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UFC 123: Penn, Rampage Back in Win Column – What Next? Featured

BJ Penn won his rubber match with Matt Hughes in 21 seconds. BJ Penn won his rubber match with Matt Hughes in 21 seconds.

BJ Penn and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson both made successful outings at UFC 123 on Saturday. Jackson defeated Lyoto Machida via split decision, while Penn knocked out his old rival Matt Hughes 21 seconds into round one. Each fighter was coming off a loss – Jackson to Rashad Evans, Penn to Frankie Edgar – that set him back significantly. And each fighter seemed noticeably relieved by his win. Now the question is, what’s next?

In Penn’s case, the loss to Edgar was his second consecutive loss to the same fighter. That made it difficult to determine a direction in the lightweight division for Penn, who had dominated nearly every other 155er before being stumped twice by Edgar. The jump up to 170 lbs for a match with Matt Hughes made perfect sense, and Penn cashed in. The two fought for the third time in seven years, each of them having won one of the previous matches.

Jackson’s loss to Evans cost him a title shot, but even more discouraging was his subpar performance, which seemed due largely to poor conditioning. But Jackson’s win over Machida puts him back in title contention. The loss is only the second of Machida’s career.

But in a light heavyweight division teeming with up-and-comers, Jackson, who is past his prime, better make hay while the sun still shines. Ryan Bader and Jon Jones are two of the fastest rising fighters in MMA, and Phil Davis, who also scored big at UFC 123 with his lopsided win over Tim Boetsch, is getting better all the time.

Jackson will probably need two more wins before the UFC puts him in a title fight, which makes his next fight crucial. Hooking him up with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira makes good sense from a matchmaking perspective.

For Penn, it’s a little less clear what to do next, but a move back to lightweight seems prudent. Taking on the likes of George Sotiropoulos or Evan Dunham, two of that division’s hottest fighters, makes better sense than jumping into the incredibly talented welterweight pool filled with much bigger fighters. Nevertheless, rumors have him facing the hulking Jon Fitch next.

Speaking of Sotiropoulos, his submission win over Joe Lauzon at UFC 123 was absolutely one of the best fights of 2010. It was a fast-paced, technical masterpiece, and Sotiropoulos’s win via kimura marks him as one of the top five threats in the lightweight division, and possibly the more dangerous submission artist. That division is even more stacked since UFC’s merger with WEC.

BJ Penn is still one of the most intriguing fighters in the UFC, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson remains one of the most likeable MMA personalities out there. Fans will keep an eye on the two superstars, who are now in the back half of their careers but still threats in their divisions, as their UFC 123 wins over Matt Hughes and Lyoto Machida proved. If they want to make title runs, they probably each have one more crack at it.

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Last modified on Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:14

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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