UFC Fight Night 103: Head-to-Toe Breakdown for Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J Penn

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2017

UFC Fight Night 103: Head-to-Toe Breakdown for Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J Penn

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    UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn (16-10-2) returns to take on the rising star that is Yair Rodriguez (10-1).

    Penn is a former lightweight and welterweight champion, but his showing at 145 pounds was lackluster at best. He returns to attempt to erase that memory from the minds of fans and go after one last title run in his career.

    Rodriguez has a chance to elevate his status in the UFC as a whole. A victory over Penn will carry a lot of weight for the talented prospect.

    Will Penn return to form and make an example of the young buck, or will Rodriguez use Penn as a stepping stone toward featherweight supremacy?

    Find out as we break down the matchup between Penn and Rodriguez.

Striking

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    From a pure technique standpoint, Penn is still one of the best boxers in MMA. Bar none.

    At 5'9" and 145 pounds, he has a tremendous jab and some abnormal power for his size. He has succeeded against some of the best.

    Rodriguez offers much more variety to his game. His spectacular KO over Andre Fili will forever be on the UFC's highlight reel. He's got good technical prowess, but he gets more wild trying to throw flashy strikes. He also throws at a consistent pace for high output.

    I give the nod to Rodriguez, and it's all a matter of, "What have you done for me lately?"

    Penn hasn't looked solid since his loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137 in 2011, and that may be generous. He hasn't once since a quick KO over Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in 2010. Meanwhile, Rodriguez is one of the brightest prospects in the sport. This is a chance for Rodriguez to jump into the title talk.

     

    Edge: Rodriguez

Grappling

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    Although Penn has not looked like a top contender for several years, it's hard to not give him the nod here.

    Penn's takedown defense is legendary. Incredible dexterity combined with insane balance created one of the most difficult individuals to takedown in the history of the sport. Offensively, Penn has a solid wrestling game.

    Rodriguez's grappling is solid enough, but it's nothing too spectacular.

    Penn gets this category based upon his history. He should still have those tangibles to edge out Rodriguez. The bigger question will be if Penn can control Rodriguez against the fence or on the ground. That is to be determined.

     

    Edge: Penn

Submissions

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    Rodriguez has never submitted anyone in the UFC and only has two career submissions finishes to his credit. And with the lack of top-end finishes, some are sleeping on his skills.

    Penn's best finishing ability comes when he can trap an arm with his legs from the back. He did so against Jens Pulver to highlight that technique. Doing that to Rodriguez is a more difficult proposition.

    Penn is also a world champion Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. His propensity to strike has thrust that fact into the background over time.

    A submission is not the most likely finish, but Penn certainly has the better odds to finish with a tap.

     

    Edge: Penn

X-Factors

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    Penn's X-Factor: What's Left in the Tank?

    Penn's last outing was a pathetic showing against Frankie Edgar. Nothing about that performance would give anyone hope for Penn's future, regardless of changing camps and coming to Jackson-Winkeljohn in New Mexico.

    The narrative of a motivated Penn is worn out. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me eight times...no.

    Maybe Penn comes out and surprises us all. But given what we've seen over the past few years, no one should be banking on a crisp showing from The Prodigy.

           

    Rodriguez's X-Factor: Trying to Do Too Much

    Rodriguez is a showman. He gets into wild exchanges and throws spectacular strikes. When they land, it's marvelous. When they don't, he leaves himself open to getting clocked.

    Rodroguez has been cracked by much lesser fighters than Penn.

    This fight will be interesting given that fact. Can Rodriguez evolve into a more tactical and patient fighter? We will soon know the answer to that.

Prediction

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    This prediction would be much closer if Penn looked better in recent times. I have no confidence in his ability to compete among the elite anymore.

    Perhaps that's too dismissive of Penn, given his pedigree, but he looked terrible that last time out.

    Rodriguez is one of the next wave of talent in the Octagon. Given his 5-0 UFC record and growing level of competition, it's easier to make the leap that Rodriguez shines against the UFC Hall of Famer.

    I don't feel like he'll be able to finish Penn. He's too tough on the feet and too good on the mat. Rodriguez will simply run up the score. If a finish does come, it'll be in the later rounds where Penn has shown he can mentally break. Greg Jackson may prevent that from happening.

    Rodriguez runs away with this on the cards.

     

    Prediction: Rodriguez def. Penn by unanimous decision