UFC 127: "Penn vs. Fitch" is all set to go down on Feb. 26 live from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
It's a top heavy card, with most of the attention focused on the main event of the evening, in which former Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn will test his might against welterweight juggernaut Jon Fitch.
And of the many fighters to step foot inside the Octagon, very few bring out the emotion of the fans like "The Prodigy" and the self professed cornfed Indiana native, Fitch.
With that in mind, two loyal MMAmania.com readers (who moonlight as professional fighters) have taken the time to chime in with their two cents.
And they couldn't disagree more -- just the way we like it.
So join us after the jump where AintNoSunshine and A.K pick a side and explain why you should hop on their respective bandwagons.
170 lbs.: "The Prodigy" B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch
Who will win - In a word, Fitch. In two words, Jon Fitch. As much as Penn fans would like to think he will be able to stop the takedown and land a punch hard enough to knock him out (even though GSP couldn't KO Fitch after hitting him with everything except the kitchen sink and a torn adductor muscle), he won't be able to. And he wont be submitting Jonny boy either. Fitch by UD.
How he will win - The same way he has won the vast majority of his other 15 fights in the UFC. Penn will come out looking to box, and Fitch will do one of two things: avoid the strikes long enough to get inside, clinch up, and power Penn to the ground, or Fitch will absorb a strike or two, revert to his instincts, and actually shoot a single or double leg on Penn. Either way, Penn is getting put on his back. Where he will stay, under the control of the vastly superior wrestling skills of the former Boilermaker.
Why he will win - Because that's what he does. He wins. More so than pretty much any 170-pound fighter on the planet. The man has only lost to Georges St. Pierre since getting knocked out by Wilson Gouveia, at light heavyweight way back in 2002. He is 22-1-1 overall since then, including a 13-1 run in the UFC. Additionally, we have seen him win the majority of those 13 UFC fights in the exact same fashion we watched BJ Penn lose in his most decisive an humiliating loss. By being a big, strong, true 170-pound fighter with a smothering, controlling, unstoppable top game. Jon Fitch will not be submitted nor will he will be swept. And he has one of the strongest chins in the game. He has made a career out of taking people down, neutralizing their offense, and launching his own. While he is certainly human and "anything can happen in MMA" I find it very hard to believe that Fitch will be caught by BJ's brick-filled 4-ounce gloves. And if he is, I feel like his chin is strong enough to keep Jon awake long enough to put BJ on his black-belted ass. Fitch knows how to avoid the strikes of strikers, take down fighters who have excellent take down defense, and stay out of the submissions of dangerous jiu-jitsu players. He has made a living out of doing this folks, and nothing is going to change on Saturday night.
What to look for - While BJ Penn has one of the most dangerous ground games in MMA, he has never claimed victory by submitting his opponent from his guard. He does have a very active top game, but his bottom game leaves something to be desired. And that's going to be his downfall. He will spend zero time on top of Fitch, and even less time on Fitch's back. But he will be trying to get there. Look for BJ to first come out looking to strike. He's no dummy (when it comes to actually fighting) and he knows Fitch is gonna try to put him on his back. So, BJ is going to try and light Fitch up early, a la Penn vs Hughes 3. Fitch isn't dumb either, he knows Penn is going to try and do this. I feel like Fitch is going to keep his distance early, and look for the first chance to clinch up with Penn. This is where BJ loses the fight. From the clinch, he may try to land a few uppercuts, and he may even land a few, but he will get taken down in the process.
I know that Penn has been training with Hughes, but the Country Boy's wrestling style is quite different from the AKA product's. I don't feel like he will be able to replicate Fitch well enough in training to give BJ good enough practice to stop the takedown of Jon. From here (his back), Penn is going to try his damndest to get his feet on Fitch's hips and sweep. BJ knows he won't be able to submit Fitch off his back, thus he knows his best chance is to sweep or go out the back door to get Fitch's back. The problem here is, in order to sweep, BJ will have to open up his guard. Once he opens up, Fitch will be ready. Look for a pass to side control, half guard, or dare I say it, mount. From here, its vintage Jon Fitch. He will control BJ with strikes and superior positioning, and take the decision. BJ does have the beginning of each round to land that brick-carrying right hand of his, but I feel like round one will be the only round BJ is fresh enough to be quick enough to land it. Look for BJ to be huffing and puffing 4 minutes into the first, and significantly more so each minute after. And look for Fitch to salivate at the sight of a tried, easily taken-down BJ. Sorry folks, Fitch will not be denied his victory.
Prop bet - Over/under for how much time BJ actually spends on his feet in this fight: 45 seconds.
A compelling case, no? The other side of the coin:
Who will win - BJ Penn, despite the size difference and style clash, will win this fight. Penn's win loss numbers as a welterweight aren't impressive but just look at who he fought. Throw in a fight at heavyweight with Lyoto Machida and fighting Rodrigo and Renzo Gracie as a middleweight and I don't see Fitch as being the biggest or strongest guy he has faced. Matt Hughes in his prime was tremendously powerful.
How he will win - Penn will find himself on his back in this fight undoubtedly, but for me the key will be if and when Penn gets Fitch to the ground. Once Penn gets him there he will unload powerful punches while he passes into a dominant position. From there Fitch will give up his back and Penn will wrap up another signature rear naked choke for the win in round two.
Why he will win - Penn will have a significant striking advantage here and Fitch will want no part of it. What Penn can hope for is that Fitch rushes in to clinch and Penn can make him eat big shots on the way in. But what is more likely is Fitch will be on top of BJ and he has an awesome guard that is complimented by his amazing flexibility and technical prowess. There is a reason he had a black belt in only three years, which may be the fastest in the history of jiu-jitsu. This is especially impressive when you consider most guys need nearly a decade to get to that point.
What to look for - There is a back story to look for in this fight however. B.J. Penn and Fitch's coach Dave Camarillo have a storied past. Both Camarillo and Penn studied under Ralph Gracie. They also trained together in the early AKA days and rumor is that during the Joe Stevenson, fight Camarillo shared BJ's tendencies to Marc Laimon. If that is the case I am sure Camarillo is working with Fitch on whatever he knows and remembers from those days. That would be something I am interested in. Also, look for sweeps and transitions you rarely see, such as the Octopus transition Penn used against Hughes, the jailbreak he used against St. Pierre and others like the butterfly guard and lockdown sweeps from the half guard. If he does there will be plenty of FanPosts coming!
Prop bet - Just an entertaining bet for you. I am betting that BJ Penn will either get the first takedown or will be the first guy on top when the fight hits the floor. Whether it comes by way of his own takedown or a switch or a counter to Fitch.
There you have it, Maniacs. A.K hitched his wagon to Fitch while AintNoSunshine is rolling with Penn.
Whose side are you on?