COMMENTARY | At UFC on Fox 5: Henderson vs. Diaz, B.J. Penn fought a game opponent in Rory MacDonald. The 23-year-old Canadian looked technical and highly skilled in his dismantling of the Prodigy. Penn, on the other hand, did not look anything like his vintage self when he became the welterweight champion in 2004; nor did he bear any resemblance to the lightweight champion version of himself in 2008. Penn lost the lopsided decision to MacDonald, and was badly beaten and toyed with for three rounds.
Since entering the UFC in 2001, Penn has assisted in establishing the mixed martial arts brand and in bringing it to the mainstream. During his tenure with the organization, he has fought a list of who's who of the mixed martial arts world, which includes:
*UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes
*UFC Future Hall of Famer and Current Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre
*Former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar
*Ultimate Fighter Season One Champion Diego Sanchez
*Former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz
In addition, the Prodigy is only one of two fighters to hold a championship in two weight classes (Randy Couture being the other). He is also responsible for one Knockout of the Night, one Fight of the Night, and two Submission of the Night awards. Penn is the only UFC champion to face another UFC champion (St. Pierre) for the opportunity to dominate two weight classes. The Prodigy also received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu just three weeks before winning the BJJ World Championships.
As a result, Penn's MMA skills were dominant inside the octagon for quite a long time. His work ethic was only eclipsed by his ability to make other great fighters look ordinary. Even in his losses, the Prodigy always pressed forward and engaged in many "wars" in the octagon. Sadly, at UFC on Fox 5, Penn may have participated in his last war, as talks of retirement loom over the Hawaii native.
In his last nine fights, Penn has only won three of them. In his last two fights, the Prodigy took a beating and became facially disfigured at the hands of Diaz and MacDonald. Even when the Hawaiian wasn't being dominated in the octagon per se, he was being outclassed and out-maneuvered by younger opponents in St. Pierre and Edgar.
Many formerly elite MMA fighters have remained in the game beyond their prime, suffering more punishment and knockouts than their bodies needed to endure. Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Wanderlei Silva and Tito Ortiz are just a few examples of the visible decline of an athlete. Their downfall was cemented by unnecessary fights that led to knockouts and serious beatings -- some at the hands of lesser talented fighters. This is not the road on which Penn needs to embark.
At UFC on Fox 5, Penn fought at 170lbs. However, the majority of the Prodigy's career fights have been at 155lbs. At this weight, Penn has always appeared to be lighter on his feet. He has illustrated increased stamina and more effective striking at lightweight as well. Not that Penn hasn't experienced success at 170lbs., having been the UFC welterweight champion. However, that was in 2004. Eight years later, at welterweight, Penn (34) is subjected to fighting younger, stronger opponents, like MacDonald. Therefore, if he wishes to fight again, perhaps moving back down to lightweight would best suit the Prodigy.
At the same time, anymore fighting on the part of the Prodigy is pointless. With more than a definite place in the UFC Hall of Fame, Penn has solidified his legacy. The Hawaiian will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest MMA fighters to ever set foot in the octagon.
Clinton Alexander Bullock lives in California and has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine and Yahoo! Voices.
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