Sometimes it’s hard to figure BJ Penn out.
As it stands now, he has clearly enjoyed his greatest moments of success as a lightweight, and in all honesty, that should be the division he is fighting in.
It’s perhaps the deepest weight class in the sport, and if he were to return to those fields, there is a plethora of near super-fights just waiting for him to show even the slightest return to that once-great form that saw him win the title.
BJ Penn vs. Benson Henderson would be epic, as would Penn vs. Nate Diaz, Penn vs. Jose Aldo (should Aldo defeat Frankie Edgar), and so on. He would be challenged and he would have the chance to get the belt once again, drenched in blood and glory, a pound-for-pound luminary once more.
Instead, he lets Rory MacDonald goad him into a fight in the one division he’s experienced more failure and heartbreak than most would care to endure.
As a welterweight, Penn has seen some crushing defeats at the hands of GSP and Nick Diaz, the latter being so bad it drove him away from the sport.
Yet here he is, back to settle a score that was really already settled back at UFC 94.
There is something admirable about uncompromising men, but the way Penn keeps throwing himself at the welterweight wall is beginning to seem like futility.
And now he’s going to square off against a younger, bigger, and probably stronger fighter in Rory MacDonald, who is honestly a wrecking machine because he plays to his strengths.
And now it looks as if the Canadian has discovered the goldmines of social media and how to make your own fights.
But as Penn so often says, a fight is a fight, and he’s got a big one on his hands with MacDonald.
Penn still has some fight in him, and some time. Save the shellacking he took at the hands of Diaz, he’s never really taken a serious beating, and he’s still got one-punch knockout power and some of the best jiu-jitsu in the game, hands down.
But stylistically, MacDonald has a huge advantage: reach, size, power, youth, and some vicious ground-and-pound to complement his excellent top game.
Sometimes fights are hard to imagine, but this is one that sadly is all too easy.
Penn is just too small for this division and he’s meeting a lion on the rise, who trains with a group of killers and who is hungry to make a name for himself, and against Penn, he can do that and thus solidify his station as a top contender in the division.
Odds are high that he’ll be beaten up with leg kicks from range, eating hard knees in the clinches—and there will be plenty of those—and on the ground he’ll be taking serious punches and elbows, all night long.
I really wanted Penn to come back, but not like this, and certainly not at welterweight.