Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn has seen the pinnacle of mixed martial arts twice in his career. He defeated Matt Hughes to take the welterweight title at UFC 46: Supernatural, in 2004. In 2008 he choked out Joe Stevenson to win the lightweight in the main event of UFC 80: Rapid Fire. When BJ Penn was focused, he didn't just beat other fighters, he crushed them. His aggression in the cage is something to be remembered, a thing that his most recently defeated opponent, Matt Hughes, is well aware of.
After two straight losses to Frankie Edgar, Penn's return to welterweight was a decision many questioned, as the consensus was that the former champion looked his best in the lighter weight class. He would go on to have a rubber match with fellow UFC legend, Matt Hughes. Although I didn't feel that Hughes could defeat "The Prodigy", I believed that the match would serve as a good measure of what to expect from Penn at welterweight this time around. A picture perfect punch combination sent Hughes crumbling to the mat only 21 seconds into the first round.
I had the shovel in my hands, and Penn's grave half dug. I was so certain that this was a poorly thought out decision that I was preparing to close the book on Penn even continuing on, let alone making divisional waves again. Now, Penn may very well become the number one contender should he defeat Jon Fitch this weekend at UFC 127. Fitch is a tall order for any fighter in the welterweight division, just look at the man's record. Since 2003, Jon Fitch has gone 21-1-1. The one loss coming from current champion and pound for pound great, Georges St. Pierre. Despite what GSP says, Jon Fitch was the greatest test of his skills as a fighter. Fitch made Georges work more than any other fighter since becoming champion, and even though he lost badly, being the most competitive fighter against someone who habitually makes others look clueless is an accomplishment.
I expect Jon Fitch to grind through three rounds against BJ Penn with relative ease, but I also expected Hughes to put up a decent fight back at UFC 123. With Penn, I've learned to never say die. Every time I expect him to zig, he zags. Some call it inconsistent, I call it a mind fu-...well, you know. Moral of the story? Don't sleep on Penn. Expect the unexpected. When a fighter makes a habit of winning when he should lose, and losing when he should win, always be wary when he appears outmatched - you just might be left with a shovel in hand and no one to bury but yourself.