One of the most significant factors to consider in Saturday night’s main event between BJ Penn and Jon Fitch at UFC 127 is the weight difference between the two.
Penn has of course spent much of his career at lightweight, although he is a former 170lb champion. Interestingly in his current assault on the division the Hawaiian is going against the grain and dismissing the tried and tested practice of cutting weight.
In fact come tomorrow’s weigh-ins, he’ll have no concerns about making the 171lb limit.
“Right now I’m around 165,” Penn revealed at the pre-fight press conference earlier in the week, before joking, “I’ll probably drink 4 pounds of water to make Fitch think I’m bigger than I am.”
It’s a bold strategy from Penn. On the one hand dismissing the need to cut weight should leave him less drained and therefore give him more energy in the fight, but meanwhile after already giving up 3 inches in height and 4 inches in reach to Fitch, he’s also going to be at a considerable disadvantage in terms of weight as well.
It’s not going to be quite as big of a difference as some might be expecting though.
For much of his UFC career Fitch has been one of the bigger welterweight’s, walking around at as much as 200lbs, but it’s interesting to note that he too has embraced a somewhat unorthadox approach to his weight in preparation for this fight according to Kenny Florian.
“I just was with him at the last UFC in Vegas [UFC 126] he’s actually walking around at 176lbs,” Florian tells MMANation. “He’s a vegan now. He’s 100 percent vegan. He’s changed his whole lifestlye. And the first thing I said to him ‘Man, you’re looking pretty darn skinny’ and he said, ‘yeah, I’m a vegan now and I’m 176lbs right now’. That is actually I hear maybe even a concern with people in his own camp.”
That’s a move that’s going to raise a few eyebrows, particularly considering Fitch’s love of stifling top control in his fights which undoubtedly benefits from being the bigger man in the Octagon.
This could have played in Penn’s favor if it wasn’t for the fact he is coming in underweight himself, meaning that he’ll still be giving away at least around 11lbs on the night of the fight.
I don’t see that being a worry for Penn in terms of the stand-up battle. He is the better striker of the two, and even with the weight advantage Fitch has never been a power puncher.
It is however a problem with regards to grappling, and given Fitch’s wrestling based fighting style it could have a big influence on the outcome of the fight. Therefore Penn’s gameplan will surely be to use his tried and tested takedown defense to avoid getting put on his back where the weight difference will be most noticeable.
His success in that regard will have a critical impact on his chances of emerging from the fight with his hand raised.