Maybe he wasn't "done" after all?
B.J. Penn didn't look focused in his most recent 50 minutes of fighting against Frankie Edgar and a lackluster performance in Abu Dhabi cost him the lightweight crown.
Saturday night at UFC 123, in his rubber match against Matt Hughes, his striking and counter-striking ability were what turned the fight from the opening of the contest.
After connecting on two shots to open the fight, Hughes needed to regain control of the match's momentum and was moving toward Penn in an attempt to strike as well when he was caught with the big right that floored him. It was only a few moments later the he realized he had been lured into precisely the type of bout Penn wanted.
Twice previously, Penn had opened fights by neutralizing Hughes' grappling and wrestling, frustrating the Hall of Famer in the process. In his recent title defenses against Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian, Penn sliced his way through each of his opponents, exerting his will upon them with precise striking and brutal grappling.
In his past two losses, Edgar ran circles around him, working Penn until he was incapable of defending even a tackle. He looked frustrated and confused as to how he could break down the energetic contender.
Edgar defeating him was probably the best thing that ever happened to Penn. When he walked into the cage Saturday night, he looked like the same guy who tore through those contenders and made them look like amateurs by comparison. He fought like he had something to lose. He fought to win.
As we get time to reflect in the weeks and months to come, we'll have plenty of time to discuss and analyze why Matt Hughes lost this fight. Maybe the schedule of three fights in one year was too much. He's not young anymore, but he has been very impressive of late. Maybe he was focused more on the streak he currently was riding than on the fight at hand.
Saturday night, at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the better man won. Up until this evening, you could make an argument that these two fighters were fairly evenly matched. After UFC 123, there isn't a question which man can claim superiority. It took only 21 seconds to prove it once and for all.