I’ve heard a lot of discussion about B.J. Penn (14-5-1 MMA, 10-4-1 UFC, #1 IWMMAR)
getting “back on the winning track” and, all due respect to my friend Dave Mayeda
, I understand that B.J.’s loss to Georges St. Pierre (19-2 MMA, 13-2 UFC, #1 IWMMAR)
and both the hype and the ensuing aftermath (which cast B.J. as both lazy and a sore loser), but the reality is, B.J. at lightweight and B.J. at welterweight are two distinctly different fighters.
At 170 pounds, Penn often gains weight so that he can be as heavy as his opponent and does it in a way that is not, from a physiological standpoint, a good idea. At 155 pounds, he comes down in weight, his cardio drastically improves and his power is more substantial.
Physically, he’s as big as almost, excluding Sean Sherk (33-4-1 MMA, 7-4 UFC)
, all of his opponents. He can, by his own admission, take many more shots at 155 than he can at 170, because his opponents are lighter. His technical ability comes across more, because he has the strength and the explosiveness to use the techniques and to impose his will more effectively. Not to mention, having a bigger, heavier fighter lean on you for a few rounds is much more difficult than going toe-to-toe with a guy your own size. Sometimes, even a technical advantage can be neutralized by the strength of an opponent who knows how to defend effectively and lay down some grinding.
What we saw in Penn’s fight with Kenny Florian (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC, #2 IWMMAR)
was not the rebirth of a phenomenal fighter, but rather the return of his incarnation at 155 pounds, which had never really left.