This Sunday on Fox Sports 1, UFC Hall of Famer and former champion in two weight divisions BJ Penn will step into a UFC octagon for the first time since July of 2014. "The Prodigy" hasn't won a bout since November 2010, and has been unable to string two victories together since the end of 2009. While most agree that Penn moving to Jackson/Wink in Albuquerque is the best possible move while working towards a fighting comeback, the MMA community still wonders about whether or not BJ has a place in the modern version of the ever changing sport.
His adversary that will stand across the cage in Phoenix is 24 year old TUF: Latin America winner and #10 Featherweight Yair Rodriguez. The young Taekwondo black belt has rattled off 7 straight wins (5 of them in the UFC) with his unique striking style and youthful creativity. While Rodriguez has most recently added impressive names to his resume in Andre Fili and Alex Caceras, BJ Penn is undoubtebly the biggest name he's fought.
Rodriguez is currently the heavy favorite at roughly -500 at most sportsbooks, with Penn facing the tallest odds of his career as a +400 underdog. Penn closed as the underdog in his last 4 fights, with his last victory over Matt Hughes being the last time he was favored. BJ had been favored in every bout until his fight against Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in 2011.
Rodriguez opens as the favorite for the 4th consecutive fight, with his 2nd UFC bout against Charles Rosa being the only time he was considered the underdog.
One would expect the odds to move a bit in Penn's favor as the fights nears, with a decent percentage of the money coming in on him as a long shot. While it may be fun to put a few bucks down on the nostalgic favorite, I personally can't recommend risking much on Baby Jay. Check back on Saturday to find out our staff picks, and the fights I'll have action on as the focus of the MMA world shifts to Phoenix.