Penn’s UFC future should be at welterweight

Few professional mixed martial artists, are considered unbeatable.

However, coming off his complete destruction of Diego Sanchez

at Saturday’s UFC 107, B.J. Penn has garnered the reputation of

unstoppable at 155 pounds.

The Hawaii native first won the UFC lightweight belt at UFC

80 after failing to do so twice earlier earlier by obliterating Joe

Stevenson. Then Penn destroyed Sean Sherk at UFC 84.

The dominant wins led to Penn deciding to venture back into

the UFC welterweight division, where he had once been champion.

Penn was looking to avenge his loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 58.

However, St-Pierre outclassed Penn, which led to the

challenger’s corner stopping the fight prior to the fifth and

final round.

Penn plunged back into the lightweight division, where top

contender Kenny Florian awaited his return for a championship bout

at UFC 101. Penn finished “Ken-Flo” with a rear naked

choke in the fourth round, and another contender was put down by

the champion.

Just over four months later, Penn met Diego Sanchez at UFC

107. Anybody who saw the fight knows exactly why Penn is now viewed

as an unstoppable force in the lightweight division. Penn

brutalized Sanchez for four and a half rounds before a technical

knockout was issued after a doctor saw Sanchez unfit to continue.

Penn has not lost a fight at lightweight since 2002, when he

lost to Jens Pulver at UFC 35. Since winning the belt in 2008,

“The Prodigy” has not looked back, pummeling challenger

after challenger, leaving UFC president Dana White and matchmaker

Joe Silva with a problem on their hands.

Who do they match up with Penn for his next title defense?

At this point, the top of the lightweight division includes

the likes of Frank Edgar, Gray Maynard and Tyson Griffin.

However, none of the three finish fights consistently. In

fact, they rarely finish their opponents ever. If you can’t

finish your opponents while working your way up to a title shot,

how on earth do they plan on winning a five-round fight against

Penn.

It is hard to imagine that White and Silva are really sold on

putting any of the three up against Penn, considering their track

records for unexciting, wrestling-based fights.

However, White has been quoted saying that Penn is one

victory away from earning another shot at the welterweight

division, along with being one fight away from clearing out the

lightweight division.

With the recent and continued success of Penn, it seems to be

only a matter of time before he sees another run in the 170-pound

division as the challenge he needs because the lightweight division

is running out of ways to challenge, or attempt to challenge the

155-pound champion.

Another stint in the welterweight division would hold a much

greater opportunity for Penn than the lightweight division can

offer. With Anderson Silva and St-Pierre still ranked above him on

the pound-for-pound list, Penn needs to do something dynamic to

make all of that change.

While he is the only man out of the three to hold a title in

two divisions, Penn still falls behind St-Pierre and Silva. It

seems that his two losses to St-Pierre will forever doom him in the

pound-for pound-rankings, unless he can make another run at 170.

If Penn is willing to commit to a run at welterweight and put

on the weight necessary to go up against some of the monsters of

the division, he could finally make a jump past St-Pierre on the

pound-for-pound rankings. After all, St-Pierre hasn’t tested the

waters outside of the UFC welterweight division, while Penn fought

successfully at welterweight and even fought against Lyoto Machida

outside of the UFC, where he lost via decision.

However, the most beautiful part of a move back to

welterweight for Penn is the possible completion of a trilogy with

St-Pierre. Though many people say they would not really care for

the fight, St-Pierre — like Penn — is running out of

contenders in his division, and the pay-per-view would do enormous

numbers.

If Penn was somehow able to defeat St-Pierre, or even push

the champion to limits no one has been able to in recent years, the

UFC lightweight champion could make a push on the pound-for-pound

rankings and surpass the Canadian after years of falling just one

or two spots behind him.

While Penn could hang around the lightweight division and

continue to dominate opponent after opponent for many fights to

come, another run at the welterweight division holds many more

advantages than the 155-pound weight class can offer the champion.