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UFC 35: What happened when BJ Penn challenged Jens Pulver for the Lightweight Championship

Paul Benson
243   //    Timeless

BJ Penn and Jens Pulver go to war
BJ Penn and Jens Pulver go to war

The main event of UFC 35 was a much-anticipated bout between challenger BJ Penn and champion, Jens Pulver.

Penn was unbeaten in his MMA career at this point and the more experienced, Pulver was undefeated in six UFC fights. This would be his final one, for four years, however.

Pulver signed off his initial UFC run in style. Penn entered the fight as the red hot favourite but was schooled by the Lightweight Champion.

The bout was all action and Penn definitely got his shots in, including a guillotine choke in round one and armbar in the second but as the bout wore on, the more controlled Pulver dominated the pressing, countered most of Penn's offence superbly and landed more strikes.

The judges awarded Pulver the win via Majority Decision. Not sure how one judge saw the fight as a draw but the overall decision was the correct one.

Penn's time would come but at this point in his career, he was second best to Pulver.

Ricco Rodriguez continued his ascent up the ladder with a dominating win over Jeff Monson.

In a departure from what you normally see in MMA, Rodriguez's core offence in this one was knee strikes which eventually saw him nail Monson with a huge knee and land a series of unprotected strikes for the stoppage victory. Your winner: Ricco Rodriguez.

In a Middleweight title bout, champion Dave Menne entered the contest ridden with flu and his challenger, Murilo Bustamante took full advantage of his opponent's misfortune.


The pair jockeyed for position early in the bout with Menne hanging on in there, but the more sprightly Bustamante landed a massive right and followed up with more punches for the win and the Middleweight title.

Chuck Liddell edged out Amar Suloev, in an uncharacteristically dull bout by the "Iceman's" standards. The pair exchanged a small number of strikes throughout the whole three-round contest. Liddell was judged to be the more aggressive and won the fight via Decision.

Andrei Semenov defeated Ricardo Almeida in an excellent main card opener which saw Almeida try repeatedly for a submission, even attempting a flying armbar at one point before he succumbed to a big right hand. Semenov earned the TKO win in the second round.

UFC 35 was a great show but one that drew a paltry 35,000 buys on pay per view. Penn and Liddell were not yet the drawing cards they would become over the next few years.

The era of huge buyrates and mainstream exposure was not far away, however.