"Sean Sherk, you're dead."
Those words rang out after BJ Penn's domination over Joe Stevenson at UFC 80, where Penn(12-4-1) locked in a rear naked choke on a severely bloodied Stevenson to earn himself the UFC lightweight championship. Sherk(32-3-1), the lightweight champion until he was stripped of the title due to his positive steroid test after his bout with Hermes Franca(who also tested positive), was not impressed to put it mildly.
When BJ's call to arms sounded Sherk wasted no time in stepping into the octagon. Saying that the belt was his until someone took it from him, he also made it clear that he does not respect BJ, as well as letting the booing fans know that he didn't care what they thought of him. Penn's response was a laid back handshake and simply saying "it's gonna be a good fight, ok?"
With both men fired up and ready to go, it's sure to be a war. Though Sherk was stripped of his title after his steroid incident, many fans see it as two champions settling accounts and the winner being the undisputed champion. There is, however, some elements in this matchup that make this fight a wildcard.
First off is both fighters' cardio. While Sherk is renowned for his incredible work ethic in the gym, Penn has been known to slack off when it comes to fight preparation, relying more on his inherent talents. This has obviously worked for Penn in the past, but Sean Sherk is a guy that you want to be in top shape for, as he always is.
Stylistically, Sherk may have the right gameplan to beat Penn. Though often boring, Sean Sherk's "lay and pray" tactics have led him to victory more than once. If Sherk can put the pressure on Penn with his superior wrestling, he can stay on top of Penn and ride out a decision. There's also the possibility of Sherk getting a TKO if he can keep top control.
Penn, on the other hand, has excellent submission skills and decent hands. If he is able to keep Sherk on his feet, Penn can use his striking to weaken Sherk, get him down, and lock in a submission. Though Sherk has never been submitted, BJ has the skills to submit most anyone.
This is truly a fight that could go either way. Come May 24, the battle of these two top lightweights will commence, and people will finally get the answer to the question:
Who is the best lightweight in the world?