Penn-St.Pierre: It's in the details
Report by Brady Crytzer
Photos by Chris Cozzone
The countdown is on to the biggest fight in UFC history as welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre defends his crown against lightweight kingpin BJ Penn. With each man everybody’s top three pound for pound category, the main event of UFC 94 comes down to one thing…details. Let’s take a look at them as the world prepares for their showdown on Saturday, January 31st.
Striking: Freddie Roach has referred to BJ Penn as the best boxer in all of Mixed Martial Arts. Although he doesn’t possess the hand speed or reflexes of his Canadian counterpart, the Hawaiian does have the best “you can’t teach that” talent in the game. A natural scrapper, Penn has displayed a natural toughness that allows for opportunities to land dramatic short punches (particularly his monster uppercut that nearly finished Joe Stevenson in the opening moments of their 2008 contest) from a distance that others generally stay away from. His boxing can be sloppy at times, but he has developed one of the fiercest jabs in the UFC. GSP will have the better kickboxing and heavier punches, but it’s the unique style of BJ Penn that will be most telling in this fight.
Edge: Penn’s Boxing Early in the Fight
Grappling: A contrast of styles makes this category the most interesting in the fight. When it comes to world class jiu jitsu, there is nobody on the UFC roster more highly praised than BJ Penn. The Hawaiian’s genetic gifts, such as flexibility and the ever popular “dexterity,” make his guard one of the most active and dangerous in the sport. It’s a weighty load for any fighter, except maybe Georges St. Pierre. With a tight submission game of his own and a significant strength advantage, GSP will use superior wrestling to control Penn from inside the guard and punish him with shots. In their first bout, Penn was on his back for much the fight and never showed anything threatening with an offensive guard. Dominate victories over Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch have given the Montreal native a major claim to being the best wrestler in the welterweight division (despite having no amateur wrestling experience.)
Edge: St. Pierre’s Strength and Pressure Inside Penn’s Guard
Experience: BJ Penn has been performing at the top levels of the sport since his UFC debut in 2001, however “Rush” has looked unbeatable in recent months. Both men are two time UFC champions and have been under the lights before. These two men have met before and won’t back away from a fight. There will be no edge gained by experience in this one. In Montreal or Hilo, it wouldn’t matter to either champion where the fight goes down.
Edge: Even Playing Field
The Verdict: Georges St. Pierre. This fight comes down to one thing…conditioning. BJ Penn’s move to 155 lbs. was a blessing in disguise for the simple fact that making the lightweight limit would guarantee him being in top shape. The Hawaiian has made a similar venture into higher weight classes in the past and has appeared content to let his waistband venture as well. If Penn comes ready for a five round fight we are in for a real treat. Expect GSP’s conditioning to make him dangerous in rounds 6, 7, and 8 (even though this is a five round fight.) His physical strength, takedowns and ground control will prove to be the most telling in the judge’s eyes.
Look for St. Pierre to stop Penn late after an accumulation of punishment from the top position.