Jon Fitch battles B.J. Penn to a draw, photo via Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
When it was announced that Jon Fitch and B.J. Penn would be fighting at UFC 127, many observers were surprised by the news. Sure, ultimately the bout would produce a challenger to rematch Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title, but it was a risky fight for Penn and one that many felt likely to put Fitch back in a title bout that the UFC was not too thrilled to give him. But at least there was a "next step" for the winner.
Then, as Anderson Silva prepared to kick Vitor Belfort's face off, the UFC began to talk about Silva vs. GSP as a fight that they were ready to make should Silva beat Belfort (he did) and St. Pierre defeat Jake Shields (he will). Suddenly the "next step" was gone as Penn and Fitch were still fighting for a likely title shot, but not one against anyone in particular. Over the past week Carlos Condit's name kept coming up as the guy to challenge the winner for the vacated welterweight strap. But Jon Fitch vs. Carlos Condit would draw approximately 4 buys and would need a big fight on top of it.
Instead, the UFC was handed a gift last night. A competitive and exciting (in my eyes, anyway) bout between Penn and Fitch that gave no closure. Both men said after the fight that they would be interested in a rematch. Should GSP jump to middleweight you now have a ready made title fight with history to sell in the rematch. And the wait for the rematch also allows time for a guy like Condit to recover from his injury and get another fight under his belt to establish himself as a challenger or Shields to rebound for a potential second crack at the title.
Regardless of who the next challenger is, the UFC got a perfect result that doesn't leave the division in a completely uncertain situation. Neither fighter got the win, but the promotion certainly did.