"He's got great hands." Yeah, but B.J. Penn's striking is almost mythical in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world.
"He's got a hell of a chin." So does "The Prodigy."
"He's never been knocked out, not even close." A 10-fight win streak is nothing to sneeze at. Do you really think wins against Octagon castoffs like Paul Daley and 36-year old Frank Shamrock even begin to compare to the cream of the welterweight crop that the UFC offers?
"His Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) credentials are mighty impressive." Are you kidding me? Penn won the Mundials after earning his black belt in only three years time.
Nick Diaz seemingly had no avenue to win his main event fight last night (Oct. 29, 2011) at UFC 137. Almost everything he excelled at, Penn was simply better.
In a fight he had no business winning, Diaz put in his most impressive performance against a future UFC Hall of Famer. The former lightweight and welterweight champion was supposed to be too good, too talented for Diaz to overcome.
But after 15 minutes, the bad boy from Stockton had his arm raised after he had pummeled his opponent for the better part of rounds two and three.
Diaz came out and -- if Penn is to be believed -- retired an opponent he shouldn't have even beaten.
In typical 209 fashion, Diaz flipped off all his doubters.
In the 25 fights leading up to UFC 137's headliner, Penn had only been beaten by five men. The first loss of his career came at the hands of Jens Pulver, a defeat he would later avenge. Following that, he came up short against Lyoto Machida in a bout he weighed in at 191 pounds for. Matt Hughes took the second fight in his trilogy with "The Prodigy" but a submission win and a brutal 21-second knockout proved that the Hawaiian had the wrestler's number.
A pair of losses to both Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar round out the blemishes on his record and as they do, a common thread begins to appear. Every man Penn has fallen short in front of has been recognized as the champion of the world, as the best in their weight class.
Penn just doesn't lose to any Tom, Dick, or Harry that steps inside the Octagon.
You can go ahead and add Diaz to that list. And while the BJJ player can claim a pre-Zuffa World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and a Strikeforce title on his resume, the UFC's 170-pound division has always been considered the best and deepest in the sport.
After a near-five year sabbatical from the Octagon, Diaz made his return to the shark-infested waters that is the welterweight division and made it to shore with the most impressive win of his career.
Once criticized for his "pitter patter" style of boxing that seemed to be more of quantity over quality, the 209 representative absolutely shredded Penn's face throughout their 15-minute fight. "The Prodigy" left the Octagon bloody, bruised, and swollen and claimed to be retiring.
HIs face a mangled mess, Penn didn't look or act like the fighter that choked out Matt Hughes or ran roughshod through the lightweight division. Diaz took it to the Hawaiian like no one else ever had, plain and simple. In a sport where fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko bleed if breathed on too heavily, "The Prodigy" used to be touted as one of those guys who didn't really cut, didn't really bruise.
Diaz proved that line of thinking dead wrong last night. Penn's left eye was swollen nearly completely shut as he wore the effect of over a hundred punches on his face.
Many said the former Strikeforce champion didn't deserve an immediate title shot when fighters like Jon Fitch, Carlos Condit, and Penn had already spent years in the cut-throat world of the UFC. He needed to earn the shot was their rationale.
And when he skipped a press conference to hype the event, he was booted out of the main event and Condit took his place. He was then booked in a bout with the Hawaiian essentially swapping places with "The Natural Born Killer." A blessing in disguise, perhaps, for both Diaz and his doubters. Penn would be no easy task to overcome but if Diaz was able to defeat "The Prodigy," he would have more than enough ammunition to quiet his doubters who claimed he was nowhere near deserving of a title shot.
He got that ammo, enough to fully arm an entire militia and his sights are dead set on "Rush" and his welterweight title.
Not deserving? Diaz doesn't want to hear it.
Take a look at Penn's face if that's what you think.