Up and Coming Rodriguez Takes On UFC Veteran Penn
The UFC travels to Phoenix, AZ this weekend for a fight night airing on FS1. The main card starts at 10:00 EST on Sunday night.
B.J. Penn has been away from the octagon since July of 2014. After that fight in which he lost to Frankie Edgar, he announced his retirement. He is a legend of the sport, but it was time for him to walk away.
Like many fighters, the itch to fight again returned. In January of 2016, Penn announced that he would return to the UFC. However, there were some bumps on the road to his return.
He was set to fight on UFC 197 in April of 2016, but he had sexual assault allegations made about him, forcing him to withdraw. Those charges were eventually dismissed. He was then set to fight at UFC 199 in June against Dennis Siver, but Siver was forced to pull out due to an injury. Siver was replaced by Cole Miller, but Penn then removed himself from the card just a couple weeks before the fight. He was flagged for have using medically-administer IV during a non-fight period, which is no longer allowed in the UFC.
Penn, 38, was set to fight Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night 97 on October 15. Less than two weeks before the fight, Penn had to pull out of the fight due to an injury. Due to the short notice, no replacement could be found and the whole card was cancelled.
On Sunday night, Penn will finally make his first appearance in the octagon in two and a half years.
#10 Yair “Pantera” Rodriguez (8-1) vs B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn (16-10-2)
When fighters have a long absence from the octagon, many of them suffer from what is known as “ring rust”. It takes fighters some time to get adjusted to someone who is really trying to hurt them as opposed to training when they just go through the motions.
Penn has not won a fight since November of 2010 when he knocked out Matt Hughes in 21 seconds. Since then, he had a draw with Jon Fitch, a decision loss to Nick Diaz, a decision loss to Rory MacDonald and got TKO’d in the third round by Frankie Edgar.
Below is video of Penn defending his Lightweight title against Kenny Florian via the UFC YouTube page.
Since getting into the UFC by winning The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, Rodriguez has won four straight fights in the UFC. He has climbed to number 10 in the UFC Featherweight rankings. He has a very flashy style and looks for highlight reel finishes. Below is video of Rodriguez fighting Charles Rosa via the UFC YouTube page.
Penn’s problem has always been how he didn’t take the sport seriously and when he dominated the 155-pound weight class, he was just naturally better than everyone else. He now says he’s training very hard and wants to make a run at the title.
Before he can even think about a title shot, he has to get through a very young and hungry Rodriguez. Penn is a very hard fighter to finish, only getting stopped three times in his career. This is a five round fight and Rodriguez will look to make a statement against the UFC Hall of Famer.
Prediction: Rodriguez 2nd round TKO
Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon (26-12) vs Marcin “The Polish Prodigy” Held (22-4)
Joe Lauzon is one of the most exciting fighters in UFC history, having won more UFC post-fight bonus awards than anyone else. He always goes for the knockout or submission and seems to always get a little bloody himself. Below is video of Lauzon winning via TKO over Diego Sanchez at UFC 200. The video is from the UFC’s YouTube page.
Held has only had one fight in the UFC, a decision loss to Sanchez. MMA-math doesn’t usually work, but there’s a reason why his first fight in the UFC was against a veteran like Sanchez. Then his second fight is against another vet in Lauzon, so the UFC believes Held can compete with their best guys.
Held has had a lot of experience himself, but the fighters in the UFC are on a different level than those outside of the organization.
Both fighters are coming off losses, Held to Sanchez and Lauzon lost a controversial split-decision loss to Jim Miller, so both really need a win here. This has fight of the night written all over it and fans can expect fireworks.
Prediction: Lauzon via third round submission