The Juice Bloggers
By: Fred Panopio
It’s usually said that the last one to know when an athlete’s career is over is the athlete himself. Sadly, proof of this might once again be seen on UFC 152. Recently, retired former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight champ BJ “The Prodigy” Penn, arguably one of the best Mixed Martial Artists to ever step inside the octagon, accepted the challenge of up-and-coming MMA star Rory MacDonald.
I’ve been a fan of The Prodigy ever since he started his career. Back when BJJ reigned supreme in MMA, his reputation as the first non-Brazilian winner of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships gave him mystique and a fierce reputation. He was among the first batch of MMA stars who had an all-around game. While it’s true that he started as a grappler, he eventually developed excellent boxing skills, making his stand-up something to be feared as well. His epic battles with the likes of Matt Hughes, George St. Pierre, Frankie Edgar, and Joe Stevenson proved that he had the heart as much as the technique. Even UFC head honcho Dana White himself considers BJ one of the most gifted fighters in the UFC.
However, no man is truly invincible. Throughout his stellar career, BJ was always criticized for slacking off too much during training and for relying only on his natural ability. While he, of course, believes otherwise, his lack of endurance against tireless opponents like GSP and Nick Diaz prove otherwise.
Meanwhile, newcomer Rory MacDonald is a fighter; I took note off just recently. I saw him for the first time in UFC 145 where he fought against, and totally annihilated, Che Mills. I really didn’t see anything special at first and wouldn’t have given him a second look if it weren’t for his corner man, who happened to be GSP! As the fight started, his stoic demeanor and unique stance (he stands like a Kyokushin guy, unlike the more common Muay Thai) set him apart. As the fight went on, he dismantled Che Mills, who is not a push-over, both standing and on the ground. Later, Mike Goldberg would mention that GSP himself said that Rory is the UFC’s next GSP. From what I saw of his performance and what I researched about him afterwards, that statement might not be too much of an exaggeration.
Nonetheless, I remain a loyal fan of the Prodigy. And it’s because I am such a fan that I hope he stays retired, or at least finds an easier (or older) opponent. I agree that MMA is such a complex sport that anything can happen, and veterans can still win against fighters in their prime (e.g. Randy Couture v. Vitor Belfort). However, also believe that the younger fighter always has the advantage -- which is why it is such a treat when we see an upset. This coupled with BJ’s fighting style, which is not known for grit and endurance, makes me think that not only will he lose, but that he might get dominated in much the same way he (BJ Penn) did to Matt Hughes a while back.
What do you guys think?