UFC Fight Night 103 (Jan. 15, 2017, at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ) marks the return of UFC Hall-of-Famer and MMA legend B.J Penn. Penn (38) is coming out of retirement to face a man 14 years his junior, 24-year-old rising star Yair Rodriguez.
The rest of the card isn’t a huge draw, and the UFC is relying on B.J to bring in the numbers, which he almost definitely will. MMA fans have been dying to see Penn return to the ring even though he’s long past his prime. Will he reward their patience?
Yair Rodriguez (-420) vs B.J. Penn (+300)
B.J. Penn (16-10-2, 7 KO) will not have an easy time against the 10th-ranked featherweight and The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America winner Yair Rodríguez (8-1, 2 KO). The young Mexican headlined UFC Fight Night: Rodríguez vs. Caceres in August of last year and narrowly won on split decision.
With only nine fights to his name, Rodríguez is still (relatively) untested and has never come up against someone with the experience or technical ability of Penn. But Penn is 38 years old and Rodríguez will not be fighting the legend that fans remember so fondly.
B.J. fought and beat the greatest fighters of his generation, but he went into retirement with three straight losses. Toward the end of his career, he bounced from featherweight to welterweight, trying to reclaim his form. After his third loss to Frankie Edgar, he decided to hang up the gloves.
Now he’ll have to contend with one of the UFC’s hottest young talents plus over two years of ring rust. As much as fans would love to see Penn emerge from retirement and put the young Rodriguez away, the bookmakers consider it extremely unlikely.
Regardless of the result, B.J. has sealed his legacy within the sport and nothing can change that. But this feels like something of a money-grab from the legend. Rodriguez is hungry to make a name for himself and won’t waste his opportunity against one of the biggest names the sport has ever known.
Pick: Yair Rodriguez (-420)
Photo credit: “Prudential Center gremito per l’UFC 111s” by Antonia Fucito, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.