The 411 MMA Top 10 12.17.12: Top 10 BJ Penn Fights
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at BJ Penn’s top ten fights. But first,
Thoughts from last week and other random stuff:
• Last week was the top ten lightweights of all time and some of you thought BJ Penn should have been ranked above Frankie Edgar for the top spot. Originally I thought Edgar took the UFC’s lightweight division to a new level but some of you convinced me and I would switch the two if I were to redo the list.
o Wylun summed up the points pretty nicely, “Honestly.. the ufc lightweight division would have never been paid attention to if it wasnt for BJ Penn. wen BJ finally went back to Lightweight, everyone was just waiting for him to take that belt and rule it. if he never came back, ya, the Lightweight division would of gone on.. but for a LONG TIME, it probably would have been watever fights just like the 125 division and the current state of the 135 division.. ya, good fights, but no one really cares or will pay to see it as a main event on a pay per view… bj carried ppvs as the Lightweight Champ .. and the changing of the titles from BJ to Edgar was so significant because no one even really gave as much credit to edgar until he defeated BJ that second time. (i swear bj won the first fight, first 3 rounds) hence, BJ should be #1…”
• Some of you thought Benson Henderson should have been ranked higher. He’s defeated a lot of the top lightweights of this era but I don’t think he’s had enough significance to get ranked any higher at this point. Though another title defense or two would move him up more.
• And I figured a lot of people would disagree with Gilbert Melendez being ranked third but he’s been the top fighter in Strikeforce since it pretty much started and defeated some top lightweights while champion. We’ll have to see how he holds up against the UFC’s top guys next year.
Back to this week’s list
So BJ Penn returned to action last week on Fox. Penn was pretty much a punching bag for MacDonald and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see him fight again. But this is still a good chance to look back at some of the better moments in his legendary career. Penn made his MMA debut in 2001 at UFC 31 and has been one of the all time best since then. His stock has dropped in the past couple years but he is still a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion with the most time spent fighting inside the UFC. The fights in this week’s list are based on the fight quality, the significance, Penn’s personal performance and some of my opinion.
• Rodrigo Gracie- Penn defeated the then undefeated Gracie at 185 pounds during his time with K-1.
• Frankie Edgar UFC 112 & 118- both title fights went the full five rounds as there was a passing of the guard in the UFC’s lightweight division
• Lyoto Machida- During Penn’s time away from the UFC when he took on the much larger Machida. He lost but still fun to see him hold his own against someone 30 pounds heavier.
The Prodigy took on Caol Uno for the first time at UFC 34. It took Penn only 11 seconds to knock him out then. This time they met in the finals of the mini tournament to decide the UFC’s new lightweight champion. Uno was much more well prepared in this one as the fight was the opposite and went the full five rounds. This was a well paced strategic fight with some nice work on the ground. The fight ended up going to a draw which caused the UFC to suspend the lightweight division which later caused Penn to compete in the larger divisions.
Serra is most well known for upsetting GSP for the UFC’s welterweight title but he had some good moments at lightweight as well. The UFC’s lightweight title was vacated after Jens Pulver left the company in 2002. The UFC then held a four man tournament to decide the new champion. BJ Penn took on Matt Serra in the first round. This was Serra’s third fight in the UFC and only second at lightweight. The two jiu-jitsu black belts met at UFC 39. Penn would come out on top after three fun back and forth rounds and go on to the finals of the mini tournament.
The rematch that took five years to take place. Pulver handed Penn his first career loss at UFC 35. Penn had just unsuccessfully challenged Matt Hughes for the welterweight title and this was his first fight at lightweight in four years. Pulver left the UFC after their first fight and didn’t have the same success in other promotions. Pulver was just coming back over from Pride where he was only 2-2. Both guys coached TUF season 5 leading up to the fight. This was a pretty stacked season with Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon, Matt Wiman and Manny Gamburyan. Two members of team Pulver competed in the finals but Pulver did not have the same luck. Penn was just too good for him at this point. Penn knocked him down with a quick flurry in the first and almost put him away at two different points but Pulver was able to escape. Penn picked up right where he left off in second round and put Pulver away with a rear naked choke.
Penn returned to the UFC two years after being stripped of the welterweight title. Penn was immediately thrown back into the title picture upon his return. He took on GSP in a number one contender fight to decide who would challenge then champion Matt Hughes. Penn won the first round when got in some good shots and even broke GSP’s nose. GSP was able to battle back and pull out the win via split decision but this was a great fight between two of the best.
This was one of most one sided beat downs you’ll ever see in MMA. BJ Penn took on Diego Sanchez in his third title defense and the Nightmare got wrecked pretty good. Sanchez was looking pretty good leading up to the fight too. He had defeated Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida since dropping down to lightweight. Penn rocked Sanchez hard in the first round and the fight was almost stopped but Sanchez was able to recover. Then he just got dominated for the next three rounds. Penn picked him apart with strikes while defending 27 takedown attempts. The fight was finally stopped in the fifth round by the doctors when Penn connected with a high kick that busted Sanchez up above his left eye.
This was a very important fight for Penn. Not only was Kenny Florian a top lightweight but this was Penn’s first fight since unsuccessfully moving back up to welterweight to challenge GSP for his title. Penn looked unstoppable at lightweight before the move so it was interesting to see if he could return to form after his loss. This was Florian’s second title shot after losing to Sean Sherk three years earlier. Florian had won six straight since Sherk and posed a legitimate threat to Penn. Florian tried to win several different ways but Penn just outstruck him and negated all of Florian’s takedown attempts. It was almost like he tried to copy GSP’s game plan against Penn but just wasnt good enough to carry it out. Penn took Florian’s back in the fourth round and submitted him with a rear naked choke for his second title defense.
In his second fight since returning to the lightweight division, Penn took on Joe Stevenson for the vacant UFC lightweight championship at UFC 80. Seconds into the round Penn knocked down Stevenson with a right hand. Then it took one elbow that wasn’t even that powerful to cut Stevenson near his hairline. Stevenson’s face was soaked in blood by the end of the round. They tried to patch him back together in between rounds but it didn’t work too well. Stevenson realized that the fight might get stopped soon so he fought much more aggressively. Understandable but he lost by rear naked choke anyway. Penn licked the blood off his gloves to celebrate while Stevenson cried. So Penn became only the second fighter in the UFC to hold titles in two different weight classes. Stevenson was never the same fighter afterwards either. He said the experience left him disturbed, I’ve never been covered in my own blood but I’m sure it’s not a fun experience.
Penn didn’t really have any fights lined up in the UFC after they suspended the division for a few years. So Penn’s first fight after his draw with Uno was for his brother’s promotion in Hawaii. There he took on the Fireball Kid Takanori Gomi. This was before his legendary run in Pride but he was still tearing it up in Shooto at this point. This was a really exciting fight as both fighters showed off their skills standing up and on the ground. But Penn was the dominate fighter as he came out on top of all their exchanges. Gomi was a bloody mess by the time Penn put him away in the third round with a rear naked choke.
This was billed as the biggest fight in the history of the UFC’s lightweight division and this was very true at the time. Sherk became lightweight champion when the UFC brought back the title in 2006. Sherk only defended his title once as he was stripped of it after testing positive for a banned steroid. Penn won the title while he was suspended and Sherk would end up being his first title defense. Sherk only attempted to take him down in the first round which was successfully defended by BJ Penn and the rest of the fight was spent standing up. Penn used his reach advantage to out box Sherk for three rounds. Sherk was a pretty good striker and I understand Penn had a great takedown defense but I don’t know why an accomplished wrestler like Sherk wouldn’t try to take Penn down more than once, especially when he was losing standing up. At the end of the third round Penn hit Sherk with a punch that sent him falling back to the cage. Penn followed this up with a flying knee that ended it for Sherk, Penn then got in a few more punches before the round ended. Penn knew it was over and the fight was called before the fourth round could start.
This was the top BJ Penn fight as there were so many big factors leading up to this one. The UFC had suspended the lightweight division after Penn’s draw with Uno at UFC 41. Penn briefly left the UFC due to his lack of division to take a fight with Takanori Gomi in his brother’s promotion. But Penn returned to the UFC after eleven months to move up to welterweight and challenge then champion Matt Hughes. Hughes’ first title reign was one of the best ever as he defended his title five times. Hughes was a heavy favorite coming into this one as he was an awesome champ and Penn was moving up in weight. This upset was the product of Hughes underestimating his opponent and Penn’s great skills all coming together. Penn rocked Hughes with a good right hand and took his back for the rear naked choke at 4:39 in the first round. Penn claimed his first UFC title in his first fight at 170 lbs against one of the all time greats.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week I’ll rank the top ten TUF competitors to not make the finals.
Try not to die til next week.