During the Ultimate Fighter 4 live finale show last night on Spike TV, it was announced so "matter-of-fact" that former UFC Welterweight (170 lb.) champion - B.J. Penn will be returning to the Lightweight (155 lb.) division that was recently revived by the company.
No announcement was made as to when Penn would make his Lightweight return (Penn had fought and made his mark in UFC only as a Lightweight, until moving up a class after a draw in a 155 lb. title fight - which was against Hughes. In his debut at a higher weight, Penn ended Hughes' reign, winning the belt in the first round via submission and left the company without defending the title).
One would assume it wouldn't be long for Penn to see current champion (and second in history, with Jens Pulver being the only other) of the division Sean Sherk, also a more natural 155 lb. guy who fought and made his mark up at 170 lbs., as he tends to only agree to "big-time" fights, across the octagon from him with pay-per view or television cameras present.
While some would confuse "big-time" as the best opposition available, by "big-time," Penn is like a more active and modern day Frank Shamrock. He's only interested in fights where it's going to be a big deal wherever it's held, and do big business - all the while feeding the enormous reputation of hiself as a fighter, which prior to is already acknowledged by tons of fans for past accomplishments. And the fight that will do the big business may not always be the most logical fight from a style or competitiveness standpoint, but if it will get attention and afterwards leave an impression, but as said - will still be considered a "big-time" fight based on criteria that matter. Best recent example of that would be the ratings and money drawn from the third fight between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock.
Time will tell when, where and whom Mr. Penn will see someone across the octagon from him that is naturally in the same weight class, meaning he's about to compete in a fight against someone he doesn't have any extreme physical disadvantages with. He isn't naturally smaller or just natural with his opponent cutting down to make said natural weight as he has been the past few years. No, now he's fighting someone that is fighting - in the UFC at least, at the division where physically they are as big as they can be for a sanctioned fight - unless they are naturally smaller and come in physically inferior to make the 155 lb. weight. It's been nearly four years since you could say that about B.J. Penn.
For a fun little side-bar, that last fight at 155 lbs. was a one-sided dominating performance by Penn over current universally ranked number one 155 lb. fighter and current PRIDE Lightweight champion - Takanori Gomi. Penn was in complete control of the fight for the entire two-plus rounds, doing whatever he wanted - whenever he wanted, before ultimately ending the bout inside the third round by rear naked choke submission.
The last guy with all this commotion coming into the actual revived UFC Lightweight division, with the commotion being based strictly on past accolades, was until after his returning loss the only main to lay claim to holding a title in that weight class. His name? "Little Evil" Jens Pulver. Being fed what was considered to be going in, and still considered overall coming out - a stepping-stone type fight... a fight to make Pulver look good in front of today's much larger audience, after much hype on the UFC PPV Countdown shows, Pulver lost. Not just lost, but quite quickly into the first round of the fight just described, Pulver - an experience striker, was finished quickly with strikes by a very young and less experienced non-striker (pro-submission) fighter, in the UFC debuting Joe Lauzon.
B.J. Penn, when expected to do big things - much liker Pulver back during the build up of their title fight at 155 lbs., the last defense of Pulver's reign, can't seem to seal the deal. "But he beat Hughes for a title one class above his own weight class." I know. I said when he's expected to. What was his last UFC title shot where he was expected to win? Caol Uno - draw. No belt. The other UFC title shot Penn had aside from the Hughes victory at 170 lbs. was against Jens Pulver. Despite being a several time defending champion - let alone the only champion of that division at that point in the history of UFC, and despite the fact Penn came into the fight with only three pro MMA fights - all wins - all in the UFC, Penn was almost unanimously favored to win the bout and capture the belt. What happened? He came up short and was delivered his first - and to this day one of very few - tastes of defeat.
So when B.J. Penn steps back in at 155 lbs., whether it's an immediate title bout (as he received when switching weight classes in UFC the last time, and shockingly won) or one of the eery pre-referenced "stepping-stone" type fights that a guy with a scary-similar set of circmstances just recently got the shorter end of. Regardless, also like his predecessor who recently re-appeared at 155 lbs. in the UFC - despite past contract disputes during a championship reign, the expectations are so big for Penn - despite being unproven at Lightweight recently. Let alone fighting several bouts including two title matches at the division previously in the company and never being able to lay-claim to the 155 lb. championship.
No matter what the case may be, B.J. Penn returning to fight at his natural weight class (natural as in most beneficial to him, that's at the same time possible to reach without too much trouble) adds a lot more legitimacy after the company set up a situation where a second-ever champion was to be crowned, where neither guy in the title bout had proven himself as a top Lightweight yet.
Have no fear 155 lb. division, the guy who not too long ago was considered one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world, and was until tonight's weight class change announcement a top three Welterweight, is coming home - and seeing if the champion at his old home is as deserving as he should be to walk around with that large ass gold belt.
Oh yeah, The Ultimate Fighter 5 is back and was confirmed tonight during the live finale broadcast as being an-all Lightweight (155 lb.) show. The old rumor was UFC was trying to get the absolute best 155 lb. talent they could get, despite who they fight for currently, with Jens Pulver (after his expected showcase win over Lauzon in his UFC comeback went the opposite way) to become the face of the division through being a coach on the show.
It seems like the Pulver comeback loss changed that and since the first choice as best representation from the original 155 lb. days in UFC didn't work out, the company went to plan B. He's a former dominant fighter from the division who has looked very impressive - despite losing, to two of the best and more recognized fighters one weight class north. B.J. Penn.
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