BJ Penn vs. Nick Diaz
UFC 137 will take place this Saturday, October 29th on Halloween weekend. After undergoing two last minute main event changes critics believe this card has suffered a Halloween curse. Nick Diaz was originally slated to face UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre for the title, but was replaced with Carlos Condit after missing a pre-fight press conference. Diaz was then inked to fight Condit’s former opponent, BJ Penn. Soon after, St. Pierre pulled out of the fight due to an injury, leaving Condit without an opponent. Now, Diaz will meet Penn for the main event in what looks to be one of the most exciting fights of the year.
Diaz believes this will be a more difficult fight for him, and for a good reason. Diaz possesses tools that have the potential to upset Georges St. Pierre; his stand-up and ground game pose serious threats to St. Pierre, and unlike GSP, Diaz has been on a run of finishing his opponents. Diaz had only to worry about being taken down and kept on his back while training for his fight with St. Pierre. A fight with Penn however brings about a series of new challenges. Penn’s stand-up is crisp and Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao’s boxing trainer, even stated that he has the best striking in MMA. However, Diaz has a reach advantage over Penn and is also known for his striking ability, training with the likes of undefeated boxing superstar Andre Ward. Both Diaz and Penn are high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts. Having very similar talents and aggressive fighting styles, one can only guess how they match up.
My guess is that Diaz will prove to be the better fighter this Saturday. Diaz’s punches-in-bunches style combined with his significant reach advantage will likely prove to be too difficult an obstacle for Penn, who has yet to face an opponent with this style. BJ has knockout power in both hands and can catch Diaz, but his opponent has proven time and time again that he has a granite chin and recovers well even after taking tremendous damage. If Penn employees a similar tactic he used against Jon Fitch, going for takedowns in an attempt to hold Diaz down and outpoint him, he’ll run into the same trouble all of Diaz’s opponents have had. Diaz has great sweeps and always seems to get back to his feet. Having to continually try to take down Diaz will wear on Penn, who has a reputation of coming into the octagon with suspect cardio. So even if Diaz is outpointed in the first round, he has a good chance of using his cardio advantage to win the fight in either the second or third.
As a fan of the sport, I’d like to see Nick Diaz handily defeat BJ Penn. This would create a more exciting future championship match. Penn is an MMA legend and always will be, but in terms of his development as a fighter he seems to have reached his peak years ago. Diaz has yet to fight for a UFC Championship, and it’s been five years since his last appearance in a UFC octagon. If Diaz can finish off BJ Penn this Saturday night, there will be a great deal of excitement surrounding his potential and he should land an opportunity to fight for the UFC Welterweight Championship in the not so distant future.