On January 31st 2009 two legends collide. BJ Penn will challenge Georges St. Pierre for his Welter Weight title. Both men’s careers are intertwined with championship wins, devastating defeats, rebirths, and greatness. Let’s take a look at this historic fight.
A controversial split decision win for GSP has propelled this rivalry for many years.
During the first fight, GSP did enough to control BJ and he won the split decision of a great fight. It is not fair to deny that BJ was the more effective striker and did more damage during this fight. Rules are rules though and GSP took necessary steps to secure a victory despite the brutal damage he endured.
BJ and GSP both know who won the fight that night. The scorecards said something different. Ask yourself this though, who felt better in the morning? Who needed more medical attention after the fight? Who felt more pain during the fight? Who was compromised?
Fast forward a few years and both men are in different places and times in their historic careers. Rest assured contention for the title of Pound For Pound best fighter in the world is very much on the line here. Belts aside, that title, in this day and age of Spiders and Last Emperors, is quite prestigious indeed.
Here is the breakdown:
Since his loss to GSP, BJ has gone on to give basic boxing 101 clinics to Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver, and Joe Daddy Stevenson. Add a two round pummeling of WW champ Matt Hughes that ended in a loss, to that resume. Each fight was for a title. GSP included, all were dominated on the feet by Penn.
He is a natural striker. Lots of razor sharp jabbing followed by patient and precise power punches. BJ hits hard, he hits true, he is very comfortable standing.
To ignore the forward progress of GSP since that time would be asinine. He is ever improving and always surprising. One surprise being that his standup was tested greatly by Matt Serra. Serra quickly outclassed GSP in their first fight beating him down in the first round by rattling him and not allowing him to regroup. This need to regroup is the dent in GSP’s armor.
GSP improved greatly for his rematch with Serra as well as fights against Hughes, and Koscheck. What he did to John Fitch was amazing and hard to watch. His Muay Thai is phenomenal. When hit though, he seems to rattle a bit. When struck, he tends to want to regroup. This creates opening like the one Serra found. Regardless, GSP’s footwork is usually good enough to keep him out of trouble.
Advantage: BJ Penn
BJ was the first non-Brazilian to win a world championship in jiu-jitsu. His ground game is second to none. He possesses a flexibility and dexterity that can not be duplicated there for can not be trained for. He is unmatched at smothering and avoiding takedowns. He can submit from anywhere.
He fights with calmness on the ground that leads one to believe he is more than comfortable in any position. BJ prefers to stand but his bread and butter lies in his ground game. He almost sets a trap of making you think it might be better if you take him down to avoid his standup. Nothing could be further from the truth.
GSP again is ever evolving and has become one of the greatest wrestlers in the UFC. He has achieved a black belt in BJJ. He excels at both and has great success utilizing them as big guns in his arsenal. They make him very dangerous.
GSP is strong, but BJ’s ability to control from any position on the ground, and his long time experience in ground fighting, in MMA and other competitions, gives him a natural advantage over the champ.
This area is one of the intangibles in MMA. It can not be measured. It is prevalent during a fight in many ways, regardless.
BJ has fought anywhere from 155 all the way to 187. He has fought Lyoto Machida in an open weight bout that saw BJ weigh in at 187 and Machida at 215. He has absorbed vicious strikes from a naturally larger and more powerful opponent and moved forward showing little effect. He has never been knocked out cold, only TKO’d.
His warrior spirit can not be denied. GSP is more dangerous now than many fighters Penn has faced, but it’s hard to believe he will hit Penn with anything he hasn’t already taken and been capable of overcoming.
GSP has proven many times that he has the heart of a champion. His chin on the other hand has been proven suspect as mentioned earlier. One of GSP’s downfalls may be that he is so very talented that no one tests him. This leaves him vulnerable to the unknown when war comes. Other than Matt Serra, no one has troubled GSP or had him in deep water since BJ did so many years ago.
His ability to weather a storm is questionable. BJ will surely bring a storm. Even during the beating he was handing Fitch, there were a few times Fitch caught the champ and he was noticeably effected and slowed his tempo drastically. BJ will sense that hesitation if it presents itself, and he will attack.
A strong pace can destroy months of training by simply draining the ability to execute. BJ must prepare like he has never prepared in his life for this fight. This has always been a sort of black eye on BJ’s reputation. It’s up to him to change that. He had better be prepared to get his moneys worth. BJ had better make no mistake about it, GSP is coming to impose his will.
GSP’s conditioning is legendary. His natural talent as an athlete is enviable. His work ethic shines bright every time he enters the cage. There is no doubt that GSP will be ready for seven rounds. This is GSP’s most clear cut advantage over Penn and it is a big one.
In closing BJ must stun GSP in some way. Hurt him. GSP is so comfortable and naturally gifted that he annihilates fighters with such ease. Many of these fighters have not put him under pressure because they simply could not. Many could not push GSP, or test him. BJ can, and when he does look for GSP to struggle.
When GSP is hurt is when he is at his weakest, it’s hurting him that is the hard part. His defense is strong, and his offense is legendary. Both men know BJ is capable of hurting GSP. My money says he does it again and more decisively this time.
It is not smart to put money on anyone who fights GSP. Usually the guy standing across the cage from him is just the next loser. If you had to bet on a man taking his belt though, your smartest money would be on an Island Warrior from Hilo Hawaii. Baby J, The Prodigy, BJ Penn is the best GSP antidote you can bet on.
Prediction: BJ Penn TKO victory round two.
Tags: B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre, gsp, UFC, ufc 94