The Penn Is Mightier: UFC Phoenix Preview

This is a busy week for sports fans.  The NFL is putting on four playoff games and the UFC is giving away a free weekend of UFC Fight Pass for anyone who wants to catch some live events or past ones.  Legacy Fighting Alliance made its promotional debut and Invicta FC has an all-female show tonight.  By the time UFC Phoenix rolls around, you'll probably be dead from a mix of adrenaline and alcohol poisoning, but pound one more back and rise for your aluminum can tomb, we've got one more event to make sure you're completely worthless on Monday morning.

The main event of this one features the sometimes-mocked but still anticipated return of BJ Penn as he squares off against probably the only guy you remember from TUF Latin America - Yair "Pantera" Rodriguez.  The big question is why?  What does a multiple division champion have to gain by stepping out of retirement to face young and hungry 9-1 prospect?

Penn has been around for a long time.  He debuted with the promotion at UFC 31 in 2001.  Rodriguez was eight years old at the time, possibly watching Penn engage in some of the craziest fights of the time and doing things that no man had ever done.  He handed Matt Hughes his only loss across 19 fights at a time when Hughes was tanking through everyone in the welterweight division.  If you began watching the sport in the past 5 years and never looked through the old catalogs, you really missed out on all of the magic that made BJ great.

He hasn't won a match since he knocked out Hughes in spectacular, 20 second fashion back in 2010.  He's lost three since and fought Jon Fitch to a draw.  He lost to some big names though.  Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald both took him to decision, and Frankie Edgar TKO'ed him in what was by far the worst performance of his career.  There's little reason to expect Penn to have a Robbie Lawler-style resurgence at this stage in his career, but the Prodigy has suffered one of the sharpest declines and undoubtedly would love at least one final win against at least one tough young fighter to prove he's still got it.

We already covered why you should watch Joe Lauzon vs. Marcin Held, but here's a quick recap: Joe Lauzon is awesome.  In other action, Court McGee meets the only man to land an omoplata inside the Octagon, Ben Saunders.  McGee's style is best described as "heavy-handed chokey time".  He's a 2-0 pro boxer and 18-5 in mixed martial arts.  He knocks you down or he drags you down, and then he chokes you.  He faces a friendly face in Saunders.  The two trained together earlier in their careers and have similar gritty, in your face from bell to bell work ethic.  Saunders is 20-7-2 and has all of the skills to make this a tough, competitive fight, and it has fight of the night potential if both show up at their best.

Rounding out the bottom of the main card is a flyweight contest between John Moraga (16-5) and Sergio Pettis (14-2).  Moraga stepped in on short notice to replace Jussier Formiga as Sergio Pettis's opponent.  Moraga is on a two fight losing skid and needs a win to continue to be a viable contender in the 125 division.  Pettis has a two win streak but has yet to face anyone near the former title challenger's level in John Moraga.

UFC Phoenix goes down tomorrow night on Fox Sports One.  This will be the first event for our new season of our UFC picks tournament so don't forget to click join, and leave us your thoughts and ratings over on our events page.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates throughout the evening.

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