UFC: BJ Penn returns to tackle new breed
“Rory, I accept your challenge!”…those five little words may well have pumped new life into not only the UFC’s welterweight division but also the career of one of its greatest ever fighters. Whilst the Las Vegas based promotion has yet to officially confirm the bout it is thought that Toronto will play host to Penn’s Octagon return against the highly touted young Canadian Rory MacDonald.
BJ Penn needs little introduction to UK fight fans. A two divisional champion and event headliner on multiple occasions Baby Jay is a shoe in for induction to the promotions hall of fame upon hanging up the gloves. Many who had witnessed Penn’s mauling at the hands of Nick Diaz in October believed that we had watched him lay it on the line for the last time. Indeed his impromptu retirement announcement post-fight appeared to confirm that his final career chapter had been written and that his future would consist of less taxing concerns than standing n front of an unerringly accurate Diaz brother for three exhausting rounds. It turns out both the fans and Penn himself were premature in such musings. September’s UFC 152 in Toronto appears to be where Penn will re-appear less than twelve months after that fateful night at the Mandalay Bay.
BJ Penn has earned the right in over ten years at the elite level of the sport to decide where and when to call it a day. The Penn fan in me however wishes that he had adhered to his original decision. Whilst 33 is certainly not old for a fighter, the immensely talented grappling wizard was campaigning against the Caol Uno’s and Jens Pulver’s of the game before the new breed of mixed martial artists such as MacDonald were knee high to a grasshopper. Penn has been involved in many wars and has undeniably lost some of the blistering hand and foot speed which were the hallmark of “The Prodigy” in his prime. He may not have the inclination to make 155lbs at this stage in his career but his days of competing at welterweight should be consigned to the history books. Against MacDonald he will be facing a hard charging 22 year old hungry for his first truly big name scalp. The talented youngster’s development is honed day and daily by his most high profile nemesis Georges St-Pierre and Tristar coach Firas Zahabi. All of the cards appear to lie with MacDonald, with Penn’s acceptance of the fight leaving many industry insiders scratching their heads.
Only a few weeks ago Penn turned away the overtures of Josh Koscheck when he very publicly attempted to back the Hawaiian into a corner over a comeback fight. A defeat of Koscheck would surely have propelled Penn closer to a title tilt than a win over a less experienced up and comer such as “Ares”. This begs the question, why accept MacDonald’s challenge but baulk at Koscheck’s? Only Penn really knows the answer but at this stage of his career he has made it clear that only certain fights burn the fire inside him enough to endure a prolonged training camp and all of the pressures which are inherent to it. Perhaps its MacDonald’s Tristar affiliation which motivates him or he simply wants to pit himself against the so-called new breed of mixed martial artist now populating the sport. Either way it looks like we will all get to witness one more big night in the colourful legacy of the man whose motto simply is… “just scrap”.
“The Natural Born Killer” to avenge Kampmann loss?
Carlos Condit has been vocal this week in his targeting of TUF Live Finale victor Martin Kampmann. The current UFC interim welterweight champion knows that waiting around on the sidelines whilst fighting fit is a dangerous road to take (Just ask Rashad Evans) and has voiced his desire to rematch “The Hitman”. Avenging that loss must surely rank highly on the former lifeguard’s “to do” list. Kampmann has made a habit of pulling fights out of the fire after coming off worse for the majority of the contest. Sooner or later this is going to catch up with him and perhaps “The Natural Born Killer” has got the finishing skills to derail the great dane’s title ambitions.
Bisping withdraws from Boetsch match-up
The UFC’s recent injury jinx has struck again with British fan favourite Mike Bisping pulling out of next month’s fight with Tim Boetsch. “The Barbarian” will now take on debuting Bellator stand-out Hector Lombard in a definite case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire”.
“The Smashes” takes shape
The UFC have this week announced the weight classes for The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs UK series. Some of the top lightweights and welterweights from these shores will make the journey to the land down under to do battle for that elusive six figure contract and (more importantly!) national bragging rights with their Aussie counterparts.
Chiesa triumphs in emotional finale
Following the recent death of his father Michael Chiesa’s emergence as the TUF Live champion last weekend was a true testament to his mental fortitude. In a fitting end to what has been an involving season Chiesa’s victory brought a genuine feel-good factor to the finale and he will prove a tricky proposition for any opponent at 155lbs.
Click here to check out my new “In the Octagon” column in Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun. This week we look at Junior Dos Santos’ rise to the pinnacle of mixed martial arts…
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