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Is Sanchez ready enough for Penn?

Preview by Brady Crytzer

The Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez will finally get a shot at a world title when he battles lightweight kingpin BJ Penn in the main of UFC 107 on Saturday, December 5th.

While many have placed Sanchez on the cusp of greatness since winning the hit reality series in 2005, it was only until he dropped down to the lightweight division that his dreams materialized. In his way Saturday night will be pound-for-pound great BJ “The Prodigy” Penn. It’s a lightweight showdown in the Memphis; join Fightnews.com’s Brady Crytzer as he dissects the main event of UFC 107.

Striking: Although both fighters come from a grappling background, they have both made stellar improvements in their stand up games. While Penn has always been unafraid to scrap, it has just been over the last two years of his long career that we have seen him put together meaningful combinations with his hands. As seen in his 2008 bout against Sean Sherk, Penn can effectively use his jab as a range finder allowing for more devastating punches to follow. While some have claimed that he has the best boxing in the sport, which is a far cry from any vantage point (sorry BJ), it is safe to say that his hands are best in this fight. Sanchez on the other hand has shown that he is getting more comfortable with throwing large numbers of punches, but exchanging is still very unnatural for “The Nightmare.”

It comes to down to comfort, and Penn is going to be more comfortable exchanging than Sanchez. Sanchez did show that he can throw hands against Clay Guida, but he won’t be able to do it in the center of the cage. He has improved, but he remains sloppy and green. Sanchez will simply be outgunned on the feet.

Grappling: This fight has all the making of a grappling superfight, but as is always the case it just won’t develop. BJ Penn made waves early in his career becoming the first American black belt to win a jiu jitsu title in Brazil, and he has dominated opponents with his complete understanding of the art. While his physical gifts, such as unearthly flexibility and dexterity, make him a natural grappler, Penn generally uses dominate position to transition to the back for the rear naked choke. Sanchez on the other hand comes from a much different background. As a former state champion high school wrestler, Sanchez adapted to the submission game very smoothly and has proven to be world class. Unlike Penn, Sanchez will never give up a dominate position to go for a submission. In the mount, Sanchez is a relentless ground n’ pound machine-a true testament to his wrestling roots.

Sanchez sets a frenetic pace in fights, and it translates in his grappling style. Diego will push Penn like no one has before when it comes to wrestling, but we are unlikely to see this play out. Regardless of the dynamics of combining wrestling and jiu jitsu, Penn will never be in a bad position when it comes to grappling in this fight.

How They Match Up: BJ Penn has lost his pound-for-pound luster, and he wants it back. A win over Sanchez will accomplish that and put him back in the top four in the world.

Penn has shown tremendous improvement in his stand up and displays an impressive understanding of footwork and timing. His boxing, while not the best in the world, is much better than his opponent’s at UFC 107.

Sanchez’s striking, much like his overall fighting outlook, is fast paced and only effective in bursts. While he battered Guida earlier this year he did it in a very “Nightmare” kind of way. His tendency to sacrifice crisp technique and patience for volume and speed show a lack of striking fundamentals that can only improve with time.

Unfortunately for Sanchez the time is not December 12th.

This could be a great grappling showdown with Sanchez evening the scales due to his size advantage, but it won’t develop.

Penn will use a sharp jab to keep “The Nightmare” at bay while both punishing and puzzling the former reality star. Much like the Koscheck fight from two years ago, Sanchez’s inability to take his opponent down will be his undoing.

Look for Penn to win via TKO after the third round.

 


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