In the wake of his devastating performance against Diego Sanchez at UFC 107, Lightweight Champion BJ Penn's future is seemingly up in the air. With seemingly no viable contenders left in his division, fans and experts alike are left wondering what is next for The Prodigy.
How long will he stick around 155? Will it be Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard who gets the next title shot? Will there ever be a Penn vs. St-Pierre 3?
Here is what you, the MMA fan, can expect from the lightweight champ over the next 18 months.
Note: The contents of this slideshow are purely speculative. Names, dates and locations are subject to change.
UFC 114: Penn vs. Edgar
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Las Vegas, NV
Mandalay Bay Events Center
Rumors are already swirling about Penn vs. Edgar taking place at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. This was first reported by Sports Illustrated columnist, Josh Gross, and later confirmed in a video blog on BJPenn.com. However, I predict that Anderson Silva against Vitor Belfort will ultimately headline the April 10th card, and Penn against Edgar will be moved to UFC 114 in late May.
What to expect: Joe Rogan will refer to Edgar as a "faster, more technical, and more cerebral fighter than Diego Sanchez." He will partially blame Diego's loss on bad game-planning, while pointing out Edgar's ability to effectively game plan.
Expect to see clips of Edgar outboxing Sean Sherk, as well as escaping submissions from Tyson Griffin and Hermes Franca. These clips will be accompanied by Rogan's voice-over, praising Edgar's boxing and submission defense.
The result: BJ Penn defeats Frankie Edgar via Second Round TKO.
UFC 119: Penn vs. Maynard
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010
Las Vegas, NV
MGM Grand Garden Arena
By process of elimination, Gray Maynard will get the next title shot. To avoid another Gabriel Gonzaga/Mirko Cro Cop scenario, the UFC will likely shelve Maynard until September, instead of risking a loss. It is worth nothing that this will be the first ever fight between a former TUF coach and alum.
What to expect: The UFC will really sell the student-teacher angle. Aside from being Team Penn's No. 1 pick during TUF 5, Maynard flew out to Hawaii to help BJ prepare for his fight with Rodrigo Gracie back in 2004.
In order to sell the fight, expect Joe Rogan to say the following during the UFC 119 preview:
"If you look at the type of fighter that has given BJ Penn problems in the past, it has been a big, strong wrestler, who can over power BJ [cut to clips of Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre pounding BJ's face in]. Gray Maynard fits that mold extremely well."
"Gray has trained with BJ in the past, he was on BJ's team on The Ultimate Fighter [cut to clip of BJ and Gray sparring in the TUF gym], so he knows what BJ is all about."
"BJ is known for his outstanding take down defense, but if there's one guy in the lightweight division who is capable of putting BJ on his back, it's Gray Maynard [cut to clips of Gray slamming Rob Emerson and Frankie Edgar]."
"Gray Maynard is BJ Penn's first ever title defense against an undefeated opponent [cut to clips of Maynard's hand being raised]. This will be the toughest test of his career."
The result: BJ Penn defeats Gray Maynard via Third Round submission (Rear Naked Choke)
UFC 124: Hughes vs. Penn 3
Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011
While UFC Matchmaker, Joe Silva, sorts things out in the lightweight division, BJ will move up to welterweight to settle the score with an old nemesis, Matt Hughes. This will be the UFC's first event in Hawaii, more than doubling the previous UFC attendance record with a crowd of over 40,000.
What to expect: The UFC will bill this as a fight between (arguably) the two most dominant champions in UFC history, each holding a victory over the other.
Hughes will announce that this is his last fight, and that he has every intention of going out as a winner. BJ will say that fighting Matt Hughes in Aloha Stadium is his dream, and that he will not let the Hawaiian fans down.
The Result: BJ Penn defeats Matt Hughes via Second Round Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
UFC 130: Pride of a Champion
Saturday, June 11, 2011
A long awaited rematch to unify the UFC and PRIDE lightweight titles will headline a stacked card for the UFC's second trip to Boston. Unlike the previous visit, this will be an outdoor event held at the legendary Fenway Park. Penn and Gomi first crossed paths at Rumble on the Rock 4 in 2003, which ended with a third round submission victory for BJ.
What to expect: By now, the UFC will have marketed Gomi to the point where he is nearly as popular among American MMA fans as he is with the Japanese fans, and his PRIDE clips will have been shown hundreds of times on Spike TV.
Dana will rant and rave about Gomi's long list of victims, and Rogan will call this "the fight that will truly decide who is the best lightweight in mixed martial arts history."
The result: BJ Penn defeats Takanori Gomi via First Round Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
So, what's in store for BJ Penn in 2011 and beyond?
A permanent move to welterweight? A third fight with GSP? A superfight with the A-Hole in the Team Hawaii t-shirt?
Only time will tell.