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Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn 2

By Cliff Montgomery,
After Georges St. Pierre announced that he would drop out of UFC 63's welterweight title match due to a groin injury, every fight fan knew who would replace the challenger in the September 23rd, 2006 title shot against reigning Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes. That fighter is BJ Penn, for Hughes vs Penn 2.

Hughes is a man best known for his utter dominance of the UFC welterweight division, a man who rarely suffers a loss. The most reasonable choice was therefore the last man to beat him: B.J. Penn.

Think back to January 31, 2004. The press buzz going in to UFC 46 seemed unanimous in stating that Penn had little real chance of de-throning Matt Hughes, who even at that time was being breathlessly described as "the most dominant welterweight champion in the history of mixed martial arts."

Of course by January 2004, Hughes had already been UFC welterweight champ for a little over two years, and was enjoying a 13-fight winning streak that included five convincing defenses of his welterweight title against such opponents as Gil Castillo, Sean Sherk, and Frank Trigg. Penn, on the other hand, was making his Octagon return after taking some time off to reflect on his desire to continue competition.

But when the bell tolled for Hughes' sixth title defense, it was Penn who gave Hughes the beating. Perhaps Penn was as surprised as everyone else; the new champ was certainly ecstatic. Penn kissed the shocked Hughes on the mouth after choking him out in the first round.

The victory sky-rocketed Penn to the top of everyone's pound-for-pound list, but his glory with UFC didn't last long. B.J. was later stripped of his welterweight title after accepting a fight with Duane Ludwig at K-1's MMA-ROMANEX show.

But as they say, "That was then, and this is now." Most admit that however strong Hughes was at their first meeting, he is now a much smarter, better-rounded fighter. By contrast Penn has recently had a string of bad luck. In his professional life, Penn's has lost two of his last three fights; in his private life, he was arrested on May 8, 2005 outside a nightclub in Waikiki, Honolulu for allegedly striking a police officer.

In other words, both are in essentially the same positions as last time...and we remember how that turned out.

So who are these men? Let's find out a little more...

B.J. Penn

The 5' 9" Jay Dee Penn was born in Hilo, Hawaii, and is said to be of Korean, Malay, Filipino, and Spanish descent. His nickname "B.J" comes from 'Baby Jay', as he the youngest male of his siblings, who are each also named 'Jay'.

At the age of seventeen Penn began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and in 1997 he started training under Ralph Gracie. After being awarded his black belt in 2000 by Andre Pederneiras of Nova Uniao, he later that year became the first American-born winner of World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu championship (Mundial) black belt category, winning a gold medal in that tough division.

His accomplishments caught the attention of the UFC, where he began his mixed martial arts career less than a year later in 2001. He quickly demonstrated strong striking skills, knocking out such lightweights as Din Thomas and Caol Uno before losing a decision to UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver.

In 2003, after Pulver left the UFC and relinquished his title, a tournament to crown a new champion flopped when Penn fought Uno to a draw in the finals at UFC 41. The fallout from this match caused the UFC to later suspend its lightweight division.

But his crowning achievement came in 2004 at UFC 46, when he soundly defeated welterweight champion Matt Hughes four minutes into the first round by rear naked choke.

Matt Hughes

Matthew Allen Hughes (born October 13, 1973) is a professional mixed martial arts fighter and the current welterweight champion of the UFC. With only one loss since his first title victory in 2001, the 5' 9", 170-pound Hughes is one of the UFC's most dominant champions. He trains as part of the Miletich Fighting Systems team, as does heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.

Hughes is known for his skills in grappling and ground-and-pound, as well as his signature move of picking up opponents, carrying them across the ring, and slamming them to the mat with their head strategically placed against the fence.

Hughes won his first UFC Welterweight title at UFC 34: High Voltage on November 2, 2001 after taking out Carlos Newton with one of his patented slams. Hughes met and bested all title contenders until UFC 46, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist B.J. Penn beat him via rear naked choke in the 1st. But Penn was stripped of the welterweight title after a contract dispute with the UFC.

Hughes convincingly regained the vacant welterweight title after submitting top contender Georges St. Pierre via armbar in the final second of a close first round at UFC 50.

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