For all the great things that B.J. Penn has done in mixed martial arts, he had no business being in the Octagon on Sunday. He hasn’t won in more than six years and is just a shell of his former self.
What made it worse on Sunday was that he was matched at the Talking Stick Resort Arena with a fast, quick, dynamic striker who looks to be on the verge of stardom.
Yair Rodriguez won his sixth fight in a row, easily handling Penn before stopping him at 24 seconds of the second round. Rodriguez caught Penn with a right front kick, and then threw a right cross behind it. Penn went down and Rodriguez unloaded with strikes, forcing referee John McCarthy to stop it.
Penn briefly complained, but there is no disputing the stoppage. Penn was never in the fight and took a brutal beating in the first round. Penn was fighting for the first time since losing badly to Frankie Edgar on July 6, 2014.
He seemed slow and unable to deal with Rodriguez’s quickness and athletic ability. Rodriguez unloaded on him with a series of kicks, flying through the air like a striking gymnast.
Rodriguez has won six consecutive bouts at featherweight and looks like the UFC’s next big star. He clearly is moving inexorably toward a title shot.
He was respectful of Penn after the one-sided fight, but showed him no mercy in the cage. He landed spinning kicks and punches of all sorts as well as knees and fast-handed punches.
“This was an amazing fight for me,” the 24-year-old Rodriguez said. “I fought a legend tonight. B.J. Penn deserves all the respect in the world. Thank you so much, B.J., for accepting the fight with me. I am here for whatever the UFC wants to bring. I really appreciate the UFC for giving me such great opportunities. I will be ready for whatever they want to give me.”
His future is without question. Penn’s though, is much in doubt. He’s lost his last five bouts, hasn’t won since Nov. 23, 2010, and is just 1-6-1 in his last eight. At 38, he’s lost much of his quickness and doesn’t seem able to mount an attack.
He was inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame in 2015, but came out of retirement about six months later. He spent much of 2016 trying to get a fight, and hooked up with legendary coach Greg Jackson in the hope of revitalizing his career.
He simply did not have it yet again and it probably makes little sense for him to continue.
Rodriguez, though, is where Penn was more than a decade ago, an elite talent skyrocketing toward the top.
“I have no ceiling. I have no limits,” Rodriguez said on the Fox Sports 1 post-fight show. “I can get a lot better. If you put that in your mind, you’re done.”