We've heard it so many times in the past.
"A motivated BJ Penn could still be the best in the world."
Until Saturday night, many of us still believed that to be a possibility. But after his humbling defeat to Rory MacDonald, the mystique of BJ Penn contending again for the UFC welterweight championship has faded into the sunset.
A "motivated" Penn took an absolute beating from MacDonald from bell to bell, losing a unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27) in one of the worst performances of his career.
The truth is that even when Penn trained his butt off, he didn't have what it took to compete against a bigger, stronger MacDonald. He got the youngster to the ground a couple times but, even as a jiu-jitsu black belt, was very clearly too small to keep him down.
With Penn out as a realistic contender at 170, the question now turns to what Joe Rogan spoke about during the bout. Can Penn still compete in the 155-pound division?
A former lightweight champion himself, many still consider "The Prodigy" to be the greatest fighter ever to grace the division. For over two years, Penn terrorized the 155-pound division, utilizing his punishing striking and incredible balance to finish Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez before finally dropping back-to-back fights to Frankie Edgar.
After his dominant streak as champion, those two losses mark what might be the final two fights of Penn's 155-pound career. Yet those who follow the sport almost unanimously agree that Penn is his best at lightweight.
So what's the problem? Why isn't Penn jumping at the opportunity to move back to 155, where he might actually be able to compete against smaller, less powerful fighters?
As it turns out, the reason may have been staring us in the face on Saturday night in his loss against Rory MacDonald.
Not only did Penn get outpowered as we expected that he would be, the biggest difference may have been the speed between these two fighters.
While MacDonald smoothly moved around the cage, Penn seemed to move like a zombie, slowly staggering around the cage like an out-of-shape heavyweight.
If he's looking this slow against a welterweight, just imagine how slow he'd look against a division where fighters are 15 pounds lighter. The speed disadvantage that Penn was at on Saturday night should mark the end of his career at any division.
As someone who considers BJ Penn my favorite fighter of all time, this realization is a bit hard to swallow even for me. I can't imagine how tough it must be for Penn himself. But at this point, he just doesn't seem to have what it takes to compete at this level anymore.
A move to lightweight might be intriguing for one fight, but it's not worth taking a beating like this again. Thank you for everything you've done, BJ, but please let this be your last fight.
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