B.J. Penn recently chimed in with his thoughts on the Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans UFC 98 Light Heavyweight title bout. As expected, Penn comes off as overly confident that he is a better fighter and that Machida wasn't able to implement the same type of skills on him in their K-1 Hero's bout back in March of 2005.
In a recent fanpost by FlyByKnight, Penn was considered the most damaging opponent of all of Lyoto's encounters in his career. He was able to land 57.14% of his strikes in the matchup, which is on par with Penn's reputation as a high-level striker.
Joshua Stein has an article up over at MMAOpinion.com that tries to look at the historical matchup between Penn and Machida and figure out if there is a specific gameplan Penn used in order to effectively outstrike Machida.
His style of karate, as the UFC fans know it, is conducive to winning round after round, but there was a time when an aggressive fighter with good head movement (which B.J. is) could do some damage and effectively score points in the eyes of the judges. No such fighter has opposed Machida in the UFC, and perhaps no fighter exists (short of Anderson Silva, who’s head movement, in my opinion, is better than all of Machida’s potential opposition).
The other note is that, as a fighter, Penn is smaller and quicker than most of the guys that Machida has fought lately. This makes for a much more difficult matchup for the Brazilian, as his precision striking is tested.
While I'll agree that Penn's precision striking and head movement played a role in his success against Machida, I'm a bit hesitant to believe he was quicker than Machida in that matchup. After all, Penn at 205 lbs. isn't the Penn of 155 lbs., but he does still possess gifted striking skills that pepper Machida throughout the matchup.
One of the other problems with the Machida vs. Penn fight that I've always argued is that Machida's movement in the ring is rather disadvantageous to his style. Penn was able to corner Machida on mulitple occasions in the matchup and land quite a few shots. Machida was able to flurry short shots and uppercuts to Penn's granite chin as he backpedaled into the turnbuckle, but he was ultimately stuck once he hit the corner. We rarely talk about how a fighter coming from a ring to a cage is in an advantageous position, but Machida is one of those fighters. The ring was a place in which Machida could be cut off whereas the cage allows him to fully move free from being cornered unless his opponent is awfully quick to hold him in position.
Even in Machida's bout with Rich Franklin, Franklin was able to corner Machida. The difference was that Machida landed a stiff blow to Franklin's chin that ended the bout with Franklin crumpled to the mat while Machida's back was in the corner.
Regardless of these observations, Machida is substantially a better fighter from those days in K-1 Hero's. It's hard to knock Penn's success, even in defeat, against Machida back in 2005. I'm very hesitant to think Penn stands a chance today in the cage.