This Saturday night at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia, the UFC returns with its latest fight card, which will be headlined by former lightweight champion BJ Penn as he resumes his welterweight journey against former welterweight title challenger Jon Fitch.
Penn experienced one of the most up and down years of his career in 2010, losing his coveted title to then-challenger Frankie Edgar in April.
Things didn't fare any better for the Hilo native in the much-anticipated rematch, as he dropped back-to-back fights for just the second time in his storied career.
Things took a turn for the better last November, as Penn decided to leave the 155-lb. division in favor of taking on the welterweights. The comeback kicked off with a stunning 21-second KO win over fellow UFC legend Matt Hughes.
Now Penn looks to maintain the momentum from the Hughes win and secure a victory over Fitch.
Since failing to win the UFC welterweight crown while dropping a five-round decision against Georges St-Pierre in the summer of 2008, Fitch has come back only to look stronger than ever, as he has five straight wins against the likes of Paul Thiago, Thiago Alves and Akihiro Gono. Now he looks to hand Penn what would be his third loss in four fights.
Here are some of the ways that Penn can avoid the loss and continue his quest towards another welterweight showdown with the current champ in St-Pierre (assuming GSP stays in the welterweight division).
Make It an Early Night
It's no secret that the Indiana-born Fitch holds the size advantage, as he is somewhere in the neighborhood of four inches taller than Penn. This will become more and more evident the longer the fight lasts. Obviously easier said than done, it would serve Penn well to try to end the night in quick fashion just as he did against Matt Hughes.
As the minutes go by, you can expect Penn to tire more quickly than Fitch, as he will be exerting more energy than his opponent in an attempt to keep the bigger man from having his way with him.
If he can catch Fitch early on, whether it be with strikes or a submission if it goes to the ground, Penn's best shot is to end this one on his own terms early rather than see what happens if it goes to the score cards, which usually happens when Fitch fights.
Channel His Inner Manny Pacquiao
Going back to the size advantage for Fitch, it's not going to be easy for Penn to keep the bigger man off him for all five rounds. The best way for him to stay effective throughout the duration of tomorrow night's bout is to utilize his boxing skills.
As evidenced by the fact that almost half of his wins have come via knockout, it's obvious that "The Prodigy" can box. It's not just the fact that he has enough power to turn his opponent's lights off; it also keeps him from being taken down by the former NCAA Division I wrestler.
Which brings me to my next point...
Avoid the Takedown at All Costs
It's going to be a long night for Baby Jay if he allows Fitch to fight his fight and grind out the workmanlike decision that has become expected when Fitch steps inside the octagon.
As I previously mentioned, Fitch has a solid background in wrestling, as he was a standout at Purdue. This is where Fitch's size advantage would most hurt Penn. Penn is going to have to be quicker than his slightly older opponent while on their feet. He must find a way to be able to land some solid shots to the head and body of Fitch and then get out of the pocket before Fitch can get too close and bring him down.
Fitch holds a size advantage, and as is usually the case, when one fighter is that much bigger, he is usually the slower of the two. Penn is going to have to rely on his faster hands and feet to keep him out of trouble during the 15-minute war. His fast hands will allow him to win the war of striking, and his superior foot speed is going to have to be utilized in order for Penn to stay away from being taken down and fighting Fitch's fight.
There it is. It's not going to be an easy night by any stretch of the imagination for Penn—vegan diet or not. Penn needs to keep the fight on their feet, and he needs to land punches in bunches and then get out of harm's way and avoid being taken down. Most of all, he's going to have to do everything he possibly can to end it as quickly as he possibly can.
If he doesn't, there's a very good chance that you see Fitch's hand being raised in victory after yet another decision win.
UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch Results, News and More" target="_blank">UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch Results, News and More
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