UFC 152 will be the host of a high-profile welterweight clash, as the legendary BJ Penn meets the hottest prospect in the division, Rory MacDonald. This fight has the potential to be epic, as Penn appears to be motivated by a fighter with the upside of MacDonald.
Toronto will play host to UFC 152, which will be headlined by the rematch between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. The Penn-MacDonald fight will most likely take co-main event status, due to the high profile the fights possesses.
Here is an early head-to-toe breakdown of the scrap between the old guard and the new.
In terms of pure striking on the feet, BJ Penn has some of the best power and boxing around. His granite chin allows him to eat bevies of shots while moving forward with his solid hands.
He doesn't incorporate kicks often, but he doesn't need to, as his hands carry him through his fights. The power will be there granted he doesn't gas out.
Rory MacDonald is also a decent striker, but he would much rather use his ground strikes than engage in a boxing match. This is especially true when he is facing off against a boxer like Penn.
That is why I will give the striking edge to "The Prodigy."
BJ Penn may be one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists in the history of the sport. He is definitely one of the most accomplished from the United States.
But if it is anything we have learned from a Rory MacDonald fight, it's that he has a heavy top game and good wrestling. MacDonald is almost a replica of Georges St. Pierre, who we all remember as the guy who left Penn sitting on his stool.
Penn's grappling is extremely effective, as he is unbelievably flexible and has good defense. The only problem is, with a heavy top-gamed wrestler like MacDonald, he is going to struggle on the bottom while eating ground-and-pound.
BJ Penn may possess knockout power in his hands, but he has equal ability to end fights with his submission game. Of his 16 career wins, Penn has earned taps in six of those bouts.
I understand that most of those submissions are by rear-naked choke, but his ability to get his opponent's back is an art in itself. He is so slick and smart in the submission game that it allows him to open up his ground striking more often than not.
MacDonald also has six submission wins, but in just 13 career wins. Most of those submission wins came in the minor leagues at the beginning of his career, but that means nothing. He is still dangerous with his submission game.
In terms of pure submission fighting, though, one would have to give the edge to BJ. He has been a jiu-jitsu artist for a very long time and knows all the tricks on the ground.
The first intangible that comes to mind is cardio. Penn has often been criticized for his lack of gas in the tank in the past, which could come back to haunt him, especially against a well-conditioned MacDonald.
Also, it must be pointed out that MacDonald trains at Tri-Star gym with the likes of Firas Zahabi, Georges St. Pierre and a number of other top training partners. He will have the advantage of having a better training camp than Penn, who usually stays home in Hawaii to train.
Experience would most likely be in the corner of Penn, but MacDonald has a good number of fights for his age. At just 22, he already has 14 professional fights, with five in the UFC.
All these intangibles seem to be in MacDonald's favor, but you would be surprised at what a fighter can do leading up to a fight.
This looks like another instance of the changing of the guard. MacDonald is a well-tuned machine with youth and skill, while Penn is at the end of his road and not a young man anymore.
This fight will have similarities to Penn's second fight with Georges St. Pierre, but it will not be complete domination like that fight. He will have his moments where he looks good, but his gas tank will be the deciding factor as to when the fight becomes one-sided.
In the end MacDonald will win, Penn will re-retire and fans won't be surprised with Penn's decision.
Prediction: MacDonald def. Penn via unanimous decision