UFC 137 Fight Card: 3 Things BJ Penn Must Do to Beat Nick Diaz
No Georges St-Pierre, no problem. We still have the Prodigy.
BJ Penn is a former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion. BJ Penn is a World Jiu-Jistu champion in the black-belt division. BJ Penn is a tremendous boxer with a solid chin.
There isn't much that BJ can't do inside an octagon. That includes spoiling the return of the former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz at UFC 137.
BJ has all the tools and attributes to make it a tough night for Nick. But will he?
It really depends which BJ Penn shows up. We've known him to come ill-prepared from time to time, but if he brings his "A" game, most pundits say he should walk away with a victory.
Here's a list of what he should try to do to put another "W" on his record...
Don't Get Seduced into an Emotional Brawl
Nick Diaz is an emotional fighter, and he thrives off of swaying the balance and momentum in fights. Diaz is best when he can take control of a fight due to the opponent being seduced into trading with him. Nick dominated Strikeforce using this advantage.
BJ Penn is also a fiery emotional guy that often gets into "I can do what you do better than you" contests. That's exactly what Nick wants.
Even though Nick is Brazilian jiu-jistu black belt and has an excellent open guard, he wants to stand and bang. With Nick's boxing prowess, its best not to do so.
Penn is better off using a mauling, Randy Couture-esque approach and physically imposing his will on Diaz. He should use takedowns and pass his guard while watching out for submission attempts (mainly Nick's favorite, the kimura) in an effort to gain dominant position to do damage.
Nick Diaz is taller than BJ Penn, and it's not even close. Of course, that tells us that he has a pretty distinct reach advantage. With that, BJ will definitely need to close the distance and not let Nick use his jab to dictate the fight.
BJ can close the distance by bullying Diaz. If he can press Nick up against the cage and stifle some of his offense and footwork, BJ will have more takedown situations. The last thing BJ wants to do is stay at arms' length and have to run and chase Nick all night.
If BJ closes the distance and applies pressure from the inside, Nick will be out of his normal element, and BJ will dictate the fight. With BJ being veteran of previous fights against much larger men (he even fought former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida), he knows how to implement this game plan and be successful.
Don't Box Him
Do not, I repeat, do not box Nick Diaz under any circumstances.
Let's get this out of the way right now, Nick Diaz does not have knockout power. However, what he does have is an extremely strong boxing foundation. He trains with Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward, so that should tell you the man has hands.
BJ Penn is a pretty solid boxer himself, but he was outboxed by Frankie Edgar—twice. Most would say Diaz is a better boxer than Edgar.
That equation leads to simple things. Get inside and dirty box. Take the fight to the ground. Don't stand and trade. And most importantly, don't turn this into an endurance contest, because you will lose.
Diaz does triathlons during training, so if that doesn't tell you that endurance isn't a problem for him, I don't know what would.
Penn has been known to get gassed in previous fights, so the goal is to not allow that to happen here. The talk was that since the fight was moved to be the main event, they contemplated changing it to a five-round fight. Luckily for BJ, Dana White thought that was unfair to the fighters.
The moral of the story is that BJ Penn can dominate this fight. He just needs to fight smart and use his head, not his heart, when deciding when and how to engage.