Penn vs. Florian

The main event of UFC 101: Declaration is for the lightweight championship where champion B.J. Penn will face challenger Kenny Florian.

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Penn enters this fight as the favorite at -250 over Florian at +195 according to online sports book SPORTSBETTING. Here is a closer look at both fighters heading into this championship bout.

B.J. Penn (13-5-1 MMA Record):

Strengths: Penn is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and became a world champion just three years into his training. Penn’s amazing flexibility has caused his jiu-jitsu to be the most feared in MMA, as he uses his legs like another set of arms. The flexibility also allows him to defend takedowns and keep himself off his back. In his striking, Penn has one of the fastest jabs in the sport, which he has used to pick apart his opponents. Penn also likes to mix in flying knees for devastating knockouts.

Weaknesses: Penn doesn’t have many weaknesses. The only glaring issue over his career has been his conditioning. In his last fight, a fourth-round loss to welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, Penn was unable to continue for the fifth round. In all of Penn’s losses in the UFC, conditioning has seemed to be the key factor. For this fight with Florian, Penn hired Marv Marinovich to be his new strength and conditioning coach. Marinovich is known for how hard he pushed his son, former USC and NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich, during his youth. Penn says he is now in the best shape of his life.

Last Five Fights:

Fourth round TKO loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 on Jan. 31, 2009

Third round TKO win over Sean Sherk at UFC 84 on May 24, 2008

Second round submission win over Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 on Jan. 19, 2008

Second round submission win over Jens Pulver at TUF 5 Finale on June 23, 2007

Third round TKO loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 63 on Sept. 23, 2006

 

Kenny Florian (11-3 MMA Record):

Strengths: Florian is also a jiu-jitsu black belt with ever improving Muay Thai striking skills. Seven of Florian’s 11 professional wins come by submission. Florian also has sharp elbows that can create nasty cuts, which have stopped fights in the past, giving Florian a TKO victory. In his previous lightweight title fight against Sean Sherk at UFC 64, Florian opened a large wound on Sherk’s forehead that bled for four rounds, but wasn’t enough to earn a stoppage. Florian is also a very cerebral fighter that has a strong game plan for each fight he is in. Strategy is always important in a title fight, and Florian will be looking to put himself in the best position to win.

Weaknesses: While Florian has jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, he has not shown the ability to defend takedowns from larger fighters. Sherk controlled Florian for 25 minutes at UFC 64, and Penn has the ability to score takedowns if he chooses to go for them. While Florian has improved striking, his speed will not match that of Penn’s. Florian can’t afford to get into a boxing match with Penn if he wants to be the new champion.

Last Five Fights:

First round submission win over Joe Stevenson at UFC 91 on Nov. 15, 2008

Unanimous decision win over Roger Huerta at UFC 87 on Aug. 9, 2008

Second round TKO win over Joe Lauzon at Ultimate Fight Night 13 on April 2, 2008

First round submission win over Din Thomas at Ultimate Fight Night 11 on Sept. 19, 2007

First round submission win over Alvin Robinson at UFC 73 on July 7, 2007.

 

Who will win: Florian is clearly the top contender for Penn’s title, but Penn is still clearly the better fighter in nearly every aspect of MMA. As of late Penn has still seemed distracted by his last loss to St. Pierre, but that can also be motivation for the Hawaiian, who will be eager to put that loss to rest. I see Florian being a game challenger, but ultimately Penn’s speed and flexibility will allow him to score a submission by choke in the third or fourth round.

Additional Line: Over/Under 2.5 rounds for the fight. Over (-160), Under (+120)

UFC 101 takes place from the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Penn on Saturday, Aug. 8.

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Posted: 8/07/09 1:02PM ET

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