Penn, a former lightweight and welterweight champion, retired in the cage in October 2011 after a lopsided loss to Diaz. Tired of the couch, he texted UFC president Dana White and said he wanted to return against MacDonald.
The intense, young Canadian accepted the challenge and was stone-faced leading up to the fight, saying Penn had returned for the wrong reasons — looking to cement his legacy — and was going to get hurt. It made for a frosty buildup, with many fearing Penn had bitten off more than he could chew.
MacDonald was booed as he was shown entering the arena on the big screen. Penn’s entrance earned cheers.
MacDonald got a slightly better reception as he walked to the cage, with Canadian flags flying in some parts of the arena. But that turned into a chorus of boos and then a wave of cheers as Penn walked out to his traditional Hawaiian music.
Penn came out aggressively looking for a takedown. But the bigger MacDonald fought him off with kicks and a body shot. Both men scored on their feet but MacDonald took control in the last minute, wobbling him with an nasty elbow to the head.
There were more chants of “B.J., B.J.” in the second round, but MacDonald took it to Penn with combinations at the fence. Chants of “Rory, Rory” followed. Then Penn found his range, connecting with strikes.
After the barrage of body blows, MacDonald took Penn down late in the round.
The doctor looked at Penn, who had a large mouse under his right eye, before the third but the fight continued. MacDonald repeatedly pinned Penn at the fence and then, when they separated, punched away.
MacDonald was booed for an Ali shuffle late in the fight.
MacDonald was cornered by friend and fellow Montreal-based fighter Mike Ricci, who goes up against Colton Smith next Saturday in Las Vegas in the live finale of Season 16 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
They both train alongside St-Pierre, who has beaten Penn twice.
MacDonald and GSP have said they will not fight each other because of their bond at Montreal’s Tristar Gym.
After the fight, MacDonald asked for a rematch with Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit — who handed him his only UFC loss.
It was a successful venture for the UFC — the card was sold out with 14,412 in attendance, earning a gate of US$1.5 million.
More than a few fighters were put to sleep in Seattle this night.
It was a night of big finishes, with officials resorting to power sprayers to clean the bloody canvas after the preliminary fights.
Welterweight Matt (The Immortal) Brown knocked out Mike (Quick) Swick with a left-right combination that send a limp Swick flying backwards. The fight was called at 2:31 of the second round, after a first round dominated by grappling.
For the hard-nosed Brown (18-11), it was a fourth straight win — and another step forward in a life that has survived a heroin overdose. For Swick (15-5), it was a loss to go with a victory four months ago that followed a 910-day layoff due to a digestive disorder and knee injury.
Lightweight Jeremy (Lil’ Heathen) Stephens, arrested just hours before his last fight, was knocked out by Yves Edwards.
The 36-year-old Edwards (42-18-1) floored Stephens (20-9) with a right to the chin and then finished him off with elbows on the ground at one minute 55 seconds of the first round.
The next date circled on Stephens’ calendar is Dec. 13 for a pre-trial conference in Iowa on charges of wilful injury causing serious injury, burglary in the first degree and assault causing bodily injury.
He was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant on the day of his last scheduled fight, also against Edwards, in Minneapolis on Oct. 5 and spent 12 days behind bars before being bailed out. The 26-year-old Stephens, who received a warm welcome from the Seattle crowd, maintains his innocence.
Edwards got $65,000 for knockout of the night on Saturday.