Somehow, B.J. Penn's fateful showdown with surging Canadian star Rory MacDonald has turned into the most personal fight on Saturday's card.
At UFC on Fox 5, Penn is putting his reputation on the line in a last-ditch effort to salvage what remains of his legacy. His return to welterweight has been fraught with setbacks, but "The Prodigy" is determined to maintain his elite status.
MacDonald is having none of it, insisting through various interviews and press conferences that he'll hurt Penn worse than anyone else has yet.
But with such widely different fighting styles, how will the fight go down? Here's a few bold predictions of how the bout will unfold in Seattle's KeyArena, round by round.
As much as some people want to think that MacDonald is overmatching Penn, that's going to prove untrue very quickly in the first round.
Like most of his fights, Penn will control the action over at least three minutes while testing his distance against his much larger Canadian foe. In fact, expect Penn to slip in a few good countershots on the feet, followed by a few hard elbows in the clinch as he's defending takedowns.
But as good as Penn's takedown defense can get, MacDonald will find a way to bring him to the mat as early as the end of the first round.
Once MacDonald figures out that an extended slugfest with Penn isn't the best idea, he'll start timing his long strikes with clinches and takedowns. Don't expect him to snatch a single-leg, but MacDonald will eventually get things low by scooping, slamming or outright dragging Penn down.
Rory Mac won't concern himself by losing on points, either.
Not only will he pressure Penn in the clinch, MacDonald will make sure to earn a takedown with dominant position at least once a round just to be on the safe side.
Predicting that B.J. Penn will get tired in a fight is like saying the sun will rise tomorrow.
However, the monkey wrench in the gears here is Penn's improved physique, and how long it'll carry him through his fight with MacDonald.
I'm going to give "The Prodigy" some credit here and assume that he knows the risks he's facing. Coupled with the fact that he's hooked up with his old conditioning coach from his last lightweight run, Penn won't start to tire until the home stretch.
Once we do get into the third round, Rory MacDonald is really going to bring the pain.
In fights with Nick Diaz and Jon Fitch, Penn's defenses started to break down more as the clock ran down, eventually leading to scenarios where the Hawaiian star was a helpless punching bag.
That's what's in store for Penn as he goes into the third round and finds out that his second wind just isn't as good as Rory Mac's second wind.
At that point, expect MacDonald to start hitting clean takedowns followed by vicious ground-and-pound, all with a cautious referee hovering over the action as Penn tries and fails to rally himself.
After 11 long years in mixed martial arts punctuated by two UFC title runs, B.J. Penn has nothing left to prove to anyone.
As soon as Rory Mac gives his victory speech, the broadcast will give Penn time to make his own announcements, and they'll be remembered by many.
Once he loses a spirited decision to MacDonald, Penn will stand in the Octagon with Joe Rogan, look up at the arena screens and see his own battered face. Then he'll announce that he give it everything he had, and Rory MacDonald will be an amazing champion one day.
That is, expect all this to go down if Penn loses to MacDonald. And he'll definitely lose (probably).