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UFC 107: Penn vs Sanchez
December 12, 2009 7 GMT
B J Penn vs Diego Sanchez
UFC Betting Pick: BJ Penn (-270)
Lightweight Championship bout: BJ "The Prodigy" Penn (-270) vs. Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (+230)
Without a doubt, BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (14-5) is the best 155 pound fighter in the world and there is scarcely anyone in this division that can touch him, however, Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (25-2) is not your average 155 pound fighter.
It may be surprising to most that Sanchez has been chosen to beat Penn, but Penn has been known to have problems with larger fighters as well as guys who like to press the action. This, along with the +220 online sports betting odds, leads me to lay my money on the underdog in this fight.
Diego is a slightly better wrestler than Penn and he has better striking skills but the determining factor as to why he will be victorious is in the pace this fight will take. Sanchez has been known to push the fight and pressure his opponents whereas Penn, who likes to be in control, tends to lose his composure when his adversary dictates the pace. He has never been one to train very hard and if an opponent could pressure him early in the first couple of rounds he will tend to gas by round three.
Sanchez is always in good form and will pressure Penn from the start. He will push Penn with his aggressive pressure and confuse him with his strikes and kicks. By the end of the second round Penn will be exhausted trying to keep up with Sanchez. When Penn faced Matt Hughes at UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn, he was dominating for a while, but by round three he was done and all Hughes needed to do was turn it up. In his last battle with George St Pierre, UFC 94: St Pierre vs. Penn 2, the pace of the fight threw Penn off his game and by round four he could not continue. If Sanchez can push the pace he will wear Penn out and take the fight in the latter rounds.
Penn is also known to have difficulties with fighters that are bigger and stronger than himself—he lost Hughes as well as to St Pierre, twice. In all three instances not only was the pace of the fight not of his choosing, he was also the smaller guy in the octagon. Sanchez is a big 155 pound fighter. He is normally a welterweight and could even fight at middleweight if he chose to do so. He will cut a lot of weight coming into this fight and even after this, he will be most likely be at 170 pounds on fight day--he will definitely be the much larger and more powerful fighter which will adversely affect Penn’s game.
When it comes to grappling one would think Penn is the better fighter and though he is, he is not as good as most people tend to believe. At seventeen years of age, he was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and eventually trained with with Ralph Gracie with whom he earned his purple belt. Soon after he moved to Nova União where in time, he was awarded his his black from Andre Pederneiras. A few weeks after obtaining his black belt Penn became the first non-Brazilian to win the black-belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While most people need a decade or more to become a black belt, Penn was able to do it in three years. Penn is known for his jiu-jitsu but if one was to examine his record in MMA all his wins are by rear naked choke.
Sanchez however, is no slouch on the ground. His no gi game is very good and he has even competed at the ADCC 2005 Absolute Division championships. The Abu Dhabi is the most prestigious grappling tournament in the world—an event which Penn has yet to compete. Though Sanchez won his first fight, he lost his second to Marcelo Garcia who is considered to be one of the best grapplers in the world and despite never using a gi in grappling previously, Sanchez had a very tight grappling game. In 2005, Sanchez wrestled for his high school in New Mexico before beginning his MMA training at Jackson's Submission Fighting with Greg Jackson who is considered to be amongst the best MMA trainers in the world.
Unlike most MMA fighters, Sanchez is constantly improving himself. He began his training with the gi with some the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world—Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. Though he started from the bottom of the class with a white belt, Sanchez was able to work his way up and obtain his black belt in two years—a testament to his character as not many MMA fighters would be willing to start where he did.
When it comes to striking, one would have to give Sanchez a slight edge as he has the reach and power advantage. He is the bigger fighter and can push off and jab his punches without Penn getting close enough to cause any damage. Technically Penn is the better striker with better fundamentals but he will be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of strikes being dished out by Sanchez and frustrated by his inability to get in close without getting hit.
Sanchez also has the advantage when it comes to kicking. He is a black belt in Gaidojutsu, a fighting system from Albuquerque, New Mexico developed by Greg Jackson and taught at his training facility. Though he is no longer with Jackson, Sanchez was able to learn the fundamentals of Gaidojutsu and apply them to MMA. Penn on the other hand has stated that he dislikes kicking and never kicks in a fight—though he likes to check kicks, he never throws them. If Sanchez can establish a kicking game he will be able to hurt Penn with upper and lower leg kicks.
Bottom Line: Diego Sanchez was a format member of the Greg Jackson team, who was in the corner of George St Pierre when he faced off against Penn. In all likelihood Sanchez will fight a similar game plan as St Pierre. Sanchez will be prepared for his meeting with Penn in the octagon and I believe he is set to shock many.
I like the fact that Sanchez is the bigger, stronger and more aggressive fighter. These are the three factors that Penn has had trouble with in the past. In terms of UFC sports betting, the +220 betting odds are perfect and I would lay a small amount on the money line for Diego to win this fight. I do not believe Diego has the power to knock out Penn or the grappling skill necessary to submit him, however, he does have the power and strength to win the stand up and get the take down points.
He also has the skill in top position to have an effective ground and pound. If he is gets into Penn’s guard Sanchez will do as St Pierre did, which is use his size and power to punish Penn and the Ribeiro’s have shown him how to fight effectively in the guard. If Sanchez stays in the top position he can control the ground game but if Penn is on to it, it will be game over, however, Penn will have a difficult time getting top position or taking Sanchez’s back as Sanchez is the bigger, stronger fighter.
I do not believe Sanchez has the skills to take Penn but he does have the stamina and power to hurt him and bring this fight late into the round. By the forth Penn will be gassed and Sanchez will be able to take over. The best bet is a UFC prop bet for Sanchez to win by decision. Sanchez will hurt and confuse Penn with his strikes and kicks and Penn will not be able to close the distance of his smaller stature. In facing Sanchez Penn has a lot to look out for such as strikes, kicks, takedowns and the ground and pound while Sanchez only has to worry about not giving up his back or being on the bottom.
Look for Diego Sanchez to be the New UFC Lightweight Champion with a Split Decision