Can BJ Penn make another run at lightweight?
Does BJ Penn still have a career left in any weight division?
After being chased out of the 155-pound title picture by Frankie Edgar, we've seen "The Prodigy" in a quickly-descending spiral. But it might not be too late for him to climb back from the brink.
We've seen it before. Penn suffered a horrible 1-3 four-fight stretch back in his early career days (losing to a killer's row of Lyoto Machida, Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre), but bounced back as soon as he returned to the lightweight division.
With that in mind, here's five fights that can get BJ Penn back on track if the UFC legend decides to repeat history and reinvigorate himself one more time.
Sanchez may have endured a brutal loss to BJ Penn three years ago, but he still had an impressive run at welterweight with three consecutive "Fight of the Night" performances. That alone makes "The Dream" must-see a fighter at any weight class.
Arguably, Sanchez is also a better fighter than he was at UFC 107, and a rematch with Penn makes sense on several different levels. If both men return to the lightweight division, it's an easy setup for a grudge fight that will have fans asking if Penn can still batter Sanchez like he did so effortlessly back in the day.
Although he's a former UFC lightweight champion, it seems like Sherk has become less than an afterthought in the lightweight division.
With injures sidelining him for over two years, it'll be hard to find a match for the aged fighter that will be the right tune-up.
Enter BJ Penn—he's defeated Sherk once before, but ever since UFC 84, their career trajectories haven't been as successful as one would hope. Penn has gone 3-5-1 in two divisions, while Sherk has only competed three times with a 2-1 record marred by a controversial decision win against Evan Dunham.
Both of these aging veterans have left their primes far behind them, but this is a fair fight to see which one has something left in the tank at 155 pounds.
Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra isn't officially retired, but he also hasn't had a fight since a September 2010 defeat against Chris Lytle at UFC 119. Maybe avenging one of his biggest career losses could entice him to come back.
Bringing Serra back into the Octagon for a rematch with BJ Penn would be a tidy co-main event fight for free television or a pay-view-card. Penn's lost his step at welterweight, but the 38-year-old Serra is the right kind of opponent for him at this point in his career.
Akiyama has the dubious distinction of being one of the only men in the UFC still employed with the promotion after a four-fight streak.
Regardless, UFC president Dana White likes "guys who go to war" in the Octagon, so Sexyama isn't going anywhere yet.
Once he comes back from injury, his options are limited—title contenders are out of Akiyama's league, but he's too famous in the MMA community to stick on an undercard.
Maybe a match with BJ Penn in an international event is a good option. Both men are in desperate need of a win if they have any future at welterweight, while the style clash between Penn's jiu-jitsu and Akiyama's judo seems extremely interesting at a glance.
Hatsu Hioki is a failing experiment at featherweight, while Clay Guida is dropping a weight class due to consistent setbacks at 155 pounds. Both men will face off at UFC on Fox 6, with the winner moving slightly back towards title contention.
But whoever losses this match will be in the back of the pack at featherweight, yet still in need of a marque opponent due to their respective status as top-ranked fighters. If BJ Penn could drop to 145 pounds (and that's a big "if"), he would fit the bill nicely as a main carder despite his recent slide at welterweight and past back-to-back losses at lightweight.