B.J. "The Prodigy" Penn has had an eventful year. He headlined the Superbowl Saturday card this year in the biggest non-heavyweight fight in MMA history, earning him an incredible payday and seeing him lose after the 4th round to the welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre. That fight showed Penn taking a chance and going out of his natural weight class to test himself against the very best in a higher weight class (not the first such time he's done that). Then, the returned to his lightweight class to remind everyone why he is, and has long been, the man in that division by submitting Kenny Florian in the fourth. Now he ends the year with another title defense. Penn seems focused on continuing his run at lightweight dominance and further cementing his legacy. This fight will be on the eve of Penn's 31st birthday. There is no doubt how he wants to celebrate it. B.J. Penn has a professional record of 14-5-1 with six wins coming by way of knockout and nine wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced thus far in his career is 77.0%.
27-year-old Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez is a dynamic guy. We've seen him progress over the years from a raw talent on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter to a well rounded fighter competing in what appears to be his ideal weight class. Diego is about as intense a guy as you'll find in this sport and he absolutely hates to lose. This New Mexico native is still improving and many think that he could be in position to pull off the upset on Saturday night. A close examination of Diego's record since he's joined the UFC reveals that he has often gone the distance when he has stepped up his level of competition. Perhaps he can push a pace that will test the champion's cardio and allow him to take a decision. Diego Sanchez has a professional record of 21-2 with six wins coming by way of knockout and nine wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced thus far in his career is 63.1%.
My prediction for this fight has far less to do with Diego Sanchez and more to do with Penn's dominance of the lightweight division. I've written in recent weeks about how Penn has put together a phenomenal run throughout his career at 155 pounds. Kelvin had a good piece recently that asked if Diego can win. I believe that he can. I just don't believe that he will. I give Diego an edge in cardio but I'm not sure where else I'd give him an edge. I see a frustrating night shaping up for Mr. Sanchez. His time will come. He's very young still and should be a factor in the division for awhile to come. He'll do well to keep his head up and remember that Penn lost as a youngster in the lightweight division as well. And look at where he is now. I don't think that Penn will take Sanchez to the woodshed or anything, but I'd bet that he'll get him out of there. My prediction: B.J. Penn by submission in the 3rd.