Tonight (July 6, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn will go to battle in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 Finale, airing live on FOX Sports 1 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
No. 3-ranked Edgar was last seen defeating a game Charles Oliveira at UFC 162. The former lightweight champion has lost some heartbreaking decisions in recent years, most notably against fellow former 155-pound champion Benson Henderson.
Never on to give up, "The Answer" is looking to crawl his way back to another title shot by thrice defeating Penn, this time at 145 pounds.
"The Prodigy" has been out of action since his one-sided loss to much bigger welterweight Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5 in December 2012. The legendary former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion will make his debut at 145 pounds in an effort to finally beat the man who took his 155-pound title in 2010 and sealed the deal with a more decisive victory later that year.
There's no doubt that Penn is one of the most accredited fighters to ever step into a mixed martial arts (MMA) cage, but Dana White said he may push "The Prodigy" to retire if he loses for the fifth time in six bouts this Sunday.
After a coaching stint opposite Edgar on TUF 19, this could be the last time we ever see Penn in the Octagon, meaning high stakes will be on the line.
If the oddsmakers' predictions are any indication, he doesn't have much of a chance against Edgar. But we all know you can never count out "The Prodigy," so let's take a look at the keys to victory for Edgar vs. Penn:
Record: 16-4-1 overall, 10-4-1 UFC
Key Wins: BJ Penn (UFC 112, UFC 118), Gray Maynard (UFC 136), Sean Sherk (UFC 98)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 156), Benson Henderson (UFC 144, UFC 150), Gray Maynard (UFC Fight Night 13)
Keys to Victory: Edgar has made a career out of being an ultra-durable, well-rounded opponent who never quits. He's going to push an insane pace for five rounds if need be, and he already has the experience of beating Penn not once but twice.
"The Answer" was an NCAA All-American wrestler at Clarion University, something that will help immensely against all world Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Penn. Edgar has also never been finished, a testament to his iron chin and top-level submission defense.
But there's a flip side to his fighting style, and it definitely hasn't done him any favors in recent years. His point scoring style is tailor-made for his skillset, yet it more often than not leaves his bouts in the hands of the judges, and that has lead to some extremely close and controversial calls throughout his career.
Edgar is looking to fight his way back to another featherweight title shot, but that's going to be hard to attain with another ho-hum decision.
Edgar hasn't finished a fight since he destroyed arch nemesis Gray Maynard at UFC 136 in October 2011. It will be next to impossible to submit Penn, but he has been finished by strikes twice.
Edgar has all the tools to put on a statement performance. If he wants to fight for gold anytime soon, he's going to have to capitalize on them.
Still, this if his fight to lose on paper, and he should be able to lock up a third win over Penn by using his breakneck pace and defensive wrestling.
Record: 16-9-2 overall, 12-8-2 UFC
Key Wins: Matt Hughes (UFC 46, UFC 123), Jens Pulver (TUF 5 Finale), Joe Stevenson (UFC 80), Sean Sherk (UFC 84), Kenny Florian (UFC 101), Diego Sanchez (UFC 107), Renzo Gracie (K-1 Grand Prix: Hawaii)
Key Losses: Georges St. Pierre (UFC 58, UFC 94), Frankie Edgar (UFC 112, UFC 118), Matt Hughes (UFC 63), Lyoto Machida (K-1: Hero's 1), Nick Diaz (UFC 137), Rory MacDonald (UFC on FOX 5)
Keys to Victory: After nearly 19 months on the sidelines, Penn is a huge question mark. There's no doubt he's one of the legends of MMA, but his overall motivation to continue fighting may be in question.
However, the one opponent he's hell-bent on getting revenge against is Edgar. After winning world titles at lightweight and welterweight, he was willing to cut down to featherweight to fight "The Answer" for a third time, so he should show up in shape.
If not, he's going to be in for a beating.
Penn has struggled with his weight cut down to 155 pounds in the past; making 145 could be very problematic if his focus is not one hundred percent on point.
Even if it is, Penn will be fighting an uphill battle. He has to reinvent himself at a new weight class to beat an opponent he's already lost to twice, no easy task to be certain.
To get the job done, Penn should be looking to utilize his boxing skills to outscore Edgar on the feet. Hopefully he's worked on his striking speed, because Edgar beat him to the punch during their last meeting in 2010.
If the fight hits the mat, Penn always has his decorated black belt-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree, which he parlayed into a 2000 World Championship.
But Edgar trains with renowned mat wizard Renzo Gracie and will be extremely tough to submit. That means Penn has to show up ready to win a war.
Two hard rounds won't get the job done against Edgar.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's going to show us if Penn can continue fighting in the Octagon or not. With his retirement most likely looming should he lose, this is one of the most pivotal bouts of his storied career, and that's saying a lot.
If he can cut down to featherweight and shock the world by avenging two prior losses to Edgar, an unlikely title run at 145 pounds could be at hand. But the division is just too packed with younger and hungrier competitors right now, so that's going to be a long shot at best.
As much as Penn has to prove, Edgar may have even more, but for different reasons. He's failed to rise to the occasion in big bouts, and his style is forcing judges to play guessing games after his fights. That's never a good position to be in, so as effective as Edgar has been, he probably needs to turn up his aggression level a bit.
That could get him into trouble against Penn, but fighting safe and winning a split decision will not get him the title shot he wants.
It was a bit of a strange booking to see a highly-ranked competitor like Edgar sign on to face an unranked fighter like Penn. Obviously there's a ton of history here, and we're going to see how much "The Prodigy" has left in the tank.
At 32 years old, Edgar still has time to win a belt, but he has to get to work soon.
There's a ton at stake here for both fighters, meaning this one should be war. Given the toughness of both combatants, a finish should be unlikely, but you never know. Enjoy the fight.
BJ Penn will attempt to make 145 pounds for the first time in an effort to avenge two prior losses to Frankie Edgar. Will ‘The Prodigy' somehow score a huge upset as a massive underdog, or will Edgar ‘Answer' the question marks about his fighting style? Get full results and live play-by-play RIGHT HERE to find out!