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UFC 137: St-Pierre vs. Condit

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BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (+100) vs. Nick Diaz (-120)

by Stan Leung
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UFC 137: St-Pierre vs. Condit
Oct 29, 2011
BJ Penn vs. Nick Diaz
UFC Betting Pick: Nick Diaz (-120)

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Welterweight bout: BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (+100) vs. Nick Diaz (-120)

BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (16-7-2) is regarded as one of the best mixed martial arts fighters in history, however, he barely has a fight record of .500. Now how can a fighter be regarded as a “great” when he is only two wins above .500?

Granted, he has fought a top opponent in almost every one if his fights which explains why he really does not have all that much to show for it. Is Penn “great”? Perhaps, but he may also be past his prime. It is not going to get any easier for Penn as he will be facing, in my opinion, the best welterweight in the world, Nick Diaz (25-7). Diaz has the grappling of Jake Shields and the striking abilities of a professional boxer, not to mention the tenacity and pressure to win each and every fight.

Penn and Diaz have very similar fighting styles with the main difference being their physical size—Diaz is much bigger, taller and lankier which gives him the edge. He has a big reach advantage over Penn at 74 inches compared to Penn’s 70 inches. Given that, striking will be the key to winning this fight as those four inches make a world of difference.

Diaz is a very aggressive striker and likes to put the pressure on his opponents while using his south paw stance to confuse. He throws punches from all angles and though they do not look very powerful, they come in bunches and the barrage can do a lot of damage. Diaz debuted as a professional boxer in the Super Middleweight weight class in April 2005.

He won his battle against Alfonso Rocha by unanimous decision in four rounds, however, he has not fought professionally since. Diaz has trained with Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist Andre Ward as well as former WBA and WBC World Champion, Luisito Espinosa.

Not to take anything away from Penn but he is also a very good striker. He has a more technical stance and is very tight on the defense. Generally this is a good thing but Diaz has wide looping hooks so being compact may not necessarily block everything and could prevent him from firing back at Diaz easily.

When it comes to grappling both fighters are quite skilled in this department. With a gi I think Penn might be able to take Diaz but this is a no gi fight, and as Diaz is the bigger and stronger fighter, I am leaning towards him. Like Penn, Diaz is a black belt under Cesar Gracie and has won several prestigious events such as the US Purple Belt Open in 2004 and the Pan American Brown Belt Medium Weight Division title in 2005. He still competes in high level BJJ competitions.

Penn is a pioneer in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and was the first US born person to put it on the map. He began the revolution and made the sport mainstream which instilled the passion in a new generation of fighters of which Diaz is one.

Penn has rolled with some of the best grapplers in the world and though he no longer competes, he was a notable in competitions. Unfortunately Penn is a bottom fighter which does not translate well into MMA where non-BJJ skills are also utilized.

Being on the bottom in BJJ allows Penn to use his flexibility and dexterity, however, when he is squared off with a bigger, stronger opponent in a MMA environment not only is size an issue but the combination of other skill sets also presents a problem. Points to note are his fights against Jon Fitch at UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch and George St-Pierre at UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn 2 and UFC 58: USA vs. Canada.

Granted, Diaz is not a great wrestler and he is also a bottom grappler, but if Penn is able to gain top position, Diaz can use his size to hip bump and gain top position or his long limbs to push or attack for kimura or triangle chokes. But realistically speaking, Penn is too smart and skilled to allow himself to be submitted, however, Diaz does have the ability to threaten and tax him.

All in all, though Penn has great control on the top position we rarely see it as he is a relatively small fighter and his submission record shows it—he has won all but one by rear naked choke. Because of his size, Diaz has the ability to apply more submissions. He is more versatile on the ground and unlike Penn, has won with various submissions— arm bar, triangle choke, kimura, gogoplata and rear naked choke

Bottom Line: Though both fighters are good on the ground, Diaz has a more aggressive striking style which he will use to pepper and push Penn, who is not accustomed to the pace Diaz will set.

Remember Diaz is 6 foot 1 and Penn is 5 foot 9 which is a big difference in height and reach advantage—not to mention Diaz has also trained as a professional boxer.

Despite this, Diaz is a competitor and holds the distinction of having never been submitted and has only been finished by strikes once in his 33 fights.

Diaz also trains with some very high level fighters such as his bother Nate, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout Caio Terra whose style in BJJ is similar to that of Penn.

Though BJ Penn is BJ Penn he has really done nothing of late to improve or expand upon his existing game and given this, he is starting to show some “wear”. He has nothing new in his arsenal which he can call upon to combat a hungry Diaz.

The UFC odds are great for this fight with Diaz as the UFC betting favorite at -120. I really think Diaz will be relentless and will put away a tired Penn easily late in the third.

Look for Diaz to KO Penn in the Third Round

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