For over two years BJ Penn set the standard for greatness in the UFC lightweight division. He finished all four of his lightweight bouts in spectacular fashion, and many felt Penn was the most untouchable of all UFC champions.
Frankie Edgar changed all that in five rounds on Saturday night. Whether or not one agrees with the decision of the judges, the fact is that Edgar is the new lightweight champion, while Penn is now in the unfamiliar role of not holding a championship title.
Prior to the fight there was talk of Penn moving back to the welterweight division to fight either Matt Hughes or Anderson Silva. Those plans can now be put on hold, perhaps permanently, while Penn figures out how to regain his lost title.
At no point in the fight did Penn look comfortable inside the Octagon. Credit needs to go to Edgar for formulating a great game plan that saw him with great movement all night that allowed him to hit-and-run against the 31-year-old former champ.
Penn did a good job throughout the fight of countering Edgar's attacks, but he never did any significant damage to the challenger. In fact, Edgar was actually able to shoot on Penn and take him to the ground, something that no one in the lightweight division had done in years.
After such an uninspiring performance and losing his belt, the question for Penn now becomes: Does he remain the focused and driven fighter we've seen the last few years, or does he revert back to the days of "Buddha" Penn?
With a new champion in the division, Kenny Florian will now likely get another title shot that he was unlikely to receive with Penn still the champion.
The possibilities for Penn in his next fight are nearly endless.
He could face any number of veteran fighters that he has fought previously, or he can take the chance of fighting the new generation of lightweight fighters. Taking a chance against the new breed may get him back into title contention the quickest, but he would also stand a chance to fall even further down the ladder in the division.
Both Sean Sherk and Takanori Gomi have fought and lost to Penn in the past. Each would be a big name that could keep Penn right in the title hunt in the division. It's hard to imagine him losing to either fighter, but after Saturday night, anything is possible.
The most likely foe next up for Penn is Gray Maynard. The undefeated Maynard has won seven fights in the UFC, but six of those came via decision. One of those wins was over the new champion, but The Bully's inability to finish fights may keep him from facing Edgar in his first title defense.
A win over Maynard would show Dana White and the rest of the UFC that Penn is still at the top of the division, and he can compete against and beat the up-and-coming stars of the sport.
Penn said on his video blog after the fight he would make a couple stops on the mainland for a book signing before heading back to Hawaii. Once he returns home, he needs to find the focus and dedication that made him one of the most feared and respected fighters in the sport.
Not many observers would argue with the statement that BJ Penn is still the most talented and dangerous 155-pound fighter in the world. Very few would be surprised to see him bounce back from this loss and dominate every opponent on his way back to capturing UFC gold for the third time in his career.
It's now up to him whether Frankie Edgar was simply a bump in the road of his Hall of Fame career, or the beginning of the end for one of the most legendary fighters the sport has ever seen.
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