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UFC legend BJ Penn is set to make his return to MMA against rising star Yair Rodríguez

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If you're young, talented, and looking to make the jump from up-and-comer to established talent, how do you prove that you're championship material? Beat an all-time great. 

If you're an all-time great of the sport, who's taken some time off, how do you prove you've still got what it takes? Show the younger talent who's boss. 

UFC  Hall of Fame member BJ Penn will return to the sport of MMA for the first time in over two years to take on one of the fight game's rising stars, Yair Rodríguez.  And it's gonna be crazy.

UFC legend BJ Penn is set to make his return to MMA against rising star Yair Rodríguez

WATCH | UFC Legend BJ Penn returns to MMA against the dynamic Yair Rodríguez. 

BJ Penn - An actual prodigy

Don't let the ridiculousness of some MMA nicknames fool you. Penn, in his prime, was an actual prodigy. 

With fists of steel, a chin as hard as a 1999 Nokia phone, and a penchant for staying firmly planted on his feet (he's avoided 75 percent of attempted takedowns), Penn is dangerous, to say the absolute least. 

The absolute least. 

WATCH | BJ Penn defends his title against Kenny Florian in the main event of UFC 101. 

Don't let the numbers fool you either. Despite holding a record of 16-10-2, Penn fought at the very highest levels of the sport for years (mixing it up with GSP, Nate Diaz, etc.), becoming one of only three men in UFC history to hold a belt in two different weight divisions (the latest being a certain Irish lightweight).

Some, including UFC President Dana White, have argued Penn should have achieved more in the sport given his immense talent. But hey, when Anderson "The Spider" Silva says you're the best, you've probably done alright for yourself.

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BJ Penn gestures during the weigh-in for his mixed martial arts bout against Rory MacDonald at the UFC on FOX 5 event in Seattle, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

But at 38, Penn is no spring chicken. The Hawaii native hasn't stepped into the Octagon since 2014. And as the saying goes: time is undefeated.


So the question becomes, just how much magic does Penn have left in his admittedly impressive tank?

And more importantly, will it be enough to survive being locked in a cage with a man known as "The Panther?"

Yair Rodríquez - "Something new"

Imagine, if you will, a panther, muscles coiled, on a tree branch just above some unsuspecting prey. It watches, waits, and then leaps off its perch to land a flipping spin kick.

Alright. It's not a perfect analogy. But you get the picture.

Although the spin kick thing did actually happen. That's real. No, seriously. Check it out below.

WATCH | Yair Rodríguez fights against gravity instead of his opponent. 

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Yair Rodriguez celebrates after defeating Andre Fili during a featherweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 197, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Renowned MMA fan and commentator Joe Rogan put it best when he said that Rodríguez is "something new." Rodríguez is set to light the UFC on fire. 

Rodríguez, 24, is the first winner of "The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America," the Central and South American iteration of the UFC's reality series. His current record is 9-1, and he's undefeated in the five UFC events in which he's fought. In fact, his showing at UFC 197 against Andre Fili earned performance of the night honors.

Rodríguez is a black belt in Taekwondo. He trains in jiu-jitsu two days a week, wrestles two days a week, and only spars for one. If he continues to improve, we could see "el pantera" for years to come. 

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