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UFC 127 Odds: B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch Fight Preview

BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch headline UFC 127Good day readers, this weekend the UFC returns to the Pay Per View airwaves, which means I’m back to break down another main event. For those of you following along with my betting advice we’ve done fairly well lately. Successful picks in the boxing and MMA Arenas have made us a fair amount of money, especially if you were on board for the upset of Fedor Emelienanko at the hands of Antonio Silva. Hopefully we can keep that train rolling in the Main Event of UFC 127 this Saturday night.

The UFC returns to the Land Down Under as they present UFC 127: Fitch vs. Penn from the sold out Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The main event of the card features dual-divisional champion B.J. Penn taking on the second best wrestler in the Welterweight division, former Purdue Boilermaker Jon Fitch. There will also be plenty of other action on the card as the UFC presents a full 12-Fight card packed with exciting tilts. For information about other fights on the card, including picks and previews check out my other site at MyManCave

When: Sunday February 27, 2011 (Due to Time delay airs live in North America on Saturday February 26, 2011)
Where: Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia
TV: Live on Pay Per View, Main Card beginning at 10:00 PM EST (Prelims on ION TV and Facebook.com)
The Fight: Number One Contenders Bout for the UFC Welterweight Division (3 Rounds)

Current Available Betting Lines
Jon Fitch (-210) / B.J. Penn (+175)

Jon Fitch vs. B.J. Penn Fight Preview

This fight has been slightly over-shadowed by the Co-Main Event of Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera, largely due to the insane amount of trash talk that those two are doing. Meanwhile, Penn and Fitch instead have shown a lot of respect for one another and have let others build the hype for them. Dana White has said that the winner of this fight would be in line for a Title Shot, although with rumors of GSP possibly moving up to 185 Pounds, should he defend his title against Jake Shields, who knows who that shot might be against.

This fight is somewhat hasty match-making since Penn was on a significant slide as of late after dominating the Lightweight Division for a couple of years, he was knocked out of relevance in the division after back to back defeats to Current Champion Frankie Edgar. However, a return to 170 Pounds and a 21-Second Knockout of Matt Hughes and apparently B.J. has found himself relevant once again. However, if there is one thing he has always shown a weakness against in his fighting career it is dominant wrestlers.

And if there is one thing that Jon Fitch is known for it’s his dominant wrestling. Fitch has been an absolute wrecking ball in the Welterweight Division. Since coming to the UFC in 2005, Fitch has lost only once inside the Octagon and that is to current Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre in 2008. Other than that, he has dominated his competition with superior wrestling, strong cardio and workmanlike performances.

Fighter Analysis: B.J. Penn

“The Prodigy” B.J. Penn is a 32 year old fighter from Kailua, Hawaii. He is an expert Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who holds the record as being the first non-Brazilian winner of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the black-belt category. Penn is a former UFC Lightweight Champion, as well as a former UFC Welterweight Champion. He is only the second fighter to win UFC titles in two different weight classes. As noted, his last fight was a 21 Second Knockout victory over Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in November, 2010.

B.J. Penn stands 5’9″ tall and is probably well-suited to fight at 155 pounds. However, he has complained in the past about cutting the weight and has said that he feels better when cutting very little weight to reach the 170 Pound Welterweight Limit. His small frame may play a large part in this fight, as he will be the smaller man come fight night, when Fitch will likely have a 10-15 Pound weight advantage. However, if Penn can avoid the wrestling game and stay off of his back, he does have the tools to win this fight. In addition to his incredible Jiu-Jitsu game, Penn also holds very solid Boxing skills. He throws big power for a smaller fighter and is very technically savvy when standing. He is one of the first MMA Fighters to effectively use the jab, before the recent influx of fighters using the jab during fights.

Penn has a career record 16-7-1, which may not seem all that impressive, until you consider that every fight he has ever had has been against a name opponent. Penn however has shown an impressive ability to finish with 7 wins via (T)KO and 6 via Submission. In terms of statistics Penn has landed 51% of his attempted strikes in the UFC and has avoided 62% of Strikes thrown at him. Which showcases his impressive boxing skills. In terms of grappling his take downs are 65% successful, although he rarely goes for straight take downs, but when he is on the ground is where his real skill comes out. In his UFC career Penn has 11 Submission attempts and 40 Guard Passes to dominant positions. Penn also has highly regarded take down Defense, as he has avoided 80% of total take downs attempted on him. Remove the fights with GSP and that number probably climbs closer to 90%.

Fighter Analysis: Jon Fitch

Jon Fitch is an expert wrestler who has had the unfortunate task of being the second-best fighter in the UFC Welterweight division. He is currently ranked by Sherdog.com as the World’s #3 Welterweight and #5 Pound for Pound fighter. He is an American fighter who trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler. In addition to his impressive wrestling credentials, Fitch also holds a Black Belt in Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu.

Fitch has a career record of 23-3, including a record of 13-1 inside the Octagon (the lone loss coming to UFC Welterweight Champion GSP.) Fitch has solid cardio and often wins his fights by Decision, simply grinding and outworking his opponents on the ground with his superior wrestling skills. Fitch often receives a lot of flak from fans about his lack of finishes, as he hasn’t finished a fight in over 3 and a half years, his last 7 wins in a row have all come from Decisions. However, conversely Fitch hasn’t been finished in a fight in over 8 years, showing impressive durability throughout his career. The loss to GSP, his only inside the Octagon is also his only loss since 2002.

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Fitch stands 6’0″ tall and will have a four inch reach advantage come fight time. Although he has decent stand up, Fitch rarely puts it on display. In his UFC career, a total of 14 fights, he has thrown only 1000 total strikes, most of them on the ground, and has landed less than half of them, with his actual percentage coming in around 48%. However, his wrestling has done the job for him and the numbers show that. Fitch’s take downs are nearly 60% effective, and has taken his opponents down 48 times in his UFC career. On the ground however, he is slightly less active, choosing to use ground and pound from the guard, instead of aggressively passing to look for submissions and dominant positions. Fitch is very large and very strong for a Welterweight and cuts about 20 pounds to reach the Welterweight limit of 170 Pounds, so he should be the larger, stronger fighter come Saturday night.

Match Up Advantages

Striking Offense: B.J. Penn
Striking Defense: B.J. Penn
Striking Power: B.J. Penn
Take downs: Jon Fitch
Submission Offense: B.J. Penn
Submission Defense: EVEN
Fight IQ: Jon Fitch
Heart and Chin: Jon Fitch

Fight Predictions

Although the Match Up Advantages might seem to favor B.J. Penn, he is still the underdog in this fight and that’s accurate in my mind. The biggest problems for B.J. are the Fight IQ and take downs. I am a huge B.J. Penn fan, but one of his problems has always been a somewhat lack of effort inside the cage. Also, his corner has often done him very little favors, as he often trains himself in Hawaii, without the help of elite level talent. His corner also hurts him during fights, as most notably during the second Frankie Edgar fight, they encouraged B.J. to stick with a losing strategy, despite the obvious fact that he was being beaten in the fight.

Game planning has always been a strong point for Fitch. He doesn’t bother to show off, or to test himself out on his feet during fights. He and his team know that his strength comes from the Wrestling game and as soon as the bell rings expect him to get after that. Georges St. Pierre has shown that the game plan to defeat B.J. is to wrestle him down and keep him planted on his back and I expect Fitch to execute a similar game plan. Despite not having the same wrestling skills of GSP, Fitch is still a bigger, stronger man than Penn who should be able to control him on the ground.

Any time that these two spend standing will be advantageous for Penn. He has the better technical stand up skills and despite being at a reach disadvantage he should be able to win most of the striking exchanges against Fitch’s less than stellar stand up game. On the ground B.J. is going to need to be very effective. Fitch is content to ride out top control and will be happy to hold B.J. on the ground, while delivering light ground and pound. If B.J. wants to win he’s going to need to figure out how to sweep the bigger man from underneath, or is going to need to use his very active guard to threaten constantly with submissions. Obviously the best bet for Penn is to avoid being taken down, but it’s crazy to think that he won’t at least spend some time on his back.

The power advantage surely goes to Penn, but Fitch has shown an incredible ability to take punishment in fights and keep going. He was outclassed and worked over by GSP in their fight, but continued to push through showing incredible heart and chin. So the path to victory for Penn will need to be to outbox Fitch and keep the fight standing as long as possible. Any time that he is planted on his back is bad for Penn, so he’ll need to be very active from his back to try and sway the judge’s back to his side.

For Fitch the game plan will be to take B.J. down early and often. Fitch often looks to control his opponents while delivering light ground and pound and earning rounds on the judge’s scorecards. I expect to see more of the same from Fitch in this fight. As they say “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” And Fitch’s results speak for themselves to show that there is nothing wrong with his strategy.

My Pick: Jon Fitch is currently a -210 favorite which translates to the odds-makers giving him a 68% chance of winning the fight. I think he actually stands a better chance than that, despite being a huge B.J. Penn fan. I think B.J. might be slightly over-valued in this fight, after the big KO victory over Matt Hughes, people seem to forget the back to back losses to Frankie Edgar. I think Fitch is more likely to win this fight about 75% of the time, which makes him good for a bet up to -300.

However, there is also another option that appeals to me. Some sites are offering proposition bets on the fights and are offering you the chance to bet on the outcome of the fight. Currently you can get Jon Fitch to win via 3 Round Decision at -130. This is an excellent price, as Penn is extremely durable and tough to finish. Given that and Fitch’s usual lack of extreme aggression, I think it’s likely that Fitch winning will come from a judge’s decision.

My Bet

3.15 Units on Jon Fitch to win 1.5 Units as well as…
1.3 Units on Jon Fitch to Win via Decision to win 1 Unit

Lee McGregor is a fan of all combat sports including both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. When not catching fights or watching hockey, he can be found as an Author and Editor at his own website MyManCave.ca

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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