UFC 123: BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes 3 Prediction

UFC Welterweight bout:  B.J. Penn vs. Matt Hughes

Odds:  (-180 Penn / +150 Hughes )

Betting Pick:  BJ Penn

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The co-main event is a very interesting rubber match between two former Welterweight Champions. B.J. Penn, coming off two straight losses to Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, returns to the Welterweight division to face off with Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, who Penn beat for the Welterweight title all the way back in 2004. Hughes, who defeated Penn by TKO in their 2006 rematch, is coming off three straight wins, including a very impressive submission victory over black belt Ricardo Almeida.

Matt Hughes is clearly one of the most legendary fighters in UFC history. A dominant wrestler with great ground and pound and very underrated jiu-jitsu, Hughes had a stranglehold on the Welterweight title for years. Even now, with his career winding down, he has some of the most dominant takedowns in the sport and his submission game, as he showed against Ricardo Almeida, is still improving. The only hole in Hughes’ game is his boxing. He is technically proficient but lacks power, reach, and speed.

B.J. Penn is one of the most naturally talented fighters in the sport. An amazing grappler with great boxing and some of the sport’s best takedown defense, Penn is extremely skilled in every aspect of the fight game. Sometimes, though, he tends to look unmotivated and lethargic in the ring, and his conditioning has been a question mark in many of his past fights. Penn’s recent losses to Frankie Edgar could do one of two things. It will either hamper his motivation even more or it will light a new fire under him and allow him to start fighting up to his potential again.

The outcome of this fight depends on which B.J. Penn shows up in the ring. If he looks unmotivated or out of shape, Hughes has more than enough left in the tank to get this fight to the ground and wear Penn down from top position. If Penn shows up ready to fight, though, his takedown defense and boxing should be more than enough for him to control this fight and earn a decision win. His recent losses, and the fact that this is a rubber match, lead me to believe Penn will show up in good shape, stuff takedowns, and punish Hughes on the feet en route to a unanimous decision win.

Prediction:  BJ “The Prodigy” Penn via Unanimous Decision.

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