Friday, 4 September 2009

UFC 101

Written on August 1st 2009

UFC 101: Declaration

The UFC brings the biggest MMA show in the civilized world to Rocky Balboa’s hometown of Philadelphia on August the 8th for its latest Pay per view offering. BJ Penn defends his lightweight crown for the second time against always dangerous TUF Veteran Kenny Florian

The Co-headliner for this event will be a potential fight of the year candidate as Muay Thai technician and UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva moves up once again to 205lbs to meet former Light Heavyweight champion, fan favourite and bestselling author (so it would seem) Forrest Griffin.

The rest of the card also looks strong with the first post TUF finale outing for season 7 winner Amir Sadollah as he cuts to 170 to meet two time NCAA wrestling champion Johnny Hendricks. The other fights which make up the proposed televised portion of the card pit the talented Kurt Pellegrino against the tough as nails Miletich product Josh Neer and Kendall Grove returns to take on Renzo Gracie Black Belt, Ricardo Almeida. MMA has only been legalized in the state of Pennsylvania since February this year and the UFC is bringing a very strong card for its historical debut at the Wachovia Centre.

Lightweight Championship Bout
BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (Champion) vs Kenny “Kenflo” Florian (Challenger)
"I want B.J's belt. B.J., you're one of the best fighters out there. I'm here to test myself. I think you're a great fighter, someone I look up to. I consider you a master. It's time to kill that master." Kenny Florian shouted those words at UFC 91 back in November after despatching former title challenger Joe Stevenson. Who said wishes don’t come true? Standing in the way of Kenflo’s dream of becoming top of the lightweight division is Hawaiian MMA superstar BJ “The Prodigy” Penn.
This fight is easily B.J’s toughest challenge to his crown after his 4 round demolition of Sean Sherk back in May of 2008. What plays heavily into this fight is that BJ Penn is coming off the back of another 4th round stoppage but one he’d rather forget about. Penn lost to Welterweight Phenom George “Rush” St Pierre back at UFC 94 when his corner threw in the towel at the end of the 4th round when Penn could not answer the bell.
Breaking this fight down it’s not hard to see why the odds makers have Penn as the favourite. Everything that Kenny Florian does it seems that BJ Penn has an answer or an edge in that department. Florian is a decorated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt under Roberto Maia but Penn, as everyone knows, earned the nickname the prodigy from winning the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships after only 3 years of training and being the first non Brazilian to lift the title.
Florian is a disciplined Thai striker under Marc Delagrotte and has finished all but one of his UFC victims. Penn has proven knockout power in his punches, kicks and knees (Din Thomas anyone?) and looks to finish the fight from any and every position.
Throw in BJ Penn’s famous warrior like spirit, his Stretch Armstrong style flexibility and, more importantly as 3 million views in 10 days have shown us, his ability to jump out of a 3 feet swimming pool you certainly have a long night for anyone trying to take the gold from him. Kenny Florian may look to have all the answers but in all honesty no one can be sure of the questions that Penn will ask him.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Anderson “The Spider” Silva vs Forrest Griffin.
In his previous two outings Anderson Silva has drawn criticism for putting on lacklustre performances in victories against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. The key word, however, in that equation is victories. In both fights Anderson Silva came away with the win in spite of looking bored throughout the whole endeavour. His latest trip up to 205lbs sees him face an altogether different kettle of fish in former Light Heavyweight Champion and TUF poster boy Forrest Griffin. Odds makers have Forrest Griffin as a heavy underdog but this fight has all the potential to be, as well as a fight of the year candidate, a very tough fight for The Spider.
Forrest Griffin presents Anderson with a lot of very unique problems, the most obvious of which being the size difference. Forrest admits to walking around at 225-230lbs before the weight cut and will clearly have the strength advantage over the Brazilian. Forrest is also a cardio machine and was once praised by none other than Randy Couture by saying “I have not met a harder working guy than Forrest in the training environment. I thought I was a pretty hard worker and this guy is amazing in his work ethic and his diligence.”
Forrest Griffin has also proven, in recent fights, to be able to stick to game plans a lot better and there’s no doubt that the team at Extreme Couture will have studied hours of footage on Anderson to try and pick holes in his game.
Anderson Silva however, as we’ve seen, is no normal fighter. A Muay Thai perfectionist who’s facial reconstructions of Rich Franklin and migraine inducing submissions of Dan Henderson and Travis Lutter have shown us that when he’s on, there really isn’t a lot you can do about it. Anderson’s only other trip up to 205 was a 61 second destruction of James “Sandman” Irvin which didn’t give us real chance to evaluate how he found the extra weight or the effect it had on his cardio.
ne thing is for sure, if Anderson Silva brings his A game to the table he’s arguably one of the best pound for pound in the world but if you’re looking for someone to push both him and the pace of this fight, you couldn’t ask for anyone better than Forrest Griffin.

Welterweight bout
Amir Sadollah vs Johnny Hendricks
The first PPV outing for TUF7 champ Amir Sadollah comes in the form of a stiff test from WEC Welterweight prospect Johny Hendricks. Sadollah, appearing officially in only his second professional MMA fight, is known for his Forrest Griffinesque self deprecating demeanour and his ability to pull wins from the worst possible situations. Coming off his second arm bar victory against CB Dalloway, Sadollah looks to hit the ground running after a number of injury setbacks against undefeated Hendricks.
Hendricks is coming off a decision win against Alex Serdyukov at WEC 39 in March and looks to avoid dropping his first fight under the UFC banner. We know Sadollah is good off his back and it looks like he may have to be as Hendricks comes in with some impressive NCAA credentials. Sadollah, now at Extreme Couture, should have done his homework and see that his path to glory could be to sprawl and brawl and to make Hendricks pay for every takedown he throws.

Middleweight Bout
Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove vs Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida.
A very interesting tilt here pits the rejuvenated Kendall Grove against submission specialist Almeida in what has the potential to be a great encounter. You’ve only got to look at Kendall Grove to realise what he wants to do. At 6”6 he’ll look to control the stand up from range using those pendulous limbs to tag Almeida every time he comes within spitting distance of him. Kendall has looked better after being run over by both Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera and is looking to continue the momentum he has in defeating Jason Day and the late Evan Tanner. Almeida quite simply will want to take this fight to the ground as soon as he can and utilize his slick BJJ. Almeida is coming off a win at UFN: Condit vs Kampman in a fight that he looked less impressive in against Matt Horwich and there was talk of him cutting to Welterweight at one point. However he takes on Kendall Grove knowing that a big win will propel him closer to title contention.

Lightweight Bout
Josh “The Dentist” Neer vs Kurt “Batman” Pellegrino.
Batman vs the Dentist. No it’s not the latest offering from DC comics. It’s another fight of the night contender from two very talented lightweights. Kurt Pellegrino has a very impressive 5-2 record in the UFC always looks to bring the fight to whoever he’s matched up with. He won’t have to look very far on August 8th as Josh Neer always comes to fight and his amazingly entertaining fights with Nate Diaz, Din Thomas and more impressively his submission win over Mac Danzig have shown us what he is all about. Both fighters are incredibly well rounded at this point and have scored wins by both on the ground and standing up. It’s hard to see who has an advantage in this one as both are tough as coffin nails. This has the makings of a slugfest and should be a phenomenal start to the televised card.

Preliminary Card
Lightweight Bout: Shane Nelson vs Aaron Riley
Welterweight Bout: Tamdan McCrory vs John Howard
Middleweight Bout: Thales Leites vs Alessio Sakara
Welterweight Bout: Matt Riddle vs Dan Cramer
Welterweight Bout: Jesse Lennox vs Danillo VIllefort
Lightweight Bout: George Sotiropoulos vs George Roop

The Best of the Rest.

The undercard contains quite a few interesting prospects which may or may not make it to the PPV broadcast. A much needed rematch between Shane Nelson and Aaron Riley after the UFC 96 debacle that saw the fight get stopped after 44 action packed seconds and saw the always diplomatic Dana White go on to say, on his YouTube blog, that “That f*cking guy that reffed that fight shouldn’t be in that Octagon tonight, he has no business being in there.” We also get to see the most unlikely fighter in the UFC and the toughest nerd I’ve ever seen Tamdan McCrory look to take out a very talented John Howard who is coming off a great upset victory against team quest protégé Chris Wilson. Our quota of TUF Alumni is boosted as Matt Riddle and Dan Cramer face off in the Welterweight Division and we get an opportunity to see how the skills of Australian TUF6 contender George Sotiropoulos have evolved as he cuts to Lightweight to fight TUF8’s George Roop. Thales Leites will also want to make an impression after his widely criticised decision loss to Anderson Silva at UFC97 as he looks to submit Italian Alessio Sakara.

All in all this card is a surprisingly strong one considering how much the boat was pushed out at UFC 100 only a few weeks ago. We get to see if Kenny Florian can derail BJ Penn’s bid to become the most dominant lightweight champion in UFC history and also if Forrest Griffin can solve the barbed wire Rubik’s Cube that is Anderson Silva. Whatever happens we can be sure of one thing. It won’t be the last time that Dana and the crew roll into the city of brotherly love.

By BJ Cartlidge

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