OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 07: Matt Hughes chokes Ricardo Almeida during the UFC Welterweight bout at Oracle Arena on August 7 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Record: 45-7-0 overall, 18-5-0 UFC
Key wins: Carlos Newton (UFC 34), Sean Sherk (UFC 42), Frank Trigg (UFC 45), Georges St. Pierre (UFC 50), Frank Trigg (UFC 52), Royce Gracie (UFC 60), BJ Penn (UFC 63), Matt Serra (UFC 98), Ricardo Almeida (UFC 117)
Key losses: BJ Penn (UFC 46), Georges St. Pierre (UFC 65), Georges St. Pierre (UFC 79), Thiago Alves (UFC 85)
How he got here: After being written off as too old, Matt Hughes is enjoying a career resurgence, winning his last three fights, including two in 2010, both in impressive fashion. Hughes will look to cap off a great year here against Penn. A two-time UFC welterweight champion with seven combined title defenses to his credit, Hughes already is in the UFC Hall of Fame for good reason: He's one of the best the sport's ever seen. Hughes holds the distinction as having the most wins in UFC history and is tied for the most career UFC fights with Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Since losing back-to-back fights to Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves a little more than two years ago, Hughes has rebounded with a decision win against Matt Serra, a TKO win over Renzo Gracie and a technical submission win against Ricardo Almeida where he knocked down the BJJ black belt then choked him unconscious with a front headlock.
How he gets it done: Hughes is incredibly varied in how he finishes fights. In his career, he's ended 18 fights with submissions, 17 via KO or TKO and 10 by decision. Generally a ground-and-pound takedown artist, Hughes used his standup to pepper Renzo Gracie at UFC 112 and then again to drill Almeida and then choke him out at UFC 117. In his last 10 wins (dating back to UFC 48), Hughes has finished four by submission, three by TKO and three by decision, so he's spreading it around.
Did you know?: Hughes has competed in 12 title fights in the UFC. For reference, Randy Couture leads the pack with 15 and Penn has appeared in 11.
Record: 15-7-1 overall, 11-6-1 UFC
Key wins: Takanori Gomi (ROTR 9), Matt Hughes (UFC 46), Sean Sherk (UFC 84), Diego Sanchez (UFC 107)
How he got here: One of the most naturally gifted fighters in UFC history, it's only appropriate that Penn's first MMA fight came inside the Octagon. An early phenom, Penn struggled in big fights, failing to win a UFC title in his first two title shots (one loss, one draw). It wasn't until he moved up in weight and challenged Hughes that he finally won the big one. He never defended that title. After coming back to the UFC, Penn had a sketchy run at welterweight and finally moved back down to lightweight, where he won the title at UFC 80 and defended it three times before running into Frankie Edgar, where Penn dropped two unanimous decision losses and couldn't do anything with the faster Edgar.
How he gets it done: Like Hughes, Penn also varies his method of victory: He has six wins by submission, six by KO/TKO and three by decision. A BJJ black belt and solid striker, Penn is dangerous wherever the fight takes place. Of his seven losses, five have come by decision and two by TKO.
Did you know?: Penn has never been knocked down in his career.
Bottom line: This is a tough fight to call. With Penn, you just never know his motivation level coming in. That's the big thing here. Hughes is really pumped for this fight and I expect nothing but the best effort out of him. He has to have a lot of confidence considering his recent performances. Penn has to be wondering what went wrong. I expect this to be a competitive fight that Matt Hughes wins by decision. There's something about these two fighting that is special. Their first two fights were pretty epic in their own ways: The first put Penn on the map while the second cemented Hughes' status as a UFC legend as he came back from a real tough second round to stop Penn in the third. This should be a good one.
Who do you think's going to win? Let us know in the poll and express why in the comments section!
Who will win at UFC 123?
Matt Hughes (61 votes)
BJ Penn (57 votes)
118 total votes