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Fighter Spotlight: BJ Penn

Date Added: May 28, 2008 10:16:44 PM
Author: Eugene Bilmes
The first time I came across BJ Penn was in 2002 when he fought incumbent lightweight UFC champion Jens Pulver for the title. Hearing the way everyone was fawning over him I became very upset that the champion was considered the underdog in this fight, and by a huge margin! And at that moment I began to dislike Penn.
 
Although I have to admit he showed an impressive display of his skills that night, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when Pulver’s hand was raised in the end. “I guess sometimes hype ain’t enough.” Amen, Jens.

I hate BJ Penn.

Fast forward to The Ultimate Fighter 5 in 2007. Jens and BJ are reunited as opposing coaches to a group of mostly wet-behind-the-ears lightweights looking for their big break into MMA. From the start BJ begins to toy with Jens by asking all the fighters who don’t want to be on Pulver’s team to raise their hands. Not surprisingly, most of the fighters raise their hands. Jens, being the cocky guy that he is, isn’t fazed a bit by BJ’s stunt. It was a pleasure for me to watch Jens’ boys dismantle BJ’s team one fighter at time, and in the end it was two guys from Pulver’s team who fought in the finale. I should also mention that during the show Jens beat BJ in a game of ping pong that everyone took just a little too seriously. Nonetheless, I was happy that Jens beat BJ again.

And now the moment of truth—the long awaited rematch between Jens Pulver and BJ Penn. Would BJ prove that the loss five years ago was a fluke, or would Jens put BJ down with his famous left hand? 

BJ Penn defeats Jens Pulver via rear naked choke at 3:12 of round two. I’ll honestly admit that watching BJ’s hand raised that night was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. However, when Jens said that his feud with BJ was over and that he had asked BJ to help him train I felt a strange serenity.

I don’t dislike BJ Penn.

Fast forward again to May 20, 2008. Spike TV is highlighting 6 men about to fight that weekend at UFC 84: Tito Ortiz, Lyoto Machida, Keith Jardine, Wanderlei Silva, Sean Sherk, and BJ Penn. Sitting in front of the camera BJ talks about how he’s matured and no longer looks at fighting as just something to do. He brings up his fight with Matt Hughes in 2006 where he got knocked out as being his awakening. He no longer wants to see how little he can train and still win. He doesn’t care about the championship belt. He just wants to fight the best guys in the world and be remembered as a champion, as one of the best to ever enter the octagon, while MMA was still in its infancy.

I like BJ Penn.

Saturday, May 24, 2008. UFC 84 main event: Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk wants redemption in front of MMA fans nationwide and his belt back from BJ “The Prodigy” Penn.The bell rings and BJ stuffs a takedown attempt by Sherk almost instantly, then answers back with a right. Penn works the jab beautifully the entire round as Sherk realizes he isn’t taking Penn down anytime soon. And so they stand. 

With 90 seconds left in round one Penn opens a cut under Sherk’s eye using the same jab he’s been using the entire round. The bell rings. Penn wins the round, 10-9.

Round two begins. Sherk comes out with a nice low kick. He knows that in order to take down BJ he’ll need to weaken his base and tire him out. Penn responds with a nice combination, finishing off with a right uppercut that connects clean. The crowd can be heard chanting, “Steroids” in the background. Looks like Sherk isn’t getting his redemption anytime soon. 

Penn connects with a leg kick. Sherk tries another takedown, but it’s stuffed again. All the while BJ’s jabs connect with Sherk’s right eye like a long lost friend…who owes you a lot of money. Penn wins the round, 10-9.

Round three begins, and looks to mirror the last two. Penn’s jabs cannot be stopped at this point. I think: Am I watching MMA or a boxing clinic? 

This time it’s Penn who tries a takedown and gets stuffed. Both fighters move to the center of the cage and exchange. Sherk throws a hard jab, but Penn counters with a leg kick. Sherk tries another leg kick, but BJ answers him with a quick double jab. A nice flying knee from Penn puts Sherk on the matt and Penn finishes with a ground and pound that would make Mark Coleman proud. The fight is stopped. 

Penn wins by TKO in the last minute of the third round.

I respect BJ Penn.
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