SYDNEY >> B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch fought to a majority draw Sunday at UFC 127, the UFC’s second major show in Australia.
English middleweight Michael Bisping stopped Jorge Rivera early in the second round of the co-main event with a brutal flurry of punches, later taunting his fallen opponent at Acer Arena.
Former two-division champion Penn (16-7-2) spent most of the fight wrestling near the cage with Fitch, who has lost just once in the past seven years. Fitch (26-3-1) specializes in grinding victories, and he posted a dominant third round after Penn badly injured Fitch’s nose in the second round.
Two judges scored the bout as a draw, while a third favored Fitch 29-28. Both fighters say they’re open to a rematch.
"I came back and finished out on top," Fitch said. "I think I did enough at least to win a split decision. … I was looking for him to come out, counterbox and counterwrestle. It was a great game plan, and it threw me. It took until the second round to get it together."
The fighters spent most of the first two rounds grappling near the side of the octagon, but Penn appeared to get the best of most exchanges. Penn also bloodied Fitch’s nose with an elbow in the second round.
Fitch got Penn on the canvas in the opening seconds of the third, then spent the entire round raining down punches into Penn’s guard. The monotonous action drew boos from the crowd, but grinding victories are the San Jose-based Fitch’s specialty.
Penn is making a welterweight comeback after losing his lightweight title to Frankie Edgar last year. With visible frustration on his face, Penn acknowledged he expected to lose a decision.
"I think I got some dominant position in the first and second, but he kicked my butt in the third," Penn said. "I guess I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with my career if I lost this fight, but since the gods were nice to me and gave me a draw, if he wants to do it again, I guess we’ll do it again."
The bout was the second unsatisfying draw in a UFC main event in less than two months, following Edgar’s draw with Gray Maynard in a lightweight title bout on New Year’s Day.
Bisping (22-3) nearly lost his fight by disqualification in the first round after illegally kneeing Rivera (18-8) in the face while his opponent knelt on the canvas.
German lightweight Dennis Siver also stunned the Sydney crowd with an unanimous decision over Australia’s George Sotiropoulos, who was unbeaten in eight UFC fights.
UFC 127 was held Sunday afternoon in Sydney for a Saturday night broadcast in North America. The card was the second UFC sellout in the arena, following current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’s victory last February at UFC 110.
Bisping and Rivera argued in the days leading up to their bout, nearly coming to blows at the weigh-in and refusing to touch gloves before their fight. After taking down Rivera twice in the opening minutes, Bisping rocked Rivera with a clearly illegal knee with 2:15 left in the round, putting Rivera facedown in the octagon.
Although Rivera got back in the fight, he struggled to keep up with Bisping’s conditioning and combinations.
While Rivera still sat on the canvas after the fight, Bisping attempted to confront him again, screaming, "Apologize!" for what Bisping felt were derogatory comments about his father.
"I’m a sensitive guy, so I apologize for maybe losing control there," Bisping said. "I never said anything bad about him, but he came out with all these things."
Sotiropoulos had the home crowd firmly behind him, but Siver (18-7) rocked him several times in the first round, notably dropping him senseless on his back with a left hook. Sotiropoulos (14-3) survived and came back strong in the second round, but the Mannheim-based Siver did more damage overall in a convincing decision, winning 30-27, 30-28 and 29-28.
Sotiropoulos hadn’t lost since October 2006, when he was disqualified for a groin strike 5 seconds into a bout in the Shooto promotion. He failed to extend his UFC streak to nine fights, which would have been the second-longest streak in UFC history.
"He was very strong," Sotiropoulos said. "He threw some heavy shots that landed, and I felt them. My plan was to continue fighting and take him down, but he defended it well. His defense was really good, and the leg was a little slippery at that point, so it was hard to get a good grip on it."
Earlier, Australia’s Kyle Noke beat Chris Camozzi with a rear naked choke just 95 seconds into the first fight on the pay-per-view telecast, and Brian Ebersole won his UFC debut after more than 60 previous pro fights, upsetting UFC veteran Chris Lytle with an unanimous decision.