While many of us watched the first two B.J. Penn-Matt Hughes fights on pay per view, only one man was in the UFC legend's corner for both fights. Strikeforce announcer Pat Miletich, himself a former UFC champion, helped Hughes prepare for both amazing bouts. Miletich sat down with Bloody Elbow, on the eve of the final fight in a rare MMA trilogy, to shed some light on the past and pull out his crystal ball to predict the future.
Jonathan Snowden: Was overconfidence a factor in what happened at UFC 46? Did Matt see Penn as this little 155 pound guy and take him a little lightly?
Pat Miletich: I don't think that was it at all. Matt was having a tough time making weight for that fight. I remember that we were all in the sauna with him. There were probably 10 guys in the sauna with Matt. We were all singing country songs just trying to keep his morale up. We knew there was a tough time for him going into that fight making weight.
Jonathan Snowden: When you have two top fighters, the littlest things can be huge. What was the difference between Hughes and Penn on that night?
Pat Miletich: B.J. was hungry man. He came out and got Matt early and that's what you have to do with Matt. Guys are not going to win a long drawn out battle with Matt. If you don't get Matt early or get Matt hurt early, you're in for a really crappy night because he's going to wear you down. His strength and his power - it'll wreck you.
Jonathan Snowden: When Penn ended up on top, do you think Matt was a little out of his element? It had happened so infrequently in his career.
Pat Miletich: I don't know if he was surprised to be on his back, but he got hurt early with that punch B.J. threw at him. He was hurt, and really from there it was a downward spiral. That's what it came down to. He got hurt early and couldn't recover.
Jonathan Snowden: He gave his back twice and looked like he was trying to grab a footlock. Did you guys train that?
Pat Miletich: No. When you're in a wrestling match, and somebody puts legs in on you to ride you, you can reach down and pull the foot and try to yank it out. But in fighting, you have to control the hands so you don't get choked. Well, Matt was hurt.
Jonathan Snowden: So he went to instinct?
Pat Miletich: He went to instinct. To be honest he probably couldn't have told you what his name was at that time. Because I remember he was hurt pretty bad. He just reached down to grab the foot out like a wrestling match and got caught in a choke. He was hurt. That's really what it came down to. He didn't really realize what was going on.
Jonathan Snowden: In the second fight, everyone has heard that Penn was hurt. But was some of it what we were talking about before? Matt got stronger as the fight went on while B.J. got weaker?
Pat Miletich: Yeah. And when B.J. had that triangle choke on him toward the end of the first round, Matt said he was praying to God saying 'Just get me out of this one. Let me survive this choke and I promise I'll come back and do you proud in the second round.' And that's what he did. He wiggled out of it right as the bell sounded.
Jonathan Snowden: And then he made good on his word.
Pat Miletich: He went back to the corner, recovered, and got after it.
Jonathan Snowden: What do you think about this one, with both guys maybe a little past their best day?
Pat Miletich: I like Matt. He looked great in his last fight with Almeida.
Jonathan Snowden: It was pretty awesome. I don't think anyone expected something quite like that.
Pat Miletich: He's lean again. He's ripped. Muscular. It looks like he's reinvigorated. His footwork with his boxing looks a heck of a lot better which I'm really happy to see.
Jonathan Snowden: The thing is, he has to be at his best against a guy like Penn who brings so many weapons with him.
Pat Miletich: B.J. is an extremely dangerous guy. He can beat anybody. But if that fight goes seven minutes, B.J. is in deep trouble.
Pat Miletich is a former UFC champion and currently an analyst for Strikeforce on Showtime. You can read much more about Miletich and his transition to broadcasting next week on Bloody Elbow.