Predicting a win for BJ Penn tonight, and why it’s not just wishful thinking

November 20, 2010, 4:32 PM HST · Updated November 21, 6:31 PM
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By Starr Begley

Fight: Penn vs Hughes III, co-main event at UFC 123 “Rampage vs. Machida”, November 20th, 2010, at Palace of Auburn Hill in Detroit
Prediction: I’m really torn on this one. I can’t decide if it’s going to be by submission or unanimous decision, both of which take totally different approaches. I have a feeling that the official game plan is for Penn to pick Hughes apart with superior striking for a dominant decision win. On the other hand, it’s possible that Hughes will use his size advantage to succeed in a take-down against Penn, in which case Penn will have to sink in a crazy submission from the bottom.

It’s just mere hours away from BJ Penn’s UFC 123 co-main event fight tonight against Matt Hughes, and I have to admit it: I’m a little nervous.

Given that I’m predicting a win for the Hilo native, and have solid reasons for doing so, I shouldn’t be worried.

BJ Penn. UFC photo.

But, MMA is a sport in which anything can happen. The smallest mistake can bring disaster, and to top it off, like most of Penn’s Hawaii fans, I’m emotionally invested. To me, Penn represents Hawaii—our talent, our way of life, our people—and when he wins, we all win. When he falls, we go down with him.

For a worry-wart like myself, there are a lot of variables that could affect the bout: weight difference, speed, the fact that Hughes is coming into it on a three-fight win streak and Penn a two-fight skid that even had him considering retirement in August. But no matter who you ask, it seems that the biggest variable is Penn himself.

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Penn on top of his game is a MMA god; a lackluster Penn is still a hell of a fighter, but drops down to mortal status. Will we see the hungry and motivated Penn that flawlessly stripped Hughes of the title back in 2004, or will we see the Penn that doesn’t live up to his near super-human potential?

I believe that Penn will be flawless tonight, that he has tapped back into his power.

“BJ didn’t have to cut weight, which is always a plus on the body,” said Mandaloniz. “As far as being lighter than Matt (Hughes), we knew that was going to be the case the whole time. We brought in six world-class wrestlers: Nate Coy and Pat Healy of Strikeforce, UFC contender Jake Ellenberger and his brother Joey, and the Clark brothers—two big wrestling names—out of Minnesota. The average weight of the wrestlers was 185 to 190 pounds. It worked out beautifully. Through camp, BJ’s felt that weight differential that he’ll have against Matt, knows what it feels like and what to do with it.”

Though he didn’t disclose the details, Mandaloniz said that the training regimen that they used for this camp was scientifically tailored to Penn.

“Within our training regimen, there is no time allowance to hit the weights rigorously in an effort to gain weight,” he said. “That being said, we had to strengthen him and increase his size in different ways. And I can tell you that it’s been beautiful.

“Though he’s put on weight, I can honestly say that I haven’t been able to detect a loss in his speed at all. Bottom line is that Penn will step into Octagon today as the fastest welter-weight in the UFC.”

Going off pure visual speculation, it looked to me like Hughes had a rough cut down to 169 at the UFC weigh-ins on Friday, and will easily rehydrate to around 185-pounds before the fight.
Penn also weighed in at 169-pounds, and I couldn’t help bu think that if our beloved Hawaiian comedian Rap Reiplinger were still alive, he may have described Penn as looking, “Not too skeeny, not too fat, but jeeeees’ right.”

“There is no hesitation when I say that BJ Penn is ready,” said Mandaloniz. “There’s no doubt that this is the best 170-pound BJ Penn that we have ever seen.”

A bold statement, for sure. But one that this MMA fan is willing to take to the bank.

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