5 Best Moments of BJ Penn's Career
Contrary to what our short-term memory wants us to believe, BJ Penn will still go down as the most dominant UFC lightweight champion ever.
We shouldn't remember him as the guy who fled his native division after dropping back-to-back losses to Frankie Edgar. We shouldn't remember him as the guy who was woefully outboxed by a bigger and stronger Nick Diaz.
We shouldn't remember him as the guy who was dramatically undersized against a younger, faster Rory MacDonald. We shouldn't remember him as the guy who came out of retirement after a two-year absence to face Edgar at 145 pounds.
We might have to try hard, but hopefully we won't remember that questionably stiff and overly upright striking stance he had in his last outing.
We have plenty of reasons to still consider him one of the best lightweights to ever compete inside of the Octagon. Continue reading to see the top five.
5. BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes III
When: UFC 123 (Nov. 20, 2010)
Result: Penn defeats Hughes via first-round knockout
The first time these two guys met inside of the Octagon, Penn was able to shock the world. The second time they met, Matt Hughes dominated Penn in the way many people expected him to do the first time around.
Looking to rebound after suffering back-to-back title-fight losses to Edgar, Penn moved up to the 170-pound division to face a familiar foe and settle the score in a rubber match.
It only took Penn 21 seconds to prove himself the better fighter. Surprisingly enough, this wasn't even Penn's fastest knockout finish—he destroyed Caol Uno in 11 seconds at UFC 34. While not historic, this would be the final time Penn would see his hand raised inside the Octagon.
4. BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver II
When: The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale (June 23, 2007)
Result: Penn defeats Pulver via second-round submission.
If for no other reason, this moment sits at No. 4 because of one word: revenge.
Penn had the opportunity to earn his first UFC strap in his first bout with Pulver back at UFC 35. It was just his fourth professional bout; the inexperienced Penn fell short. Five years later, Penn would get another crack at Pulver, though this time it wouldn't be for the title.
The victory over Pulver would propel Penn into a fight for the vacant title at 155 pounds and change the course of his career forever.
3. BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk
When: UFC 84 (May 24, 2008)
Result: Penn defeats Sherk via third-round TKO
Four years after capturing his first UFC title, Penn went on to claim another. This time it was at 155 pounds, but he wouldn't defeat the champion in doing so this time around.
He finally got the chance to validate his lightweight crown when he faced Sean Sherk—the former champion who was stripped of his title after testing positive for anabolic steroids in a title defense against Hermes Franca.
Penn went into the cage to prove he was the one true lightweight king; he walked out of it as the author of one of the best knockouts in UFC history.
2. BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes I
When: UFC 46 (Jan. 31, 2004)
Result: Penn defeats Hughes via first-round submission
If not for Georges St-Pierre, Matt Hughes would easily be considered the most dominant welterweight fighter to ever grace the Octagon. With nine straight title defenses and 10 straight victories, there was nobody in the UFC's 170-pound division who could hold a candle to what Hughes had to offer.
Few would have predicted that the man to knock Hughes off his throne would come from the 155-pound division.
Nobody gave the smaller Penn a chance against the dominant Hughes. It only took the Hawaiian four minutes and 39 seconds to prove everyone wrong and claim the welterweight crown as his own.
The victory would serve as half the reason Penn is a surefire UFC Hall of Fame candidate.
1. BJ Penn vs. Joe Stevenson
When: UFC 80 (Jan. 19, 2008)
Result: Penn defeats Stevenson via second-round submission
Sure, this wasn't the first UFC championship title Penn would lay claim to, but this was certainly the one that made the world believe in The Prodigy.
He was out to prove himself as the best lightweight in the world. After dispatching of Joe Stevenson and leaving him in a historically bloody mess, many were left wondering if Penn was the best fighter on the planet, period.
The victory over Stevenson would be the first chapter to Penn's historic run as the UFC lightweight champion.
It would also serve as Penn's second title in two divisions, likely punching his ticket into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.