The UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Diaz has a solid fight card that not only solidified lightweight title holder Benson Henderson as the elite 155 pound fighter in the world, but also represented a changing of the guard for two legendary fighters that helped shape the MMA landscape.
Rory MacDonald dominated B.J. Penn for three rounds and landed punches and kicks at will. At no point did Penn ever make the fight competitive. MacDonald looked quicker on his feet as he defended takedowns and battered the body of Penn with leg kicks that seemed to come from every angle and direction. MacDonald spoke prior to the fight about being a huge B.J. Penn fan, then went out and easily beat up a legend of the sport and one of his idols in front of a nationally televised audience.
Was it the best B.J. Penn in the octagon on Saturday night? Of course not, But when was the last time that fight fans have seen Penn at his best? The last several years in the UFC have not been kind to the former UFC lightweight and welterweight title holder. Since his loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 in 2009, Penn has compiled a 3-4-1 record with his last three bouts fought to a draw with Jon Fitch and lost two in a row to Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald, respectively.
The B.J. Penn loss to Rory McDonald was painful to watch and left no question as to the future of "The Prodigy." If he decides to keep fighting in the UFC he must consider dropping back down to lightweight where he will have a better opportunity for success. His decision to fight at the welterweight level will only lead to losses and further physical and mental punishment. Penn simply cannot keep fighting the larger welterweights who cut weight from 200 pounds. The older Penn gets the slower he becomes and the less effective his takedowns become, as was proven in the match against MacDonald. There is still plenty of punch left in the hands of B.J. Penn, but they would be more effective against the smaller fighters. Today’s welterweights are just too quick and too strong for Penn and they easily beat him to the punch.
If UFC President Dana White decides to retain the services of B.J. Penn, he could do so by requiring Penn to fight at lightweight. Who would be a possible matchup for Penn in the lightweight division? Jon Fitch who fought Penn to a draw at UFC 127. That fight could be Penn’s last at welterweight or a possible catch weight because there would be no title on the line. Or, a B.J. Penn vs. Nate Diaz matchup. Both fighters are coming off losses and stylistically would make for a crowd pleasing fight.
If B.J. Penn decides to keep fighting it will be against the wishes of UFC President Dana White, but ultimately it will be a decision that only Penn can make. No one would fault Penn for hanging up his gloves and moving on to a new stage of his life. The future for Penn is uncertain, but the mark that he left on the sport is undeniable.