B.J. Penn file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
A marathon of August MMA finally hits its closing note come Saturday with UFC 118 “Edgar vs. Penn 2.” Airing live on pay-per-view from Boston’s TD Garden, this show marks the UFC’s first venture into the state of Massachusetts since winning a long battle for sanctioning.
With the aforementioned UFC lightweight title rematch between Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn headlining the bill, mandatory viewing laws should be enforced. Backing up that hotly anticipated dustup is a No. 1 contender’s match in the same division as well as the Octagon debut of soon to be grappling dummy James Toney.
I’m not going to wrench your arm into watching these fights, though. I’ll let your friends, family members and loved ones handle that -- Little Suzie is money with the octopus guard.
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Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn
Unlike the cast of “Jersey Shore,” reigning UFC lightweight champion Edgar is actually from the shore and appears to have a brain that evolved past the reptilian stage. He’ll need every bit of brainpower he can muster to repeat the feat he pulled off at UFC 112 -- defeating the previously unstoppable lightweight virtuoso Penn.
In fairness to Penn, the five-round decision he dropped to Edgar was poorly judged and an example of how effective counterpunching is often ignored in favor of striking volume. “The Answer” would do well keeping to the stick-and-move strategy he worked against Penn since his speed advantage allows him to move in and out while avoiding any fight-altering counterpunches. The only problem is that he’ll still be living dangerously thanks to Penn’s marked power advantage.
Whether or not Penn can land the clean power strikes he caught the likes of Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez with is the definitive question going into this rematch. The first bout established that Edgar is not going to get Penn down and keep him there. He has no choice but to play his speed against the Hawaiian’s power. While the speed advantage will undoubtedly still be there for Edgar, he can’t bank on Penn giving in to the temptation of lethargy for long stretches.
He also can’t expect Penn to keep his bone-chilling grappling skills on the shelf all over again. While Edgar does have solid wrestling skills, his undersized frame and iffy defensive wrestling from the clinch is worrying should Penn pursue a takedown. If “The Prodigy” shoots, he’ll get pancaked all day, but a clinch tie-up favors Penn’s size, balance and underrated dirty boxing skills.
Basically, this fight hinges on whether or not Penn fights the fight Edgar wants. Another five-round straight boxing match does not favor his patient, counterpunching style -- at least not in the eyes of judges dazzled by CompuStrike stats. However, assuming the same approach from Penn, a fighter who effortlessly dismantled all comers up until Edgar, is far too dismissive a stance given his intense desire for greatness.
Another spirited performance from Edgar should be expected, but the best version of Edgar does not beat an on-point Penn. The rematch should unfold in the same fashion I expected the original to play out -- with Edgar putting up unflinching resistance but eventually losing to a more skilled opponent. A level change counter to Edgar’s charging combinations is the move to wait on. Once it materializes, the timer on his title reign will turn into a Doomsday clock.