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UFC 80: Rapid Fire Preview

Dom Velando
18 January 2008

    Take a poll asking, "Who's the most talented lightweight in MMA?" and you might as well only offer one box for, no, not Bob Sapp, but "The Prodigy", B.J. Penn. The ultra-popular Hawaiian is backed by an army of fans and believers, but thus far, he's left them daydreaming about finally living up to his unprecedented skill-level.

    The 30-year old from Hawaii is the first non-Brazilian to win the World Brazilian Jiujitsu Championships (Mundials) and, because of his accomplishments, he was invited to make his MMA debut in the UFC. Baby Jay reeled off three brutal wins, but came up short in a five-round title fight against Jens Pulver.

    {mosimage}After beating the hell out of former PRIDE champ Takanori Gomi, Penn returned to the UFC and made his welterweight debut by choking out defending five-time champion Matt Hughes. Unfortunately, Penn messed around and signed with K-1, prompting the UFC to strip him of the title and can him for breach-of-contract. 

     Penn ventured into the 185 and 205 pound weight divisions before making another bid for Hughes' title. He battled Georges St. Pierre for the title shot and lost a split decision, but GSP injured himself, and Penn got his rematch. Despite a dominant first two rounds, he either gassed or suffered a serious rib injury (the jury is still out) rendered him helpless in the later rounds. Hughes punched away at Penn's face until the fight was stopped.

   In his last fight, at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Season Finale, Penn rematched Jens Pulver, choking him out and making it look easy. In fact, some say (including Pulver himself) that he was toying with Pulver.

    And so the rumor goes that Penn has made a commitment to strengthening his Achilles heel, that is, his insufficient stamina, the consequence of a lack of focus and an addiction to burritos. If he is indeed focused on taking care of business, then come Saturday night (or afternoon if you can't restrain yourself), we will see, as Joe Rogan once said, "the best BJ we've seen in years." 

    It's hard matching your résumé against a guy who goes by "The Prodigy". Then again, Joe "Daddy" Stevenson doesn't need to, because he's on just about everybody's lightweight Top 10 and possesses what it takes to rise towards the top of those lists.{mosimage}

    Stevenson didn't get the easy road to winning TUF Season 2, having to get past Marcus Davis and Luke Cummo to do it. And  having fought Yves Edwards and Kurt Pellegrino, he didn't get the easy route to this title fight, either. 

    And it's the 25 year-old Californian's style and well-rounded skills that have gained the respect of Penn himself, who said,""Joe Stevenson is a great opponent. He's got so many weapons, so many tools that he brings into this fight." The weapon that may benefit Stevenson the most is his stamina. Even if Penn is in top shape, it's questionable as to whether he can keep up with Joe Daddy's relentless pace. And as a proud father who fights to honor his family, you can bet that Stevenson will show up ready to fight for much longer than 25 minutes.

    Jesus. King Arthur. B.J. Penn.

    It's hard to fight a legend of mythical proportions (or so I would imagine), not just because of their reputation, but because you risk that myth becoming a reality and knocking you the hell out. The quality of Stevenson's fight record pales in comparison to Penn's, and when it comes to jiujitsu, it's a David and Goliath affair.

    But there's a reason David vs. Goliath was such a memorable upset, and it's not just because Goliath was a 4-1 favorite. The Gods of MMA are always waiting to spring a crazy upset on it's viewers because in MMA, there's not only a puncher's chance, but there are a multitude of way's to deliver the fatal blow. And it's not like Stevenson is a slouch, because he does indeed have "the tools," particularly his wicked guillotine choke.

    Joe Stevenson has never fought a B.J. Penn, but Penn has fought and beaten fighters who can do everything Joe "Daddy" can, and better. Penn takes this one by submission in the second round.

Also on the card: 

Gabriel Gonzaga Vs. Fabricio Werdum
Jess Liaudin Vs. Marcus Davis
Wilson Gouveia Vs. Jason Lambert
Jorge Rivera Vs. Kendall Grove
Antoni Hardonk Vs. Colin Robinson
Paul Kelly Vs. Paul Taylor
James Lee Vs. Alessio Sakara
Per Eklund Vs. Sam Stout 

Last Modified:
22 January 2008

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