Penn Returns in the Thick of it Against Lamas
BJ Penn is not one for the safe route. Just ask any UFC betting fan.
The 37-year-old UFC Hall of Fame inductee was set to make his octagon return at UFC 197, only to have bouts with Dennis Siver and Cole Miller cancelled and Penn eventually pulled from the card. Now having waited, the former two-division champ is not tiptoeing. His return opponent, atop a UFC Fight Pass exclusive event from Manila, is 34-year-old Ricardo Lamas. The card is set to be rescheduled.
Without a bout in twenty eight months, or a win since November 2010, the fifth degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt bustles back into the octagon against a strong, physical contender in Lamas, who recently challenged for a title and is in the hunt for a major opportunity.
#5 ranked featherweight Lamas has lost two of three against Max Holloway and Chad Mendes. He narrowly falls short of elite but is still fine at scoring takedowns, wearing guys out, and breaking their spirit. Penn, once known for his high energy and zealous assault, has become tempered with age.
Fighting at a trim 145-lbs, he's lighter than the days at which he bested fellow legends of the sport Caol Uno, Matt Serra, Sean Sherk, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, and Kenny Florian to the delight of UFC betting fans. The struggle in that is keeping up with the other guys.
Lamas, known as "The Bully" for his rough infighting and ground game, comes in with good enough stamina and consistency to drive his opponent back and keep scoring takedowns round after round. That doesn't label him an automatic winner though; against an unpredictable fighter and transcendent competitor in Penn.
With that said, Penn is run down with mileage at 37, even if Lamas, who is 7-3 and hasn't been stopped since 2010, is just three years younger. Many wonder if Penn can still articulate the sudden, vicious attacks of his prime, which saw him secure finishes in each round possible at least once.
This match up looks to be a good measuring stick. It holds little at stake for either man long-term, with Lamas pardoned for being beaten by a legend or Penn being too far past it to deal with the speed and aggression of a top featherweight. But a win for Penn puts him in a position to be a serious force after a much needed respite from fighting.
With Lamas a heavy favorite among UFC betting fans, the question is this for bettors -- do you believe in "The Prodigy" having a full enough tank to grind out at least one more win?
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Kyoji Horiguchi def. Ali Bagautinov by unanimous decision (Karate black belt and A-Class Shooto practitioner Horiguchi's speed, timing, and unpredictability frustrate a tough Russian sambist in Bagautinov. Horiguchi poses a tricky style for any fighter to deal with for fifteen minutes.)
Cole Miller def. Mizuto Hirota by submission (This fight is pretty easy to break down. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Cole Miller will have a huge advantage on the ground. Former DEEP champion Hirota will possess all of the flare on the feet, thoug. I think the Japanese veteran tries to make a statement early, gets over-aggressive, and caught in a sub.)
Danielle Taylor def. Seo Hee Ham by unanimous decision (Ham could very well outpace Taylor, but I think the American manages to plant the Korean on her back and do some effective ground work to take the unanimous decision.)
James Moontasri def. Alex Morono by TKO (Morono looked good in his octagon debut, outstriking Kyle Noke. This is a great match-up between two aspiring contenders. I think Moontasri, who has a black belt in Muay Thai, hits a bit harder and will manage to catch the up-and-comer early.)
Alex Volkanovski def. Jon Tuck by TKO (Volkanovski makes his octagon debut as perhaps the biggest prospect in Australian MMA. He has fought solid competition on the regional scene and hasn't gone the distance since 2014; nor has he lost since May 2013. It's a gamble picking against a high-level BJJ grappler like Tuck.) Check the sportsbook for current odds.
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