UFC 137: Why BJ Penn Will Destroy Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz, who was supposed to fight for the title, was demoted to the co-main event for no-showing two press conferences and will now fight BJ Penn instead. Realistically speaking, Diaz has a much better chance of beating Penn than he does beating GSP.
But that still isn't a very good chance. Diaz does not have the tools to finish or outpoint Penn, where Penn has all the tools needed to dominate Diaz.
BJ Penn Is the Better Striker
BJ Penn is the better striker, by far.
Diaz has a solid boxing game, which he used to win most of his bouts in Strikeforce. Since leaving the UFC, he has won 6 of his 11 bouts by TKO. He is particularly good at picking apart his opposition against the cage.
Still, he hasn't beaten the most impressive competition and many of his wins were close contests. Nick Diaz avenged a loss (due to cuts) to KJ Noons in one of his Strikeforce title defenses, outstriking the former boxer. However, he only outlanded him 194 to 155, according to Compustrike.
He was badly rocked in his fights with Marius Žaromskis and Paul Daley. If he didn't have such a fantastic chin, it is likely he'd have lost those bouts. Nick Diaz has been hurt many times by many worse strikers than Penn, so I have no doubt Penn can do the same.
In contrast, BJ Penn completely dominated Kenny Florian, rocking him multiple times and easily besting him in the standup before submitting him. This is the same fighter that went five competitive rounds with Jose Aldo without being seriously hurt. He also beat up Diego Sanchez and Sean Sherk, who are no slouches on their feet.
Penn is certainly the more proven striker of the two.
Penn's Top Game Is Better Than Nick's Bottom Game
Diaz is a skilled BJJ practitioner. He is a black belt under Cesar Gracie and has a dangerous guard, but it's been over hyped a little.
While his guard is certainly good, it isn't an unstoppable submitting machine. None of his submissions since leaving the UFC have come over fighters with good submission defense.
Penn's positional grappling is very dangerous. From top position he can very quickly attain mount and back control, as he did against Hughes, Fitch and Florian.
Diaz primarily uses the closed guard and works for submissions, but he isn't going to submit someone with Penn's level of jiu-jitsu and control. He never has, and there's no reason to believe he'll be able to pull it off this time.
Penn's Bottom Game Is Better Than Nick's Top Game
I honestly don't think Nick will ever have top control in his bout with Penn, but if he does manage to land there somehow, he won't be able to do very much.
We don't really see too much of Nick's top game, since he doesn't go for sweeps and rarely lands takedowns.
Regardless, he hasn't looked spectacular while he's been there. He couldn't hold down KJ Noons for much more than a minute after rocking him, and Noons has no background in ground fighting.
I can't say with confidence Penn has a better chance of submitting Nick from his back than Nick has of submitting Penn, but he certainly has a far better chance of sweeping for a dominant position or getting back to his feet. Fitch got top position three times against Penn in the first two rounds, but couldn't hold it for much more than 30 seconds per instance, and Fitch has proven top control.
Penn Can Take Down Diaz, Diaz Can't Take Down Penn
This one is a given. I give Penn the advantage in every position, but his wrestling gives him an added bonus if things get rough.
Penn is a deceptively good wrestler. He managed to take down Jon Fitch on two of three attempts and quickly gained back control thereafter.
It's no secret that Diaz does not like wrestling and isn't very good at it. If Diaz ever works Penn to the cage and tries unleashing his body shots, expect Penn to quickly clinch up and either reverse or take him down.
Penn Can Finish Nick
I mentioned earlier that Diaz has been hurt many times by many fighters since leaving the UFC, but he hasn't been finished. This is primarily because he hasn't fought fighters skilled or comfortable enough on the ground to pursue him there and finish him.
Penn won't have that problem. He both has the skill and killer instinct required to pounce on Diaz and finish after having him hurt.
Nick's Cardio Won't Be Enough
A fighter with great cardio can turn the tides of a fight as it wears on and come from behind with impressive victories. As the fight goes on, the advantage shifts more favorably toward Nick. But his advantage won't be substantial enough.
I don't think Diaz will get as far as the third round, but even if he does and Penn ends up exhausted, I don't see him pulling off a miraculous comeback. I don't see him finishing Penn with punches on the feet, something that better and larger strikers than Diaz could not pull off.
I also don't trust him to finish him from top position, since he is not known as a ground and pound specialist. Penn has never been close to being submitted, so that also seems out of the question.
All that Diaz fans can reasonably expect from him is an exciting fight, but they should not be surprised to see him soundly beaten. Diaz winning is like Georges St-Pierre finishing. You can hope for it, but it probably wouldn't be smart to bet on it.