Former UFC lightweight champion BJ ‘The Prodigy’ Penn is still a lightweight, still known as ‘The Prodigy’ and still a hero to so many, but is now so far removed from his prime it’s a struggle for him to even complete a three-round fight, much less win one.

Five months after being stopped by Yair Rodriguez in a bout so one-sided it was hard to watch, Penn returned to the Octagon tonight (June 25) in Oklahoma only to sleep-walk through three rounds against Dennis Siver and drop a majority decision.

It was again a sad spectacle to behold as Penn, once so dynamic and dangerous, seemed unable to get out of first gear or offer much more than a hard and snappy left jab throughout a contest fought mostly at veteran speed.

That said, for the opening three minutes it appeared Penn, now 38, would at least be able to fight on equal terms with his German opponent, also 38. He popped his jab like old times, pressed forward with a purpose and looked to unsettle Siver and take the play away from him. But then three minutes became four and Penn found himself nailed by a left hook, which knocked his mouth piece from his mouth, and a right hand that visibly hurt him. After that, it all started to go downhill for the Hawaiian icon. Siver found his feet and began to pepper Penn with kicks from distance, taking advantage of his better mobility and speed. Crucially, he controlled the pace.

Penn, by now, invested all he had in single shots. He tossed out his jab – still one of the finest in all of MMA – and urged his tired body to produce something behind it; a right cross, a left hook, an uppercut, just something.

In round two, he found something. He threw a right uppercut, it landed on Siver’s jaw and down went the German in the centre of the Octagon. In an instant, the flow of the fight changed. Penn, acting on the flashpoint and the crowd’s excitement, charged towards Siver and jumped into side-control.

Tellingly, though, despite the build-up, very little happened. This was not the aggressive and ferocious Penn of old, the man who would stop at nothing to end a fight. No, this was a very different BJ Penn. This was a Penn content to see out the round in side-control; a Penn who had earlier alternated between throwing jabs and glancing up at the big clock in the arena.

Alas, though Penn wound up in a great position, with Siver, a striker, taken off his feet, he was either unable or unwilling to capitalise on it. He dilly-dallied in side-control, locked up by Siver, and stayed there until the klaxon sounded to end round two. Opportunity missed, it was hard to imagine him getting a better one in round three.

In actual fact, round three was the worst of the lot for Penn. Visibly fatigued, he offered little in the way of offence and took to circling the Octagon – in essence, escaping – in order to avoid Siver’s vast array of flashy strikes. His mouth was open, his hands were by his sides and his eyes continued to look up towards the timer. He was counting down the minutes and seconds, all the while trying to avoid being knocked out by a man who sensed the fight had left BJ Penn minutes ago, if not years ago.

Siver, 23-11 (1 NC), had fun in round three. He had no fear of what was coming back and this allowed him time and space to uncoil some hurtful leg and head kicks, all of which seemed to have some kind of impact on Penn. The head kicks rocked his head from side-to-side, while the leg-kicks busted up his left leg and had him hotfooting around the perimeter of the Octagon as if firewalking on hot coals. It all served to put an exclamation mark on Siver’s victory – confirmed by scores of 28-28, 29-28 and 29-27 – and to sadly act as a reminder of why the great BJ Penn, 16-12-2, has now won only one of his last nine fights.