Some of the Bloody Elbow staff recalled what Penn did against Jon Fitch when analyzing Nick Diaz's chances this Saturday. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)
Brent Brookhouse: When I look at the odds for UFC 137, I keep getting hung up on the fact that Nick Diaz is only a slight underdog to B.J. Penn. Since the fight was announced it seemed to me that this was a very, very good fight for Penn. While it should be exciting, I just don't like Diaz's chances to win.
Without dipping into the always annoying "but anything can happen in MMA" cliche, what am I missing? Where are Diaz's chances to win so great that he should only be a slight dog in this fight?
Tim Burke: Well, I think B.J. wins rather handily, so it'd be a devil's advocate approach, but here goes -
Penn has had trouble getting inside on boxers with a long reach before. Nick doesn't throw many kicks, but he could keep BJ at bay with his boxing. He could outwrestle hi...wait, no. There's always the threat of a submiss...wait, that's out too.
Okay, I give up. Diaz is getting trucked.
KJ Gould: Bodyshots. I remember in GSP's post fight appearance for ESPN's MMA Live after beating BJ Penn that it was believed because of Penn's great flexibility in his torso, that sometimes means you can have a weak thoracic cavity. The strategy was to wear him out and beat on this area to further diminish his cardio-vascular system and tire him out quicker.
Penn's not been in there with a guy that works the body with punches that Diaz does plus Penn seems to be a head hunter even if he does use his jab really well to set up his boxing.
Diaz is tough and recovers well, he was still in the fight against Daley after being dropped and it's hard to convince me Penn can hit as hard as Daley. Of course is Penn drops Diaz he'll be on his back looking for a choke pronto.
I think Diaz has a chance to work over Penn's body, take his lungs and take out his will to win the fight.
Fraser Coffeen: OK, how's this - Penn's status at Welterweight is almost entirely based on a single win from 8 years ago. In the UFC, he has never defeated anyone at WW aside from Matt Hughes. He's not nearly as explosive at the weight, and when taken down, he has a tougher time escaping. Now, Diaz is not much of a top wrestler, so that last point may not matter much, but the first definitely does. Aside from a fast KO of Hughes, Penn has looked slowed down in every fight since the Sanchez win at 107 - and that includes a pair of fights at Lightweight. If he is slow against Diaz, those patented Diaz punches will accumulate.
And finally - Penn has been very quiet about this fight. He talked about considering retirement if he lost against Fitch. He's talked about how he's getting older. He's not really in the title hunt. He's fighting a friend. There is a danger that he is not super trained and focused for this one. And an unmotivated B.J. Penn is not the same fighter you are thinking of when you run through his highlight reel in your head.
Follow after the jump for more discussion of the UFC 137 main event clash between Nick Diaz and B.J. Penn.
Leland Roling: I think KJ's point about rib roasting Penn is a solid argument to how Diaz can attain what he ultimately needs to do in this fight. He needs to press Penn hard from the start and tire him out. Everyone talks about how there aren't any weaknesses for Penn against Diaz in a three-round fight, but when was the last time Penn had to deal with a pace that Diaz can push relentlessly and endlessly? I suppose a case can be made for GSP.
Diaz's output could spell disaster for Penn, and those thinking Penn will somehow KO Diaz because he stands dead still in the pocket -- I can relate to the concern. At least I did until Paul Daley lamped Diaz, Diaz fell to his face, then quickly got back to his feet as if nothing happened.
Diaz has a decent shot, but Penn's accuracy and quickness could spell disaster. Oh yeah, and Penn might actually take down Diaz and Fitch him.
Tim Burke: Well, Fitch pushes the same pace as Diaz, just in a different manner. And Penn neutralized it for the first half of the fight against a much better grappler. Like Leland said, I'm not sure what's stopping Penn from just planting Diaz on his back and riding it out, other than his pride. Which means it probably won't happen.
Fraser Coffeen: But Diaz is far superior off his back in comparison to Fitch. He's not going to sub Penn, but can he create a scramble and escape? I think so, especially as the fight progresses.
KJ Gould: Fitch is a more well rounded grappler than Diaz, but Diaz does excel of his back and with guard work. I'm not sure how he'd do with BJ Penn who has a great top game. It'd certainly be intriguing in that area. But then who does Penn train with Jiu Jitsu wise? At least Diaz has Nate, Jake Shields and Melendez to keep him sharp.
Chris Barton: It's been covered but that really is the only way Nick can win. Relentless pace with body work. Nick won't get tired and with his volume of punches he can really take the wind and fight out of BJ in under one round. Add to that, if BJ is not in top form as Fraser said Diaz will make it a very long night for Penn. I think Fraser makes a very good point that many people forgot, BJ was talking about quitting not very long ago. His heart hasn't seemed to be into fighting much anymore.
Saying all that, BJ is a much better fighter and I don't have any faith that Diaz wins this fight. I honestly think Penn will finish him.
Dallas Winston: When comparing skills, Diaz's known weakness is the one trait Penn doesn't specifically excel in, which is wrestling. That isn't meant to imply that B.J. is a poor wrestler either, but obviously his takedown skills aren't on the same level as his BJJ and striking. Conversely, Penn's best weapon, which is his pure punching power, is something that Diaz has consistently proven the ability to withstand.
I also feel that too many consider their ground games equal because of Penn's exemplary accomplishments in the gi, where Diaz has been significantly more effective off his back and in creating opportunities to scramble through sweeps and submission attempts. All but one of Penn's legit career submissions are rear-naked chokes that came from the top after he softened his opponent up with sharp ground-and-pound and sick guard passing. Counter to his traditional BJJ accumen, Penn almost grapples more like a catch wrestler with power-transitions, tremendous striking and subs from the top, where Diaz embodies the smoother, gentler approach of methodically blending sub attempts and slithering to a better position with a wider range of technique and only sparse striking.
Just as Penn's basic boxing style and hard, straight punches is ideal to penetrate Diaz's wide and fairly flat-footed style, the cryptic tempo and abstract trajectories of Diaz's unorthodox stand up could easily wreak the same havoc on Penn that Edgar did from a rhythm and volume standpoint.
Chris Barton: I'm not sure I am with you on Nicks ability to withstand punching power in a way that benefits him against BJ. While Nick can take shots and recover, typically people that floor him allow him that time since they are so afraid to go to the ground with him, which isn't something Penn will do. If BJ knocks Nick down he will pounce and finish.