UFC 137 Fight Card: What a Win Would Mean for BJ Penn

Andrew BarrCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2011

Photo courtesy of bjpenn.com
Photo courtesy of bjpenn.com

BJ "The Prodigy" Penn is set to return to the Octagon tonight for the first time since his controversial draw with Jon Fitch back at UFC 127.

He'll be facing off against former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz in a fight some feel has the potential to be Fight of the Year.

This will be Diaz' first fight in the UFC since 2006, when he was released from the promotion following a three-fight losing skid.

Since then, Diaz has put together an impressive win-streak but has not faced any elite competition, leaving some to wonder if he has really improved all that much since his first run in the UFC.

Therein lies the problem.

No one is sure if Diaz has what it takes to compete with truly elite fighters, and Penn is being used as the measuring stick to see if Diaz is for real.

As a result, this is a very high-risk, low-reward fight for Penn.

If he beats Diaz, most will say that Diaz never should have been in the same cage with Penn to begin with and that the fight was a mismatch.

That said, Diaz is a well-known fighter, so a victory over him wouldn't be completely useless to Penn, especially if he can win in dominant fashion.

Beating Diaz means that Penn is one step closer to getting another title shot at the welterweight, but he probably won't get a crack at the belt immediately after this fight.

Last time Penn fought for the title, he was thoroughly dominated, and so the UFC will need to make it seem like Penn is on an absolute tear in order to justify giving him another shot at the gold.

A win over Diaz doesn't give Penn the momentum he needs for the UFC to market a title fight, so a win tonight just means another fight with a top five opponent for the Prodigy.

Andrew Barr is a Featured Columnist for BleacherReport.com. For updates on what's happening in the world of MMA, follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/AndrewBarr8.