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B.J. Penn makes it official: UFC lightweight division is dead zone

Before UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida took on Mauricio Rua, I wrote an article about the developing trend of untouchable champions atop each of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's five divisions.

Obviously, the controversial decision and battering the Dragon took from Shogun put an end to that discussion.

As do the current ailments that have sidelined heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

Not to mention the new-look Frank Mir -- that dude looked enormous ...and I'm not even gonna say it.

In my initial survey of unbeatable champs back in October, I egregiously omitted Diego Sanchez as one of the most sincere challengers facing lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

Granted, it wasn't egregious in the sense that it would've changed my outlook on the Prodigy's domination of the division.

Instead, the error was massive because the Nightmare was/is a legitimate contender.

I don't like the image he's chosen to present to the public, but the guy can scrap. And any lingering doubt about that -- there was none in my mind -- went out the window when he challenged Penn on Saturday night.

In October, Sanchez was absolutely the biggest obstacle in the legendary Hawaiian's relatively clear path to the lightweight horizon. Still was when he stepped inside the Octagon.

Which should give us all a pretty good idea of just how supremely different B.J. Penn is from the rest of the lightweights currently on the mixed-martial-arts radar. Different in a good way. An intimidatingly superhuman way.

The Prodigy utterly dismantled the No. 1 challenger. I don't know what you call a nightmare's bad dream, but Sanchez just had one. He can thank referee Herb Dean and a rather brutal cut for mercifully ending it in the fifth round.

Quick question: Do they hand out 10-0 rounds on scorecards? No kidding, I don't think Diego even touched his adversary through the first two stanzas and he's normally a ferociously effective striker.

What's worse, Sanchez might've suffered two flash-knockouts in Round 1. Possibly a third.

How the native of New Mexico survived that opening slaughter is beyond me. Forget three more five-minute periods of carnage after it.

He looked like one of those little toy figurines where you press the base and the legs give out so the thing crumples to the ground, only to spring back upright when you let go.

And he looked like this for about two minutes with B.J. Penn clubbing away at him to start the fight. Yikes.

Again, I might not like the persona, but you have to respect what Diego Sanchez did in that cage.

Not nearly as much as you have to respect what Penn did, though.

The yoga enthusiast/punching bag was, essentially, a sitting duck in front of arguably the greatest lightweight the UFC has ever seen (the argument coming from someone else), but he kept coming. Perhaps not the wisest move, which is why there aren't many scholars in the Octagon.

Meanwhile, Penn sniped away with such violent and successful ease that the man who would be lightweight king actually shot in on Penn, trying to take him to the canvas at various times.

Hmm...

Diego Sanchez, a notorious banger, wanted -- wanted -- to roll with B.J. Penn, the first non-Brazilian to win the black-belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Rio de Janeiro. Feats -- the black belt and the championship -- he accomplished in only three years of training.

About nine years ago.

Does this sound like an evening going according to plan for Sanchez? No, no it does not.

Yet it sounds eerily similar to what happened with Kenny Florian, the last "genuine" threat to Penn's reign. Apparently, it's tough to execute your strategy when standing opposite a freakish force of nature like the Prodigy.

There should be no skeptics left: B.J. Penn has no real challenger at 155 pounds, he only has unfortunate witnesses to his growing immortality.

Woe to the one who must convince a pay-per-view audience otherwise.

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