Before BJ Penn’s first fight with Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 there was much talk of ‘The Prodigy’ moving once again up to the welterweight division in pursuit of a third fight with George St.Pierre.
Penn’s loss to Edgar appeared to put an end to that plan, with the former champion claiming he would now remain at 155lbs. In the lead up to the rematch at UFC 118 next week however, the UFC’s UK president Marshall Zelaznik has suggested that it could still happen, with potential matchmaking issues in the lightweight division now being seen as the catalyst for it.
“Penn and Florian only recently happened, and it was a pretty overpowering performance from BJ,” Zelanik told ESPN.co.uk in a recent interview.
“Depending on the BJ v Frankie fight, if BJ takes a narrow victory there is the potential for a trilogy between them. If Frankie were to win, it’s very easy to say the winner of Florian v Maynard fights for the championship, but if BJ wins and Florian wins, then it puts pressure on the match-making. That then puts the possibility of BJ stepping up a weight class back on the table.”
While I agree that either a rubber match with Edgar, or a Florian – Maynard Vs Edgar match-ups are possible, I disagree that a Penn Vs Florian rematch is a match the UFC should be looking to avoid due to the outcome of their first meeting.
Florian is an ever-improving fighter and holds an impressive 9-2 record at lightweight (12-3 in the UFC overall), with his two losses coming to champions Penn and Sean Sherk. Since losing to Penn he’s strung together wins over dominating wins inside the distance over both Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi, and a win over Gray Maynard undoubtedly leaves him as the defacto No.1 contender.
To my mind Florian made a crucial error in his first fight with Penn by drastically altering his usual gameplan, fighting overly cautious, and attempting to wear the Hawaiian down by pressing him up against the fence.
It was a poor strategy, and one that ultimately proved to be unsuccessful. While I’m not convinced he would beat Penn if a rematch were to take place, if he fought to his strengths, using his boxing and muay thai striking effectively, then I believe he could put on a much better showing.
If Florian came up empty-handed again then that’s the time for Penn to move up, not before.
Of course first of all we must wait and see the outcome of the fights at UFC 118. If either Penn or Florian lose then the promotion will be able to sidestep this thorny issue.