Diego Sanchez questioned BJ Penn’s cardio in the pre-fight show. Conditioning was supposedly BJ Penn’s biggest downfall. After thoroughly dissecting Diego Sanchez in UFC 107 and destroying Kenny Florian in equally devastating fashion, it’s safe to say that the perceived weakness in BJ’s game is eradicated. With two successive title defenses in 2009, there is almost nobody left in the lightweight division who could pose a challenge. So what’s next for the Hawaii’s prodigal son in the year 2010?
1. Stay in the division and continuing dominating.
There’s really two lightweights left that are even close to a title shot, namely Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. When the two crossed paths in 2008, Maynard walked away with a victory and has continued his undefeated streak since. Edgar have bounced back from that setback to record three wins as well, and that remains the only time he has lost in the UFC. Maynard is scheduled to fight Nate Diaz next on 11 January, while Edgar just defeated Matt Veach. That leaves both of them free to face BJ Penn somewhere in the middle of next year. Since Maynard is still undefeated, it would only make more sense for him to get the next shot, provided he gets past Nate Diaz first.
He’s almost the same size as Penn, and has about the same reach. There’s a story to their relationship already. BJ Penn was his coach in TUF 5, where he volunteered to be on BJ’s team. The one glaring weakness in his game is that he’s not had a knockout or submission in the past two years. With BJ Penn’s improved cardio and the likelihood of the fight going five rounds, the lack of a potential knockout punch might prove costly. He’s also not fought anybody close to BJ Penn’s level, the closest probably being his next fight against Diaz. He might need another match against a Clay Guida or a Kenny Florian as a gauge to see how well he does against quality top-10 opponents.
Other than that loss to Maynard, Frank Edgar have been outstanding, with 11 wins and only that one loss. However, as Joe Rogan pointed out in his fight with Matt Veach, his small frame makes it easy for his opponent to outwrestle him. He would be destroyed by Penn if there were put in the same ring. Neither contenders are main event quality like Sanchez or Florian, which makes it even more unlikely that Dana White would make it a main event fight.
2. Catchweight bout with Jose Aldo
If you don’t know who Jose Aldo is, shame on you. He’s the current featherweight champion in the WEC, UFC’s sister promotion. All 6 of his fights in the WEC so far have ended in TKO. He’s already beaten WEC stalwarts Mike Brown and Cub Swanson. Sooner or later, he will clean out the division just like how BJ Penn is doing. There’s only so far he can go if he stays in the WEC. The casual viewer would still not be able to recognize him. He could bulk up and move to 155, and a potential fight with BJ Penn would make the hardcore fans salivate.
The only question is, would the PPV buys drop if an unknown like Aldo is facing one of your champions?
3. Move up to fight Georges St Pierre
BJ Penn’s arch nemesis, Georges St Pierre is tearing through his Welterweight contenders much like Aldo and Penn are in their respective divisions. GSP has an upcoming fight with Dan Hardy at UFC 11, but after that, there is only a short line of welterweights left that can hold a torch with GSP. This feud has been one of the most entertaining in recent memory. Many people thought Penn should have won the first fight, followed by the Grease-gate saga in the second. Penn wants another shot at GSP, the only question that remains is whether St Pierre feels the same. If he does, Dana will make this fight in a heartbeat.
If this fight were to happen, Penn has to once again, move up to Welterweight. There is no chance a catchweight fight happens for two reasons. The first is that rumor has it that GSP is looking to move up a division, and is putting on weight. If that is the case, it would be impossibly hard for him to go any lower than 170, the Welterweight weight limit. The second reason would be that if it was at a Catchweight, neither titles can be on the line, so what happens after the fight? They go back to tear through their opponents in their respective divisions? It also gives the UFC to build more credible challengers in both divisions. This fight is the most likely to happen. All it needs is for GSP to say yes. Expect GSP vs Penn, UFC 120.