“The Prodigy” B.J. Penn is one of MMA’s most polarizing figures, whether one knows it or not. He’s one of the few fighters to have won titles in two UFC weight divisions. Penn has been credited as having the best boxing in MMA, aside from Junior dos Santos. However, his career has taken a bit of a turn recently.

Currently 1-3-1 in his last five fights, Penn has been on hiatus from the sport after a loss at UFC 137 to Nick Diaz, though UFC president Dana White has said on multiple occasions that Penn is interested in returning.

The only real question left for Penn is “who’s next?”

He turned down Gilbert Melendez, which is partially why we look forward to Melendez carrying the strength of six straight wins against Josh Thomson’s win over K.J. Noons. At this point in his career, a trip down to 155 pounds for Penn just doesn’t make as much sense as one might think.

So if that rules out Edson Barboza, Clay Guida, Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz and current UFC 155-pound champ Benson Henderson, who does that leave?

Depending on the result of Martin Kampmann’s fight with Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale on June 1, maybe it should be Kampmann who is chosen to welcome Penn back. Bear in mind, this could be a moot point if Kampmann defeats Ellenberger.

If you will recall, Ellenberger vs. Kampmann was set as a No. 1 contender’s fight long before Johny Hendricks beat Josh Koscheck. The winner is expected to meet the winner of the November bout between Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit.

If Kampmann should lose, however, who better than Penn—consistently a top name and a man who presents challenges for Kampmann—to face next. And for that matter, who better than Kampmann to test Penn out in his return to the Octagon so Penn can see where his skills are at in 2012?

Let’s not forget that Penn has been revered for his boxing and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but Kampmann also has submission prowess and a striking game to boast about. He also stands taller than Penn and would likely have the edge on reach by two inches. All things considered, Penn would be tested as much as Kampmann would be, and both would be tested in all areas of the game in a fight that would also be a fan-friendly bout.

A battle between the two could be legendary. Sure, we know Kampmann submitted Thiago Alves recently; we know Penn’s not the same man he was in 2009 or even 2008; and we know retirement talks would run rampant if Kampmann were to beat him, even in a comeback. However, let’s not turn Penn into a Ken Shamrock case or a Jens Pulver case. Penn needed this time off to reignite the fire that people saw in him years ago. Considering that it took Nick Diaz to make Penn look bad, one can definitely say that Penn is not done yet. In all fairness, there is no shame in losing to a guy with Diaz’s boxing and endurance.

Kampmann is a great test for anyone looking to stay in the elite of a rather underappreciated welterweight division, and Penn is a great challenge for anyone looking to test their abilities on the feet and on the ground. If this knowledge is enough for Joe Silva to make this fight happen—provided Kampmann loses to Ellenberger—then it’s a great fight that should be made by a matchmaker who rarely misses. Not only is it a good fight for both Penn and Kampmann, but when you stop to think about it, who really loses in this fight?

If I’m Joe Silva, even if someone does have to officially win or lose in this one, it’s a win-win. The only losers are the people who miss this one, thinking Kampmann wins it easily. Remember, it’s MMA, folks. The only easy part is walking into the cage. Everything else is a lot more difficult than it looks on television.

If you don’t believe it, just ask B.J. Penn or Martin Kampmann. They’ve thrown down before, both will throw down again, and if Penn comes back to the Octagon, he’ll be more than willing to throw down with Kampmann once Joe Silva signs the fight.

On that, you may quote me…if Ellenberger beats Kampmann, that is.

Photo: B.J. Penn wears the wounds of his war with Nick Diaz at UFC 137 (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.