Yet the reality of it all is Penn didn't lose the fight boxing Edgar. Rather, he was beaten with elbows while lying on his back. Now I'll admit he was not highly effective standing, in addition to being poor on the ground. I do not think this style was ever going to work because while it was meant to keep him out of Edgar's range it also made him more susceptible to being taken down. Coupled with the fact that Edgar has a longer reach, and is the quicker puncher, it was a recipe for disaster...on the feet.
I have not had a chance to speak to Penn. I'm guessing he's not in a mental space where he wants to discuss the nuances of this fight with someone who writes and talks for a living. However, I did hear from Jason Parillo after the fight, and he too was confused by the style. Parillo was not part of this game plan, and was only involved the final week in Las Vegas; merely in a supportive, cage-side role. Again, not a good situation.
All of this is certainly worth questioning, there is no doubt.
Yet we need to elsewhere, and discuss an even bigger aspect to this fight worth addressing.
Penn was EXHAUSTED after the first round of this fight. Why? For the first time since he fought Georges St-Pierre he sat down on the stool after round 1 (I may be wrong about this, but I think I'm right). He spent nearly half the first round on his back, and wasn't trying to get off the mat. Why is that? Anyone asking that question?
Before the fight began I had the pleasure of being seated next to Edgar's Father-in-Law. Inside the arena they were broadcasting footage of Penn backstage, warming up. Looking at his face he almost looked sick, as if he was STILL cutting weight. Edgar's Father-in-Law said, "He looks exhausted!" My friend seated next to me said, "He does." I could not deny it, but I did not want to believe that was the case. But it was.
When Penn finally emerged from the locker room his energy level seemed lower than it had ever been before a fight. Another employee of the UFC said to me post-fight, "When BJ used to emerge from the locker room he had an uncontrollable energy that couldn't be harnessed! Tonight he looked dead!"
Again, I agreed.
While backstage I overheard someone say, "Frankie outweighed BJ...BJ only weighs like 150 pounds."
I wondered to myself, 'How in the world is that possible? How did he not balloon up to 162?" Which was about his walk around weight leading up to the fight? How come EVERY FIGHTER I'VE EVER MET balloons up at least 12lbs after weigh-in, but Penn only gained 4-5 pounds? I mean, I once watched Jamie Varner weight in at 155 against Marcus Hicks and fight at 182. I saw Anthony Johnson fight Josh Koscheck at 215 after weighing 170 the day before! Edgar comes into the cage at least 155. But Penn weighs 150? Why?
MMA writer Josh Gross replied to a tweet of mine when I asked this very question. He suggested "because he cut to 145?"
That's the simplistic response; the one people might assume is the case. Throughout the training there was no question he would make weight. It was not even a problem. He fought Rory MacDonald at 166. Presumably he left the cage that night at 158. Penn is not a large person, so making the weight would never be the issue even if people think he was "out of shape" (he never was, but that's a story for a different day).
So yes, I agree his stance wasn't great. But that's not where he lost. He lost on the ground. He couldn't control the smaller man. In other words, he had no strength. He had no stamina. No power. Physically, he had nothing. It was the weakest he has ever been for a fight.
And he trained hard, and MADE WEIGHT.
So why isn't anyone asking about WHO TRAINED HIM? And whether or not Dolce's supposed mastery strength program is really all it's cracked up to be? It may be good for SOME fighters, but how is it that Penn looked dead to the world, couldn't add on any weight, and lost the fight before even leaving the locker room?
Know this: I'm no expert, but I've been around. Every single person who knows me within the realm of MMA would not deny I know my shit. Be it Parillo, Dellagrotte, Ed Soares, countless referees, countless fighters, and Penn included. I know sports. I know athletes. I was an athlete. I've covered many. I know what a trained athlete looks like. That was not an athlete ready to compete. Just because a guy looks thin and has muscles means nothing. Heck, I've seen heroin addicts with those traits.
Just because BJ made weight doesn't mean he had strength, power, or endurance.
These are the questions I want answered. Forget the stance. It was terrible. But why couldn't the most decorated U.S. BJJ fighter control a smaller man on his back after 1 round?
THAT'S THE QUESTION WE SHOULD BE ASKING!
I've never been a Penn apologist, but focusing on the "stance" is the wrong debate. I am focused on why he looked like a walking corpse.