Monday Morning Hangover: BJ Penn's UFC retirement cements change in MMA landscape

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After an action-packed UFC 175 and Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 Finale event over the weekend (Sat., July 5 and Sun., July 6, 2014) in Las Vegas, Nevada, plenty of fighters are still feeling the buzz; however, B.J. Penn is likely suffering from the worst post-fight hangover after losing to Frankie Edgar for the third time in the main event of the TUF 19 Finale, forcing him to retire.

Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) capped off International Fight Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, by staging two live events on back-to-back nights with UFC 175 (July 5) and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 Finale (July 6), both at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Plenty of fighters were left licking their wounds, including Alexis Davis -- who was absolutely obliterated by women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in 16 seconds at UFC 175 (recap) -- and Lyoto Machida -- who failed to dethrone middleweight champion Chris Weidman on the same card (video).

But, which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover now less than 24 hours removed from an action-packed weekend?

B.J. Penn.

Most fight fans were caught off guard when UFC announced that "The Prodigy" would return to the Octagon after a 19-month layoff to challenge a man who had defeated him twice before in Frankie Edgar, this time in the featherweight division. A head scratcher? Yes, for most, but not for Penn, who truly felt he had the tools to beat "The Answer."

Not so.

If the previous two outcomes at UFC 112 and UFC 118 left even the tiniest shred of doubt as to who truly was the best fighter, Edgar made sure to erase it, as he absolutely dominated "Baby J" from the opening bell, before forcing a referee stoppage in the third round; leaving the legend battered, bruised and bloodied.

The victory that not only put the final nail in the coffin of their rivalry, but did the same to the career of one the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in the history of the sport, as "The Prodigy" admitted that coming back one more time was a mistake.

A disappointed Penn called it an end to his illustrious 14-year career which saw him capture titles in two different divisions (170 and 155 pounds). Along the way, he carved unforgettable memories in the minds of millions who will always remember Penn as a fighter who truly never backed down.

But as Penn alluded to in his speech, Frankie, much like the younger fighters of today, are at a different level.

He's right.

While some may have a hard time swallowing Penn's loss and retirement, it's mere proof that, just like Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson, Josh Koscheck vs. Matt Hughes and in a sense, Johny Hendricks vs. Georges St-Pierre did; times have changed in MMA.

Gone are the days when longtime veterans and legends dominate the sport.

A changing of the guard has been occurring before our very eyes over the last few years, some (admittedly, myself) simply didn't want to accept that the champions of yesteryear could no longer keep up with the younger fighters of today.

Though there is one seasoned vet who is hell bent on keeping a flicker of light glaring for the old guard, it's a vicious cycle that will always exist, and rest assured that Cormier, Weidman, and Edgar will one day fall victim to it, as well.

Despite the loss, Penn should hold his head high as a pioneer of the sport. He was there before the big paychecks, blue-chip sponsors, and world-wide exposure ever existed. From featherweight to heavyweight, B.J. took on all comers because he's a fighter.

It's what warriors do.

It's just a very tough pill to swallow to see one of the greats lose the way Penn did. It makes it a bit harder knowing that last night was the final time we would ever get the privilege to see a true legend compete inside the Octagon.

Even though we can all agree it's for the best.

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