B.J. Penn puts his UFC lightweight title on the line Saturday against Diego Sanchez in the main event of UFC 107. The Hawaiian is the more complete fighter, as his overall striking is better than Sanchez’s and his submission game is second to none.
Yet it’s not out of the question that the title could change hands. Penn seems to be a much more dedicated fighter these days, but Sanchez’s bottomless gas tank and determination will pose a challenge.
How do the pros see the matchup? Sherdog.com caught up with numerous fighters and trainers for their views on Penn vs. Sanchez.
Mac Danzig: BJ is Mr. Talented and everyone knows it, but there is more to fighting than just talent. I’ve been really impressed with Diego lately; it seems 155 is a good fit for him. He has the right kind of style to be beat BJ. I don’t think he’ll finish BJ, but I think he’ll win the decision. He deserves it. He’s been working hard for a long time, plus he seems like a bit of a nut, which is an endearing quality. Go Diego.
Jason Lambert: BJ by TKO or submission.
Derrick Noble: This should be an exciting fight while it lasts. I am going to go with B.J. by TKO in round three. I think Diego will come out fast like he usually does, but I think he’s going to get shut down as the fight goes on and will eventually fall to B.J.’s superior power and technique.
Jeff Monson: Sanchez by decision.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: BJ Penn will win the fight based on being more well-rounded. His boxing will make the difference, neutralizing Diego’s cardio in the fight. No doubt Diego deserves the title shot, but he will suffer the same fate as Joe Stevenson and Kenny Florian. BJ Penn by the lion kill rear-naked choke is my pick. I can’t see anyone at 155 that beats BJ Penn. The belt is his until he decides to give it up.
Brodie Farber: I’m going with the underdog and picking Diego to stop BJ late in the fourth or fifth.
Mike Whitehead: BJ by second-round submission.
Brian Warren: That’s going to be a great fight. I want BJ to win, but Sanchez is tough as nails.
Charlie Brenneman: Penn will come out of this a winner. Diego is good, no doubt, but B.J. is on another level. He’s been in with the best of them, and he knows how to get it done. Everyone questions his conditioning, but he’s been in top-notch shape for his last several fights. He had a weakness, and he corrected it. Diego can “Yes!” all he wants, but will he get the victory? No! B.J. by decision.
Roland Sarria: BJ Penn will win by a stoppage. He will slow the pace and make Sanchez fight his fight and use his experience to control and dominate the young lion.
Chris Weidman: Penn by submission. B.J. will win a scramble off one of the many Sanchez takedown attempts and come out on top. Once B.J. gets on top, he will ground-and-pound and eventually lock on a submission for the win.
Duke Roufus: Great match! BJ is better at striking and wrestling. Diego’s best option is on the ground. My prediction? BJ Penn.
Kevin Burns: I think BJ will keep Diego at bay with his jab and frustrate him with his head movement. In the end I see BJ winning a decision.
Elvis Sinosic: For once I'm going to keep this short. Diego's strength is his jiu jitsu. He has improved standup and aggressive takedowns. BJ's strength is his BJJ. BJ has strong takedowns and defense. BJ has very effective boxing. BJ's biggest weakness (in his welterweight fights) has been his cardio. BJ has shown improved cardio at lightweight. Diego is known for having good cardio. I think BJ has what it takes to beat Diego, though Diego will prove a tough opponent. Diego's best chance is if he can draw the fight out to the championship rounds. Saying that, BJ will win this match. I'm also expecting a fairly exciting match as well.
The pros heavily favor B.J. Penn.
Zac George: After a lengthy discussion with the authorities, assault charges will be dropped against BJ Penn.
Travis Wiuff: BJ by whatever he wants. Nobody can beat BJ at 155 when he is motivated and in shape.
Travis Lutter: I think BJ will be too much for (Diego).
Adam Singer: It seems to me that Diego has spent the last few years trying to become B.J. Penn. Well, I still believe the original B.J. is the best B.J. Penn by TKO in round three. Penn does everything Diego does but better.
Nick Thompson: I think Diego out-hustles BJ en route to a ground-and-pound stoppage in three.
Scott Bieri: Technique vs. tenacity. Diego may outwork Penn, stealing rounds and the belt. More likely, Penn’s jab and counter wrestling will keep Sanchez at bay. Three rounds to two; Baby Jay Penn retains his control of the lightweight division.
Apollo Sebastian: No one seems to believe me that if it gets past the third round that it will be dangerous for BJ because of Diego's tenacity and will. I've trained Diego and I know what's inside his head when it's fight time. I got Diego via ground-and-pound or submission in the later rounds. Don't get me wrong; BJ is my boy, so is Diego and I know what Diego is capable of at fight time. Trust me on this: Diego's BJJ is sick right now. Again, you hear from me alone: Diego by submission.
Rory Singer: My pick on this fight is Penn. I believe he has the edge in both the stand-up and the ground. He has also proven to be very difficult to take down. I don’t see Diego being able to damage him on the feet or put him on his back. The only way I can see this fight going to Diego is if he pushes his usual frantic pace and Penn can’t keep up. Considering his dismantling of Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian, I can’t see this actually happening, though. I believe Penn wins via submission -- strikes or rear-naked choke.
Robin Black: This is gonna be an insane fight. I'm sure a lot of people will say, "You just can't bet against BJ.” Well, you almost can't, but I will. This is a crazy test for BJ for a number of reasons. Diego Sanchez absolutely believes in himself and believes he can beat BJ. Diego Sanchez is in wicked shape and will put a nuts pace on BJ. Diego Sanchez will have better cardio as that pace affects both guys later in the fight. Skill-wise? BJ's boxing is amazing, but Sanchez's striking has looked very, very crisp and creative too. I think the wrestling skills are comparable between the two. And, jiu jitsu-wise, Sanchez's corner (Saulo Ribeiro) is one of a very few capable of preparing a skilled fighter like Sanchez for this fight. I'll bet on Diego Sanchez to win the last three rounds of a fight-of-the-year candidate.
Patrick Cote: BJ all the way.
Billy MacDonald: It doesn't matter how this one ends; everyone will be left with just one word to say, “WOW!” BJ seems to be really focused on this one, and Diego seems as confident as ever. As always, everyone is questioning BJ's conditioning, and if Diego is going to win, he will have to set the pace of this fight and keep it up. I don't see this being too much of a ground war with the fight quickly coming back up to the feet after some impressive scrambles. Part of me wants to say that Diego is going to take this one, but I just can't commit to it. Long story short, Penn via decision.
Gabe Ruediger: BJ (wins). Diego has improved leaps and bounds, but BJ is still on another level. The biggest benefit Diego has is his cardio, but that was supposed to be Sherk’s secret weapon as well. Now that BJ has found his drive, I don’t think there is anyone to beat him at lightweight. It should be a competitive fight, though. When it’s over, I have no idea who the UFC can bring in to vie for the title after this.
Eddy Millis: It’s interesting. After seeing the Diego and Penn interviews, my gut tells me Diego could pull this off by attrition. He seems focused. I was impressed on how much his standup has improved. With that being said, BJ has got the power and technique. This just may be Diego’s time. Diego, 5th round.
Stephane Vigneault: BJ (via) split decision. He is a phenom at 155. It’s gonna be a close fight, but he is gonna win this one again.
Ray Elbe: Diego Sanchez is a beast, and one of the most intense fighters in the UFC. That being said, BJ Penn is the best lightweight in the world and beats Diego in the third round by opening up a large can of Red Hawaiian Punch.
Enson Inoue: BJ Penn by rear-naked choke in the second round.
Shamar Bailey: I’m picking B.J. Penn by submission. Sanchez is tough but is nowhere close to the toughest opponent that Penn has faced. I don’t see Sanchez throwing anything new at Penn beyond a high tempo and lots of scrambles. If Penn has prepared properly for all of this, he will win by submission in the third or fourth round.
Pros who picked Penn: 24
Pros who picked Sanchez: 6
Pros who couldn’t decide: 1