A number of experts are predicting that Florian will pull off the upset, but the emerging consensus is that BJ will win - via decision or ref stoppage.
People point to BJ’s flexibility, his technique, his experience. I think that the real factor in this fight will be his strength.
Last weekend, I re-watched the first Penn-GSP fight. I was stunned at how evenly they grappled on their feet. GSP has never had so much trouble taking a man to the ground – neither before nor since. Penn even took down GSP at one point! How many guys have done that? Josh Koscheck got one takedown (I think?). Matt Hughes got another, but still – that’s a pretty exclusive club.
While we’re on the topic of BJ Penn’s past fights…
How many people have seen BJ’s “absolute-style” matchup against Lytoto Machida?
Yes, the same Lyoto who now sits atop the UFC’s light-heavyweight division. The fight took place – where else? – in Japan a few years back. Machida won by decision, but BJ held his own, even chasing Machida around the ring at certain points.
Penn and Florian have two recent common opponents – Joe Stevenson being one, who doesn’t help us, because they both steam-rolled him.
But what about Sean Sherk? Florian has greatly improved since his last fight with Sherk; I’m the first to admit that – but even if they fought tomorrow, the outcome would be the same, I think, simply because of Sherk’s strength advantage. Couple this with that happened when BJ fought the Muscle Shark! Penn steered him all around the cage before knocking him out at the end of Round 3.
Let me be clear. I’m a big fan of Kenny Florian. He genuinely seems like a nice guy, for one, and I think he’s easily one of the top five lightweight fighters in the world. The problem is, he’s fighting BJ Penn, who I just don’t see being stopped at lightweight – not until he retires or simply eats himself out of the division.
Whatever happens, it will be a privilege to watch these two men do battle. I mean that. A true privilege. This has fight of the year written all over it.