The co-main event of UFC 123 will be headlined by a welterweight fight that finally settles the score between Matt Hughes and BJ “The Prodigy” Penn. Penn originally faced Hughes in 2004 when Penn dethroned Hughes using brilliant offensive Brazilian jiu jitsu to secure a rear naked choke submission. Hughes got his revenge two years later when he pummeled an injured and exhausted BJ Penn to even the score and set up tonight’s fight.
Matt Hughes is a legend in the sport. He’s already a UFC hall of famer, and he has held the UFC welterweight title twice (which includes 7 title defenses). After suffering a setback losing 3 of 4 fights from the end of 2006-2008, Hughes has completed a career resurgence with big wins over Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and a dominating performance against Ricardo Almeida at UFC 117.
Hughes (45-7) has, and will always be a big country wrestler, and don’t expect that to change any time soon. Recently, Hughes has implemented some improved striking skills which he used to crush Renzo Gracie and shock the MMA world against Ricardo Almeida. Hughes will likely look to set up takedowns with his improved striking, and he will definitely be the bigger fighter tonight. Look for Hughes to be patient, tire Penn out and lay on some ground and pound if he can take him down.
BJ Penn (15-7), just a year ago, was on top of the world after defending his lightweight title against Diego Sanchez. Oh, how quickly things can change in MMA. After two consecutive title defeats at the hands of the quicker and better conditioned Frankie Edgar, Penn is reeling. BJ still possesses some of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu in the world, but he has fallen a little too much in love with his boxing recently.
Penn also exhibits top level takedown defense and tremendous flexibility, but Frankie Edgar made Penn look old in his last two fights. Was this really the product of age, or was Penn just training with the wrong camp? Penn admitted that he’s changed things up with his training which is definitely a good thing, but will it be enough? The old, crazy aggressive BJ Penn with a fire in his eyes has been missing for all of 2010. Will he make a glorious return tonight? I just can’t see it happening.
I honestly hope I’m wrong about this one.
Prediction: Matt Hughes via unanimous decision