Fitch was originally scheduled to meet Jake Ellenberger at UFC 126, but that fight was scrapped in favor of a Penn vs. Fitch bout after Penn destroyed Matt Hughes at UFC 123. Penn knocked Hughes out cold, 21 seconds into the first round of their fight.
Fitch is facing much pressure from outside of his camp going into this bout.
The knock on Fitch is that he does not finish fights. His last stoppage victory was in June of 2007 when he defeated Roan Carneiro via rear-naked choke.
Since that victory, he has had eight fights—all decided by the judges. Fitch won seven of those bouts and lost one—his sole loss coming in a title fight against Georges St. Pierre in August 2008.
Fitch spoke to USA Today back in November and when he was asked if he thought he had to finish fights more often he replied, “Yeah. I basically feel like I haven't done the appropriate job of putting the exclamation point at the end of my sentences. I take that as a personal challenge to myself, because as a martial artist, I need to be evolving and getting better. If I keep winning fights the same way, I don't see myself as evolving. If we're not evolving in martial arts, then we're dead.”
Who Will Win The Fight
Fitch then went into more detail, “(I'm) experimenting and trying some new things. The little bit of time off has been good for me, so I've had some laboratory time, kind of. I think I'm onto what I need, and I'm planning on showing it from now on in my future fights. It's a more refined Jon Fitch. Refining my grinding style to a point where it's more open, more damaging, more finishing.”
For his part, BJ Penn is not buying it and he expects to see more of the same from Fitch, "I know he’s under pressure, people telling him that he has to finish fights and stuff but I honestly think he’s just going to come out and do the same thing he always does, he’s a grinder and he goes after you and grind you into the ground and I just have to stop all that and turn it around,” Penn told MMA Sports Magazine.
Penn also said that he and Fitch are at different points in their careers, “Well me and Jon Fitch are in two different places in our lives. All these fighters are really, really, really concerned about one thing, winning. And it’s not that I’m not concerned about that, but I’ve been in their shoes for a long time and that’s all I was concerned about too. But more concerned than winning, I want to show everybody my fighting spirit.”
The question that this talk brings to mind is, who will be the more dangerous fighter when Penn and Fitch step into the Octagon in February?
Will it be Fitch—who is feeling pressure from his detractors to finish and wants another shot at the welterweight title?
Or will it be Penn—who is solely focused on fighting his best fight?