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B.J. Penn at his peak was an otherworldly talent, but his inability to adapt and lack of attention to detail left observers to wonder how much more he might have accomplished under optimal circumstances.
Despite his mediocre 16-14-2 record, “The Prodigy” will almost certainly go down as on of the all-time greats, especially by those who witnessed his exploits when he was at the height of his powers. Penn was the second competitor in Ultimate Fighting Championship history—Randy Couture was the first—to capture titles in multiple weight classes. He excelled most as a lightweight, with signature wins over Takanori Gomi, Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. However, Penn’s desire to big-game hunt—he once fought Lyoto Machida as a 191-pound heavyweight—created instability in his career and turned him into something of a vagabond at various points. The latter stages of his run have been marked by one defeat after another and concerning run-ins with the law that led many to surmise that the once-beloved Hawaiian was on a path of self-destruction.
Nearly a year removed from Penn’s last appearance in the Octagon, here are some of the numbers that have come to define him:
41: Years of age. Penn was born on Dec. 13, 1978 in Kailua, Hawaii.
919: Days as a UFC champion. Penn held the welterweight crown from Jan. 31, 2004 to May 17, 2004 and the lightweight title from Jan. 19, 2008 to April 10, 2010. He remains the only fighter in UFC history to strike gold in both the 155- and 170-pound weight classes.
6: Wins over former UFC or Pride Fighting Championships titleholders. Penn defeated Gomi, Sherk, Matt Serra, Jens Pulver and Matt Hughes (twice).
122: Significant strikes landed against Sherk in a successful title defense at UFC 84. It was a career-high for Penn, who stopped “The Muscle Shark” with a flying knee at the end of the third round.
8: Losses to former UFC champions, accounting for more than half of Penn’s professional total. He lost to three times to Frankie Edgar, twice to George St. Pierre and once each to Pulver, Machida and Hughes. Three of his six other setbacks resulted from encounters with former Bellator MMA or Strikeforce titleholders: Nick Diaz, Rory MacDonald and Clay Guida.
11: Seconds needed to vanquish former Shooto champion Caol Uno with punches at UFC 34 in 2001. It was the fastest finish of Penn’s career.
6: Wins by submission on his resume. Penn closed out five fights with rear-naked chokes and another with an arm-triangle.
2: Draws on Penn’s ledger. He fought to contentious stalemates with Uno at UFC 41 and Jon Fitch at UFC 127.
1: Loss by submission. A longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Penn tapped to a heel hook from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 22 winner Ryan Hall at UFC 232.
628: Significant strikes absorbed—including 178 from Diaz in the UFC 137 headliner—over his last seven appearances, all of them losses. Penn offered just 253 such strikes in return.
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