And while the theme of each fight being the most important fight is certainly true of many fighters, no one is it more true of than Penn.
As Penn steps into the Octagon February 27th, it would be understandable if Penn had a lot on his mind following his huge KO victory over former UFC welterweight champion, and former bitter rival Matt Hughes.
After all, he is one win away from a possible rematch against current UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.
Barring a St. Pierre loss to Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April, fight fans could be on the horizon of two straight superfights involving St. Pierre, Penn, and UFC middleweight champion and consensus No. 1 P4P fighter Anderson Silva. But I digress from the point.
The Hilo native comes into the fight riding a very nice KO win over Hughes, and will focus primarily on Fitch's takedowns and wrestling to keep himself off his back against the bigger, stronger Fitch. The former Purdue Boilermaker wrestler holds a four-inch height and reach advantage over Penn, and it will be up to Penn to stop the takedowns, which will ultimately determine the fight between these two contenders.
If Penn wants to make a run to the title, this is his grand opportunity to make it work, and a motivated BJ Penn is a scary BJ Penn.
It will be evident that Penn's best chance at defeating Fitch is throwing down, and it's the type of fight that Penn may not be suited for against a grunt-type fighter such as Fitch.
Wrestlers have been the only style of fighter Penn has struggled against in his career, and of his seven career losses, five have come to wrestlers (with the only two exception being Lyoto Machida and Jens Pulver earlier in Penn's career).
Still, Penn has also found success against these wrestler-types as well. He beat both Joe Stevenson and Sean Sherk in dominating fashion back-to-back in 2008, and has beaten Hughes and Diego Sanchez.
The way he won those fights was by succinctly using his stand up to set up wherever the fight went. In the cases of Sherk, Sanchez and Hughes, they were all finished on the feet. Case in point, Penn will need to mix in his punches if he's going to have any chances of a shot at the belt.
The realistic chances of Penn making a comeback hangs in the balance based on his fight with Fitch.
Penn will need to remedy himself of his poor history in big fights against hybrid wrestlers, and assert himself early on before Fitch takes him out of it much like St. Pierre did come the second round of their second fight.
I like Penn in this fight when no one else does, except for everyone in Hawaii and BJPenn.com forum members. He's guaranteed the next shot at the title with a win. But then again, so was Fitch, and it will be a long layoff in between this fight and a title fight with St. Pierre if he beats Shields come April.
If you want to find out more, visit BJPenn.com...just kidding.