The Ultimate Fighter 19 season finale takes place on Sunday, and it is headlined by a battle of the coaches.
For the third time, Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn will step inside the cage to oppose each other. The first two times both went the way of Edgar by unanimous decision.
This time they meet at 145 pounds.
UFC 112 was the site of the first meeting between the two legends, but Edgar was not yet a legend. In a close battle, Edgar got the nod on the judges' scorecards, but many felt that Penn did enough to retain his UFC Lightweight Championship.
The FightMetric statistics show how close the fight was.
Since 8/28/10 (Edgar II), BJ Penn has absorbed 6.23 sig. strikes per min., worse than anyone not named Josh Neer (7.56) or Nam Phan (7.25).— Michael Carroll (@MJCflipdascript) July 2, 2014
UFC 118 was the rematch to determine the true champion. Edgar left no doubt in that one, dominating Penn en route to retaining his lightweight title.
Penn has gone 1-2-1 since those two bouts, and Edgar has only managed to go 2-3-1 after defeating Penn twice. They both need this victory.
What are their keys to victory? Let's break it down.
- Keep a High Pace
- Drag It into Deep Waters
- Don't Change
What Edgar did in the first two fights is what he needs to do in the third.
Penn has always had cardio questions, and Edgar's relentless pace will cause a lot of issues in this matchup. His nonstop movement will force Penn to either come forward to close the distance or to maintain a high work rate that will ultimately deplete his energy.
At 145 pounds, how much energy will Penn have? He is supposedly at 148 pounds midweek, but we still do not know how easy this cut was, how good his camp was or how well he will recover after the weigh-in.
The combination of Edgar's pace and this being a five-round fight could pose big issues for the Hawaiian. That is why Edgar should not change his game plan.
Edgar supremely blends his boxing and wrestling inside the Octagon. He was able to take down Penn three separate times in their second fight. He found the formula that many never did. Edgar's game plan will only need to be tweaked, not changed.
- Establish the Jab
- Manage the Pace
- Control, Control, Control
Penn's most effective offense in his fights with Edgar was his jab. The early part of their first fight was controlled by Penn's jab, and he needs to establish it once again in this fight.
The jab will set up his other strikes and force Edgar to remain on the outside. Penn can take control of the center of the cage. He will not need to chase Edgar.
Penn cannot let Edgar dictate the pace of this fight. Penn has to be the one to do that in a 25-minute fight. His history of tiring out will always weigh in everyone's minds. He has gone 25 minutes before and looked great, but only when he was the one who dictated the fight.
If Penn is able to clinch with or take down Edgar, he must control him. Edgar is exceptional at getting off the fence and getting off his back. Penn is the bigger fighter. He is stronger. He must impose his will against the fence. On the ground, he is one of the very best in MMA. He cannot allow Edgar to continually get up.
Edgar is known as “The Answer,” and he has solved all of Penn's questions to date. This fight is important for both men's legacies. The keys to victory have not changed much since their first encounter. It is all about who is able to go out and execute his game plan on Sunday.