UFC 127 in Australia – BJ Penn v Jon Fitch
The UFC makes its second plunge down under with this weekend’s UFC 127 from Sydney’s Acer Arena. Although the card doesn’t feature a championship fight, title implications are on the line in the main event. The winner of a matchup between MMA legend BJ Penn and Jon Fitch will earn the rank of No. 1 contender to Georges St. Pierre’s welterweight crown.
I know some fans aren’t always too keen on the UFC pushing out more and more non-title cards for PPV dollars, but it’s the reality of MMA in 2011. The freemium model doesn’t always translate to professional sports, so I have no issue with the UFC charging for their product, especially not for excellent cards such as this. The push back into Australia seems to be a successful one as the event sold-out in 30 minutes.
Where as other non-title cards like UFC 119 haven’t always been as strong, this card should at least deliver a solid main event. BJ Penn hopes to add to the momentum of his spectacular knockout of Matt Hughes at UFC 123 while perennial contender Jon Fitch aims for another chance at Georges St. Pierre’s belt. It’s impossible to ever count out a legend like Penn, but there are a few good reasons why Fitch is so heavily favored in this fight.
Penn was never dominated as a lightweight, but there were multiple instances where he clearly became frustrated fighting in the welterweight division. Aside from back to back losses to Frankie Edgar, only Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes have been able to bother Penn over the last five years, but bother him they did. Hughes successfully forced Penn to fight off his back at UFC 63, eventually taking the fight by technical knockout after some brutal ground and pound. At UFC 94, St. Pierre carried a similar gameplan into the cage and Penn was once again bullied by a much bigger, prominent wrestler.
GSP would take the fight by TKO after Penn’s corner wished to stop the fight after the fourth round. Viewers were clearly able to see the frustration on Penn’s face during both fights, leading many to believe that he could be forced to mentally check out if put under enough duress.
One can only assume Jon Fitch would plan for a similar outcome. He certainly has the style to carry it out. I am not much of a proponent of the transitive property of MMA, but if Penn is having so much trouble getting a hold of one of the UFC’s smallest lightweights in Edgar, how will he handle one of its biggest fighters at 170 pounds? Fitch’s smothering style hasn’t endeared him to fight fans, but his results speak for themselves. He hasn’t dropped a fight since 2008, going 5-0 since his fateful lost opportunity with welterweight champion St. Pierre. He dominates fighters for three rounds, using his superior wrestling to overpower his opponents and drag fights into decisions. This style hurts his drawing power immensely and could be a major deciding factor of UFC 127’s overall success. BJ Penn is always going to sell well with fight fans, but no one wants to pay to see him fight off Jon Fitch on his backside.
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