Continuing a topic from last weeks "Ultimate Submissions," we are here once again to both highlight and appreciate one of the best mixed martial artists to ever grace the sport.
B.J. Penn has displayed and showcased his elite skill throughout his career winning titles at multiple weight classes, competing against the best the sport has to offer and laying down a blue print for fighters to follow in his footsteps.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Penn has developed a wicked boxing arsenal to compliment his takedowns and vast grappling advantages. He has truly been a shining example to never settle for just one discipline.
While most will remember Penn for what he did inside the Octagon, a lot of Penn’s legacy will remain outside Zuffa’s umbrella.
For more of the in depth grappling wizardry of B.J. Penn follow me after the jump.
Riding off the momentum of a huge submission win over top ranked Takanori Gomi, Penn would make his return to the UFC in Jan. 2004. The last fight in the UFC for Penn was at lightweight, where he would be left in limbo after a draw with Caol Uno freezing up the lightweight title.
Upon his return, Penn was much heavier than his last appearance, competing at welterweight and awarded an immediate title shot against UFC poster boy and division king Matt Hughes. Penn would enter the bout at 7-1-1, while the heavily favored Hughes would bring his 35-4 record -- and riding a 13-fight win streak -- into the cage with him.
The fight went down much differently than many expected.
Before we start, let me first give a thank you to Zombie Prophet for the .gifs. Check out his site (Ironforgesiron.com) -- he has .gifs and videos of fights up faster than anyone else on the net.
The much more technically crisp striker, Penn immediately swarms and overwhelms the champion. After a brief exchange Penn is able to drag Hughes down and looks to gain dominant position however Hughes spins perfectly and ends up with Penn in his guard.
What many people often forget is how good of a grappler Hughes is as well. While never achieving any belts in the jiu-jitsu systems, he has competed in Abu Dhabi where he defeated Ricardo Almeida and his losses came to Tito Ortiz and Jeff Monson, both of which are enormous in comparison.
What is important to notice in this fight is that Penn went right after Hughes. He put the pressure on him immediately and forced him to succumb to his will and aggression. He gained top position on a wrestler and immediately began to work from his guard.
With top control so advantageous over a wrestler, Penn works diligently to maintain his position. He lands some ground and pound while working to advance past Hughes' guard.
Hughes is often regarded as being one of the most powerful mixed martial artists in comparison to fighters in the divisions they belong to. Penn worked a strategy to neutralize that strength in keeping Hughes on his back. From that position, Hughes was not able to work takedowns or grind the fight into the cage as he's become so adept at doing. Penn took away the danger from being underneath Hughes, who also had highly respected ground and pound.
Penn actually almost achieves side mount on Hughes before a slight scramble with the legs of both fighters leads to Penn settling for a simple half guard. Regardless, Penn is in control and implementing a masterful gameplan.
From the half guard position, Penn quickly uses his right leg to apply pressure down on Hughes’ left calf, allowing Penn to slightly straighten the leg and quickly throw the right leg up and over going straight into the mounted position.
As soon as Penn slides up into mount, Hughes rolls and gives up his back. Penn, with his flawless execution, immediately uses his flexibility to slip the hooks in, controlling the bottom half of Hughes. Penn then establishes his dominance with ground and pound to truly prevent Hughes from defending the position and escaping.
After being peppered with strikes, Hughes leans up to grab Penn’s ankle. Why? Maybe to work a foot lock to help a scramble or simply to unwrap a hook to get some space to spin into Penn’s guard. Either way, it doesn’t work, as he leaves just one arm to defend both of Penn’s. "The Prodigy" capitalizes and wraps up the rear-naked choke.
As soon as Penn gets underneath Hughes' chin, he extends out his legs and pulls deep on the choke, Hughes has little hope other then to tap out or go unconscious. Penn would capture the UFC welterweight title with this victory, becoming a two division champion and solidifying his legacy as one of the all-time greats.
Photo via Zuffa