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UFC Fight Night: Lamas vs Penn - Oct 15


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OK, this could be a long one.


On Saturday 15th October the UFC returns to the Philippines. And a UFC legend returns to further diminish his legacy.







Ricardo Lamas vs BJ Penn

Derrick Lewis vs Marcin Tybura

Yao Zhikui vs Jenel Lausa

Cole Miller vs Mizuto Hirota



Sam Alvey vs Alex Nicholson

Jon Tuck vs Mehdi Baghdad

Dong Yi Yang vs Ryan Janes

Seo Hee Ham vs Danielle Taylor

James Moontasri vs Alex Morono

Kyoji Horiguchi vs Ali Bagautinov

Damir Hadzovic vs Yusuke Kasuya


Mixed feelings on this one. Some good stuff, some weak stuff. That main event though.




So Lamas vs Penn is happening. This isn't going to end well, is it? It's one of those fights that I'm not sure I even want to watch. I vividly remember setting the alarm for Penn's last fight in 2014 against Frankie Edgar, and regretting it within a few minutes of the fight starting. But something always pulls me in when it comes to my favourite fighters, and I have to watch. Maybe through my fingers from behind the sofa. Maybe curling up in a ball and saying 'find a happy place' to myself like Lloyd Christmas about to get a bumming. But when a BJ Penn, Big Nog, Cro Cop, Shogun etc fight, I'm watching. I suppose in the pathetic hope that they've got that one last great performance left in them.


BJ Penn was one of the fighters who got my attention when I first started watching MMA back in 2005. At that point he was on the outs with the UFC but he was someone I kept hearing about to the point I had to see what the fuss was about. If you're a new MMA viewer, or you've been Cryogenically frozen for years like in Demolition Man, you might also wonder what the big deal is/was with Penn. On the face of it, he's a 37 year old bloke, with a 16-10-2 MMA record, who looks like a baby and sounds like a chipmunk.


He's also a fucking badass. Or at least, he was...




He started training in BJJ, reluctantly, at 17 years old because he was being a lazy shit and his Dad had enough of him being inactive. He ended up falling in love with grappling and picked it up faster than maybe anyone who's ever donned a Gi.


Penn received his BJJ black-belt after just 3 years and 4 months of training. Which is fucking crazy quick. It wasn't like he was trained by fools either. He started with Ralph Gracie and switched to Andre Pederneiras later and, from what I've read, it went like this...


Under Ralph Gracie;

-Got promoted to blue-belt after 6 months training.

-Got his purple-belt after 2 years training.


Under Andre Pederneiras;

-Got his brown-belt after 2 years and 8 months training.

-Reached black-belt status after another 8 months.


So from white-belt to black-belt in 3 years and 4 months total. Nuts.


No wonder he got the nickname 'The Prodigy'. He was the first ever American to win gold at the BJJ world championships and today he's a 5th degree black-belt. He's said a few times that he ranks his BJJ world championship just as highly as his UFC titles.


From there, BJ felt like he couldn't achieve any more in grappling than he already had. And as a scrappy aggressive kid from the Island who enjoyed a good ruck, he wanted to throw punches.




He was training with Frank Shamrock and Javier Mendez in California at this point, in a gym called AKA - American Kickboxing Academy. AKA is still one of the top MMA gyms today, home to Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold. Based on Shamrock's connections and the word that had travelled around the martial arts world about this young BJJ phenom, Penn got called up to make his UFC debut in 2001.


I won't go through every fight, fuck that, but the nights where BJ Penn was at his best made for some amazing viewing.




It took Penn just 34 seconds to put the tough and respected Caol Uno away in November 2001. It was only BJ's third UFC fight and Uno was a well known veteran at this stage. Nobody expected a young rookie like Penn to just blow the doors off someone as good as Uno in seconds. Penn was so excited he immediately ran out of the cage after the KO and up the ramp. This was the night BJ Penn really arrived as a legit player.




In October 2003, Penn fought Japan's top lightweight Takanori Gomi in Hawaii for the Rumble On The Rock promotion. Penn had been through a few ups and downs by this point, including a loss to lightweight pioneer Jens Pulver at UFC 35 in 2002. He rebounded in style here though. Gomi was close to his prime here and Penn battered, bloodied and submitted him in three exciting rounds. Easily one of Penn's most impressive showings. If it happened in the UFC or Pride, it'd be remembered as such but it's been largely forgotten when it comes to talking about BJ at his best.




In his next fight in January 2004, Penn went up to 170 to challenge UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes at UFC 46. Hughes had been such a dominant champion he'd run out of contenders so UFC president Dana White offered Penn the shot. Basically thinking they were feeding Hughes another body to keep him busy. Pretty much everyone thought BJ was nuts to go up in weight against a monster like Hughes and a bad beating was expected. Penn had other ideas. He surprised Hughes with a takedown early, badly hurt him with a big punch on the ground and submitted him with a rear naked choke in the first round. With this win, BJ Penn won his first UFC belt.




In June 2007 (the weekend of the Benoit murders), BJ Penn would finally get his chance to avenge his first career loss in the Jens Pulver rematch. They'd both been through a lot since the first fight and Penn had even left the UFC after a dispute with Zuffa. This was his big return. Penn and Pulver coached a brilliant season of The Ultimate Fighter, then they would meet again at the Finale. Where the first fight was close and ultra competitive, this wasn't even a contest. Penn just blitzed through him. Pulver had been talking a good game almost non-stop throughout TUF 5 and Penn made him pay, schooling him for a round then choking him in the second, holding onto the choke for a few extra seconds and telling everyone to go to BJPenn.com.




I was in attendance the night Joe Stevenson got butchered in Newcastle in January 2008. He got outclassed and toyed with, got his face obliterated then got choked to fuck. He got absolutely crushed and annihilated. Seeing him left in a puddle of his own blood and tears after the fight is an image I won't forget in a hurry. He was a broken man after that. I had proper goosebumps in the arena that night. As a big fan of BJ Penn, I'm glad I got to witness one of his good nights in person.




Sean Sherk was the next victim in May 2008 at UFC 84. This one had been brewing a while and there was some bad blood there. Once the fight started though, it was clear Sherk was out of his depth. It didn't help that he tried to box with Penn. Sherk's T-Rex arms and BJ's superior boxing technique meant that was never happening for him. But Penn's takedown defence was legendary as well so really, there was never an easy route for Sherk. Penn busted him up with a sharp jab all night before finishing him with a brutal flying knee and some punches. That was the end of Sherk in the title picture.




It was right around this time that Penn started training with Marv Marinovich. Marinovich was a former American football player turned strength and conditioning coach. Penn was coming off a one sided loss to GSP and when I saw he was training with some OAP for his comeback fight my hopes weren't high. But it turned out to be a brilliant move. The one knock on BJ was always his conditioning and his lack of work ethic when it came to training. Whether it was true, overplayed or what, the thinking was that BJ relied all too often on his natural talent to make up for his laziness in training.


People always wondered what a beast Penn could be if he really put the graft in in camp. For a 2 fight spell in 2009 under Marinovich, we got a glimpse...




Kenny Florian was the first to find out at UFC 101 in August 2009. We saw a different BJ Penn that night. While his previous wins were fast, scary and brutal, here he showed patience. It went to round four and Penn didn't do that much in the first three rounds. But he completely shut down everything Ken-Flo (always hated that nickname) tried to get going. If I'm remembering right, the commentators were actually trying to make out like Florian was winning, which totally baffled my head because he'd been nullified by Penn's counter strikes and takedown defence. Penn seemed to get bored of clowning Kenny and, in the fourth round, he slammed him like a basketball and throttled the piss out of him.




The next time we saw Marinovich trained Penn was in December 2009 at UFC 107. Again, he was very patient against the mega aggressive Diego Sanchez. He schooled Diego for four rounds. Then in the fifth he closed the show in style, literally kicking a hole in Diego's head so bad that you could see skull through it. The referee stopped the fight immediately.


What was telling to me in these two fights is Penn's patience. Like I said, in most of his big wins before he was like a bull to a red rag. And part of me wonders if that was because he wasn't confident in his conditioning so knew he needed to end it quick. In the Florian and Sanchez fights though, he looked totally relaxed like he was taking a stroll in the park. Like he could end it any time he wanted. And he did. I think that's because he knew he had the gas tank to go the full 5 rounds.


This was the absolute peak of Penn's monster reputation. So impressive were the performances against Florian and Sanchez that people seemed to forget he'd quit on his stool against GSP earlier that same year. He was seen as a killer by the end of 2009.


"BJ Penn, I think that blood licking after he beat people was not an act. When people try to copy it and stuff it's so lame. That dude was just a born warrior. He never went too overboard with it, but he fought with a degree of...he was a little bit merciless. And I don't mean that in a quaint way. He was a little bit like a murderer in there. There was a touch - that's what I love about BJ Penn - there was a touch of murderer in him. Not a full-on, crazy psychopath. But a little bit. A little bit. In a restrained way. A way in which he could channel it through his amazing technique. I'm sure it's not the most family friendly way to describe it but, in that cage man, there was a little bit of murderer in him. And I really love that about him, as crazy as it sounds." - Luke Thomas




But nothing is ever straight forward with BJ Penn. He's obviously not a believer in the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Because despite looking fantastic in his first two fights under the Marinovich system, he dropped Marinovich from his team after the Sanchez fight. And he immediately went 0-2 to Frankie Edgar in his next two fights. Losing his title, the monster aura and the sexy abs all in one go.




He was never this man again. And over the next few years, he bounced up and down in weight and added a bunch of losses to his record. And bad ones. The beatings he took from Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald were hard to watch. He seemed to kind of retire after both those losses. But he came back to coach TUF opposite his old rival Frankie Edgar in 2014. It was his first fight in two years and his first time cutting to featherweight. Against a man he'd already gone 0-2 to. If anything was going to bring out that last bit of murderer in BJ Penn, this had to be it. Right?






Penn came out with some weird as fuck upright stance and got taken down and smashed into oblivion all night. Gone was the sharp counter boxing and reflexes. Gone was the legendary takedown defence and freaky balance. He looked as shot as any fighter I've ever seen and Edgar battered him to a third round TKO.


Penn thankfully actually did retire after that and a year later in July 2015, he was inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame...


"He's one of the best 155lbers of all time. He built that weight class and he was responsible for helping build the UFC. That's his legacy." - Dana White




Everyone hoped that would be it for Penn. After the third loss to Frankie Edgar, he seemed to finally realise and accept that it was over.


But it wasn't long until there were rumblings again that he was training and talking comeback. And he still seemed as mental as ever. When Rafael Dos Anjos dropped out of the planned Conor McGregor fight at UFC 196 in March 2016, BJ Penn actually contacted Dana White and offered to step in and fight McGregor! Lunatic. When that failed he started saying he'd be fighting on the undercard at UFC 196, and the rumour was he'd be fighting Dennis Siver. That didn't get done in time and the rumoured Penn vs Siver fight got pushed back to UFC 197 in April. Then that also got delayed and Penn vs Siver was again put back to June's UFC 199. Siver got injured and Cole Miller stepped in. But then Penn got in some hot water for using an IV after they'd been banned.


But here we are. BJ Penn's back. Whether we want it or not. And he's training at Greg Jackson's gym...






Weird to think but when GSP returns, GSP and BJ Penn are actually going to be teammates.


Regardless, Penn's going to get destroyed. Ricardo Lamas is a tougher fight than either Siver or Miller would've been. Lamas is a solid fighter. He's no world beater and sometimes I think he's a tad overrated but he's going to obliterate Penn. I'm certain of that. I'd love nothing more than to be proven wrong but Penn just doesn't seem to have it in him anymore. At all. He just can't seem to get fighting out of his system.


This quote from the BJ Penn 'Mana' documentary sums Penn up better than anything...


"I don't know. I don't wanna sound weird but fighting really is my whole life. It really is. I can do other things but I always get sucked back in. You can try to get out but it sucks you right back in.


I don't even know what I'm searching for at this point. It's just, birds fly, fish swim...and I do this." - BJ Penn




Lewis vs Tybura is the co-main. I really like this fight. Everyone loves Derrick Lewis, don't they? The Black Beast has quickly become a UKFF favourite, and rightly so.


From knocking fools out...




To falling asleep at press conferences...




You can't not like Lewis. If you don't like the Black Beast, I don't like you.


He's 31 years old with a 16-4-1 MMA record and is currently riding a four fight win streak. In his last two fights he beat Gabriel Gonzaga by first round KO and Roy Nelson by close decision.




He's fighting Marcin Tybura. A name that probably doesn't jump out at you on first glance. He's 14-2 in MMA but hasn't beat anyone of note. He did do this in his last fight though...




One of the best knockouts of the year so far, easy.


I'm quite excited about this one. I'm expecting Lewis to win but I can see it being fun while it lasts. Which probably won't be long.




Horiguchi vs Bagautinov is ***WAND'S ONE TO WATCH*** this time. A battle between two of Mighty Mouse's victims but I like the fight. I actually really rate Horiguchi. I think he's a future legit contender. I just think the title shot came too soon for him. Bagautinov is a handful though and I can see this being a really competitive fight. Not sure where the winner goes next but it should be a good fight.


Can't really be fucked to go into anything else. This post has gone on long enough and there's nothing else that particularly grabs me on the undercard, to be honest. Never liked Cole Miller so hope he gets battered. I like Seo Hee Ham so hope she wins. And Sam Alvey is usually good value. He seems to be on every single fucking card this year.


So yeah, not a bad card, not a great card. It'll do.




Can see it being rough viewing though.

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I fear for Penn's health here, but when it comes down to it, Lamas isn't the force he once was either. I wouldn't say Penn has no chance here, but it's going to be difficult for him.

I'm not even sure Jackson's is the best fit for Penn either. He needs to fight somewhere that brings out the killer instinct in you and in a camp where game plan's have always been prevalent, i'm not sure it's what suits Penn's style.

Regarding the GSP comment Wand, isn't GSP with Tristar now? I know he was with Jackson's for a period, but I thought he was solely with Tristar now?

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I'm not sure Lamas was ever that great, to be honest. He's very good, no doubt. But he hasn't blown me away ever really. The most impressive of his wins for me was by far the Bermudez one. But aside from that, what's he really done? His next two biggest wins are probably the decision over what's left of Diego Sanchez and the brutal elbow TKO over Erik Koch. Any time he stepped in with a top guy, he got outclassed. Aldo schooled him in second gear and Mendes smashed him in the first round.


He's good, and I'm pretty sure he likely wrecks the shell of BJ Penn. But I don't think Lamas was ever the killer some made him out as.


Regarding the GSP comment Wand, isn't GSP with Tristar now? I know he was with Jackson's for a period, but I thought he was solely with Tristar now?

You could well be right. I haven't followed GSP that closely since he stopped fighting. It could be that he's solely with Tristar and Firas Zahabi now. Or maybe he's only not been linked with Jackson because he hasn't had a fight. I wouldn't be surprised to see him reunite with Jackson once he gets a fight booked. He was never exclusive to a certain gym or particular coach before really. He seemed to cherry pick an all-star team of coaching staff and the regular faces seemed to be Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi, John Danaher and Phil Nurse. Sometimes Renzo Gracie. Then whoever he brought in for sparring depending on the opponent's style. That always worked well for him so I could see him sticking with something similar.

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Yeah, maybe Jackson is mostly brought in just to oversee the camp and formulate the gameplan. Whereas Zahabi, Danaher, Nurse etc are more hands on. Not really sure but GSP's probably the smartest man in the game when it comes to surrounding himself with the right people to bring the best out of him.

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Nice career retrospective of Penn. Really enjoyed reading it. 


Marinovich had a dodgy reputation when Penn signed up to work for him. There was speculation that his "system" hindered athlete's longevity. Marinovich's son was a washout in the NFL, and his life has spiralled out of control ever since (he was arrested for the hundredth time just a few weeks according to wiki) However, Penn was never better than he was under Marinovich.


Penn lost a lot of fights that he really should have won. If he'd been training under Marinovich when he first fought GSP, he would have probably carried his first round momentum through the next two rounds and won the decision (it was close as it was). Under Marinovich, he wouldn't have faded as badly in his 2nd fight against Hughes either. Penn had that fight won in the first round. Most felt that he beat Edgar in their first fight, despite spending most of the fight in 2nd gear. If he'd have upped the tempo a bit more, the judges would have been less inclined to give Edgar the nod.


This is why Penn's career is so frustrating. Don't get me wrong, he had a superb career, but it should have been so much more. We should be discussing him in the same breath as GSP, Anderson and Jones. But for various reasons - most of which have been of his own doing - he'll never be regarded in the same tier as the true greats. He's in the second tier or third tier. A great fighter, but one who grossly underachieved. 

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Look at that for timing, the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Marinovich Project is on BT Sport 1 at 10:30pm tonight.


Penn looked scary under Marinovich. I'm not one of these BJ Penn fanboys who thinks Marinovich was the answer to all his problems, by the way. It might well have been the case that it couldn't have been sustained long term. I suspect there's a good reason no other top MMA fighters took on Marinovich's training regimen. But man, for that 2 fight spell we got a glimpse of what BJ Penn could be if he wasn't in charge of his own camp and followed a proper conditioning program.


I think Edgar was always going to be a tricky opponent for him but I agree I had Penn winning the first fight when I rewatched it before their third fight.


The second fight is still one of the weirdest performances I've ever seen in MMA. It was like he was sedated or something. Everyone who saw his thousand yard stare before the Buffer intros will know exactly what I mean...




I'm calling foul play. He's got to have been drugged. Look at him there, he's seeing the ghosts of Elvis and Tupac on the backs of pink elephants and all sorts. He's away with the fairies.

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Even if Marinovich did have a long-term magic formula, I don't think Penn would have had the discipline to use it for long. In retrospect, it wasn't a surprise when Penn stopped working with Marinovich.


The 2nd fight with Edgar was just depressing. I really can't fault Edgar's performance, but Penn was a ghost of himself. I always cite that as the beginning of the end for Penn. After that fight he went on to knockout Matt Hughes, who was a shell of his former self. While he did win the first two round against Fitch - impressing in the process - Fitch did a number on him in the 3rd round, and Penn was lucky to get a draw.


Since then he's had 3 fights, and barely won a round. At times it's been uncomfortable to watch him. I'd love him to prove me wrong, and beat Lamas, but I just don't see it. Lamas should finish him in the first two rounds. 

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