The UFC on FOX 5 event will feature a welterweight contest between former champion BJ Penn and rising contender Rory MacDonald on Saturday night. It’s a classic old school vs. new school matchup with MacDonald looking to gain instant credibility with a win over an aging legend in the sport. Let’s see how this one breaks down.
BJ Penn (16-8-2) comes into this fight after a lopsided beating at the hands of Nick Diaz at UFC 137, which prompted Penn leave the sport and retire for a short time. Penn had returned to the welterweight division after Frankie Edgar ended his lightweight reign as champion, going (1-0-1) since his return to the division. Penn has won seven fights via TKO/KO and six fights via submission, and has only been finished twice in his career. Penn has historically had poor cardio as a welterweight while being undersized, which are the two biggest obstacles he has to overcome as a welterweight.
Rory MacDonald (13-1) has won three consecutive fights and is coming off TKO win over Che Mills at UFC 145. The lone loss suffered in his career came against former interim champion Carlos Condit two years ago. MacDonald has won six fights via TKO/KO and six fights via submission. He’s being toted as the first generation of fighters that actually train in mixed martial arts, and not one or two disciplines while growing up.
The long layoff and the size disadvantage will be huge obstacles to overcome for Penn in this fight. He’s accustomed to fighting larger fighters, but the long layoff could be the nail in the coffin here. As I mentioned before, he historically has terrible cardio as a welterweight. He has gassed in every welterweight fight that has gone out of the first round, and lost every single one of those fights except the majority draw with Jon Fitch. He got demolished in the final round against Fitch and probably should have lost that fight.
Rory MacDonald will also have a huge reach advantage in this fight as well. He should simply follow the blueprint that’s been laid out by Georges St. Pierre in this fight. That means start out cautious and make Penn work to defend takedowns, and use his size advantage to wear him down. Penn is dangerous in the first round and does have excellent power in his hands for a fighter that’s naturally a lightweight.
If the fight makes it to the second round, Penn usually begins to fade at that point and becomes a punching bag by the third round as evident in his last two welterweight fights. Penn’s key to success is trying to finish MacDonald in the first round. MacDonald has been dropped in the past with punches, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Penn to have some success early on. He just need to capitalize if the opportunity presents itself to finish MacDonald in the first round.
MacDonald should work to get the fight to the ground at some point and then impose his will with ground and pound. He has some absolutely nasty ground and pound, and Penn isn’t much of a threat to submit opponents off his back. His offensive jiu-jitsu relies on him having top position on his opponents and forcing them to give up their backs for the rear naked choke( five of his six submission wins have come that way).
I think MacDonald will finish Penn in this fight via TKO probably late in the second or third round. If Penn is to get the win, he’ll need to get MacDonald out of there early.
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