BJ Penn and Matt Hughes faced off for the third time in their careers this past Saturday night at UFC 123. Both fighters held a victory over one another, so the rubber match only made sense.
Penn was coming off two uninspiring losses to Frankie Edgar at lightweight, where he looked slow and unmotivated compared to the speedy Edgar. Penn has been known for his poor work ethic at times and, after the Edgar fights, this looked to be the case once again.
The UFC matched the two most likely in order to motivate Penn once again and to give Hughes a legitimate fight at 170 pounds. Many have speculated that Hughes could be making one last run for the welterweight title, and a fourth straight victory for Hughes over an opponent like Penn would have been a giant step in the right direction.
A loss Saturday night would be extremely detrimental to their careers.
Unfortunately for Hughes, the fight couldn't have gone any worse. Penn dropped him with a right hook in the opening seconds and followed it up with ground-and-pound, forcing the stoppage 21 seconds into the first round.
After UFC 123, what does it mean for the future of both fighters?
Hughes has done it all as a mixed martial artist, with 45 victories, seven UFC welterweight title defenses and a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. At 37 years old, Hughes really does not have anything left to prove in this sport.
Of course one last run at the title would have been a fairy-tale ending for Hughes, but after losing in such devastating fashion to Penn, the chances of making another run are all but done.
"I think about retirement all the time," Hughes told mmajunkie.com at the pre-fight media workouts.
If Hughes has been thinking about retirement leading up to UFC 123, one can only imagine that he Hughes will be contemplating it more than ever after his first-round knockout loss.
When asked by the media about his future weight class, Penn said: “You know what, for the first time in my career I am going to let Dana make that call. Whatever Dana says, we’ll go with that.”
It did not take long for the UFC brass to decide the Prodigal Son's return. It was announced to the media by president Dana White after UFC 123 that Penn will face off against top welterweight title contender Jon Fitch.
Fitch was previously scheduled to fight Jake Ellenberger at UFC 126, but is now getting the higher-profile fight against Penn at UFC 127 in Australia.
With a record of 23 wins and three losses, Fitch is a handful. He has won his last five since losing to current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre—his only loss in the UFC—is definitely within range for his next title shot.
The winner between Penn and Fitch is probably going to get another shot at the title.