made Spike TV a winner, since those were the two preliminary card fights it televised. In the other main-card fights, highly regarded Japanese fighter Hatsu Hioki’s UFC debut was successful with a split decision win over George Roop, while Scott Jorgensen spoiled Jeff Curran’s return to the promotion with a unanimous decision victory.
The retirement announcements by Cro Cop and Penn stole some of the thunder from the main event, but Diaz did his best to make some news of his own. He originally was supposed to fight for the UFC welterweight title against Georges St-Pierre, who was sitting cageside and had little response to Diaz’s post-fight call-out.
“I don’t think Georges is hurt,” Diaz said. ”I think he’s scared to fight me right now.”
Cameras captured the reaction as St-Pierre laughed and shook his head. The champion pulled out of the title fight against Carlos Condit after tweaking his knee in practice within a couple of weeks of the event. Condit was originally supposed to fight Penn, but was elevated when Diaz went AWOL and missed a pair of press conferences.
Penn appeared frustrated with his performance and resigned to a future without MMA competition after offering congratulations to Diaz via Joe Rogan.
“Joe, it’s probably the last time you’re ever going to see me in here,” Penn continued. ”If you cannot perform at the top level … you know, I have a daughter, another daughter on the way, I don’t want to go home looking like this.”
Kongo and Nelson could be headed for a meeting after winning their bouts. Kongo beat Mitrione in a close fight by hitting a takedown in the final round and top-controlling Mitrione, Nelson’s former castmate from the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Nelson and Cro Cop went into a winner-take-all third round with the fight tied 19-19 after two. Nelson, more fit than ever, did not let it go to the judges, getting down Cro Cop and pounding him out from the back mount at 1:10.
“I told (you) before this fight, this is going to be my farewell fight,” Cro Cop said. ”Unfortunately, I didn’t get the victory. Roy was the better fighter tonight. I want to thank the UFC fans, the headquarters, they have treated me like a king.”
Following the contest, Nelson shaved his scraggly beard and dressed in a dapper suit. If he was styling to be a championship contender, he was doing it to back up his words.
“It was awesome to compete with a legend,” Nelson said. ”I guess I’m gonna do a Chael Sonnen right now, and call out somebody. Who’s fighting in a couple of weeks? (Cain) Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos? I want the winner of that. I’m getting too old for this (stuff).”
On the Facebook portion of the preliminary card, all four fights were unanimous decisions.
Brandon Vera beat Eliot Marshall, Ramsey Nijem dominated Danny Downes, St-Pierre teammate Francis Carmont cruised past Chris Camozzi, and Clifford Starks got the better of Dustin Jacoby.