Posted 07/07/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale: Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn Review

Penn’s ‘natural’ talent always offers some glimmer of … but it’s more likely an old, shot, inactive Penn shows up as expected.”

BJ Penn stood on his toes, more upright. This was supposed to help him handle 2014 Frankie Edgar. Instead, it made him look awkward and helped exacerbate his age, his now-14-year fight career, the 19 months away from the cage. His hands looked slow. His jab pushed rather than snapped. This wasn’t a ghost of BJ Penn; it wasn’t BJ Penn at all.

Edgar took him down because he was able to take a prime Penn down, and it was even easier to take down this slow, upright not-B.J Penn. Penn was never one to submit from the bottom, instead preferring to sweep and punch and pass and take the back and choke from the top. He tried no submission here. He didn’t try anything at all really, putting his feet on Edgar’s hips and looking more like an older blue belt with a good guard who is content maintaining that guard and calling it a success.

In the third round, an Edgar elbow opened a cut over Penn’s left eye. It looked an awful lot like the cut Penn delivered to Diego Sanchez at UFC 107 only on the eyebrow and slightly skewed away from the nose. It seemed like a godsend. Here was a way for someone – Penn, his corner, referee Herb Dean, the doctor, Dana White, Kenny Florian, Penn’s parents sitting cageside, the Fan Man, the Liddell costume guy – to stop the fight and maintain some sense of Penn’s dignity. Instead, the fight continued with Edgar throwing more punches and elbows from guard or half-guard and Penn putting his hands up to block like one of the UFC video games. Dean finally stepped in with 44 seconds left in the round. It would have been an awkward stoppage in any other fight, but everyone nodded their head in this case.

Penn admitted during the post-fight interview that he shouldn’t have been fighting. Whether it was something he knew heading into the fight or an analysis of his performance in retrospect, we have to wonder why the UFC scheduled this fight in the first place. According to Dana White, Penn texted him wanting to fight Benson Henderson, thinking that if he beat Henderson, the UFC would give him a third opportunity against Edgar. The UFC had been trying to get Edgar to fight Urijah Faber, but neither wanted to move to a new weight class, so they skipped the Henderson thing (thankfully) and gave Penn a fight against Edgar at 145 directly.

White said it’s “tough to say no to BJ,” (ignore the gutter humor, goofballs) and I get that. But the guy who players the hypermasculine tough guy fight promoter president should be able to make these sorts of tough decisions, no? He should be able to say, “Hey, BJ, by the time we get you in the cage you’ll be halfway to 36 and nearly 20 months from your last fight. You had a great career and you have a family now, and we don’t want to put you in at a new weight class against a top guy. We’ll see you at the Hall of Fame induction.”

At the same time, if the UFC felt obligated to give Penn another fight, better it be against a top guy than some mid-level tuneup against, I don’t know, Dennis Bermudez. Because then we’re faced with the possibility of 1) Penn winning in less-than-spectacular fashion but giving him enough reason to continue on fighting Edgar when everyone can see that’s a bad idea or 2) Penn losing to Dennis Bermudez because I’m not sure who that version of BJ Penn we saw last night could beat at this point.

But this should be it for Penn. He retired, again, in the cage last night, accepting White’s decree that he wouldn’t give Penn another fight if he lost to Edgar. The UFC, I believe, has him locked up contract-wise, so we shouldn’t see Penn suddenly pop up in Bellator or World Series of Fighting or Penn Fighting Championships.

Like Randy Couture, people in the future might look at Penn’s record and wonder what the big deal is. But if we erase everything after the Sanchez fight (conveniently after his 31st birthday), Penn’s 15-5-1, and his four losses come to these guys:

Jens Pulver (avenged)
Lyoto Machida (at heavyweight!)
Georges St-Pierre (twice, at welterweight)
Matt Hughes (at welterweight, defeated him twice)

That’s a hell of a career, Baby Jay.

Mike Fagan