BJ Penn was manhandled last night. Manhandled by a fighter most experts consider too small for the lightweight division. Frankie Edgar had his way with Penn, scoring on his feet and even taking down the man who seemed in past fights to have uncanny balance and defense. Many people were shocked by Penn's two losses to Edgar. Not me. Looking carefully at Penn's career leads you to one conclusion-despite his inflated reputation, the extraordinary BJ Penn is merely ordinary.
The raw numbers stand out like a sore thumb. In title fights, BJ Penn is a pedestrian 5-5-1. For every big fight he wins, he loses one in turn. The true greats of the sport, your Georges St. Pierres, your Matt Hughes, your Frank Shamrocks, your Fedor Emelianenkos, are defined by rising to the occasion. When the fights get tougher, these men only get better. Not so with BJ Penn.
BJ Penn is a front runner. We learned that for the first time against Jens Pulver at UFC 35. Crowned as champion before even stepping into the cage, Penn had no answer for Pulver's heart and determination. When the fight got to the point where it demanded each man expose his very soul to walk away the winner, Penn faltered. Pulver stepped forward. That was the difference.
From that day forward the BJ Penn modus operandi has been losing the big one. With the exception of upsetting Matt Hughes at UFC 46, the defining fights of Penn's career have all been losses. Against St. Pierre twice. Against Hughes in the rematch. And now, when confronted by a fighter not afraid to test his mettle against Penn head to head, two losses against Edgar.
BJ Penn, when it is all said and done, will be considered a disappointment. From the time, before his UFC debut, that Frank Shamrock announced the "Prodigy" would be the greatest fighter of all time until this latest loss to Edgar, Penn has little to show for what should have been a legendary career.