Philadelphia, home to some of our nation’s most historical moments, will see its historical first foray into Mixed-Martial Arts by the sport’s fledging promotion go off this weekend with UFC 101: Declaration.
Considering this, the UFC isn’t bringing their “B” show to the home of liberty. With two of their best champions in tow — Anderson Silva and BJ Penn — the UFC isn’t leaving anything to chance for this important event to go well.
It helps that the main event will feature a close-to native son in Kenny Florian who hails from Massachusetts as he attempts to derail the Lightweight champion Penn. It was Florian who himself declared after his win at UFC 91, “I want BJ’s belt!” He’ll have his best opportunity here after a nine month layoff in which his mind has been focused on nothing but the events that will come to fruition this Saturday night.
In the co-main Silva will once again make the jump up to 205 to test his world-class abilities against the former Light Heavyweight champion and fan-favorite Forrest Griffin.
In short, some of MMA’s best will bring their game to the home of our nation’s original 13 with the idea of making the East Coast a more traditional home for their sport. Kendall Grove and Ricardo Almeida will look to work their way up into contention at middleweight at the other’s expense, Amir Sadollah — the TUF 7 winner — looks to begin his lightweight career, and Kurt Pelligrino battles Josh Neer in another lightweight tilt.
The UFC itself, will be hoping to declare Philadelphia as a primary home of the UFC.
UFC Lightweight Championship:
BJ Penn (13-5-1) vs. Kenny Florian (11-3)
Breakdown: With a full six months now between him and the controversy that was “greasegate” that he himself stirred up after being manhandled by Welterweight champion Georges St.-Pierre, Penn looks to focus his attention once again on the division in which he dominates and the belt in which he’s obligated to defend.
A natural competitor at heart, it seems Penn would rather test himself at higher weight classes than defend his belt against what he feels as lesser competition. It is a mindset that so many analysts feel could potentially hurt Penn, yet as he showed against Sean Sherk and Joe Stevenson, he still has been able to dispatch any contender rather easily despite it.
Penn has, in short, world class ability both on the ground and standing. His boxing game is impeccable as Sherk found out firsthand while his ground game is ingenious and perhaps second to none in all of MMA.
His challenger, Florian, is a nice fighter who has certainly improved tremendously since his days on The Ultimate Fighter’s inaugural season. His game is centered on a sound Muay-Thai striking game and solid boxing that beats up inferior opponents and allows him to impose his will on the ground where he also features a black belt in Brazilian jui-jitsu.
Here the problem is Penn is no inferior opponent and possesses superior skills in both areas. Unless Florian can settle for a fight on the feet in which he receives as much damage as he dishes out and hopes to be the busier fighter, receiving more points on the three judges scorecards, he will be out of luck.
Prediction: Florian will come out gangbusters being in front of an almost hometown crowd with an opportunity he’s been dreaming about since the day he took up the sport. The only problem being Penn will be his methodical self and soon Florian will be discouraged by his fruitless attempts to inflict damage on the champion. By the third round Penn will have the Bostonian right where he wants him — desperate — and will take advantage earning a submission on the ground.
Anderson Silva (24-4) vs. Forrest Griffin (16-5) 205 lbs
Breakdown: Two consecutive lackluster title defenses, at least in the minds of many fans, has Anderson Silva back up at 205 to challenge one of the promotion’s more popular fighters at his weight class.
After his boring, albeit successful title defenses against Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, Silva finds his pound-for-pound superiority being questioned by the likes of Georges St.-Pierre and buddy Lyoto Machida. So it may be important to Silva for this reason — and fighting in Philadelphia as well — too get back to his dominant ways.
Of course Silva’s strength is his dynamic, accurate striking arsenal that for every bit as lethal offensively as it is, is as good defensively with Silva’s great elusiveness.
The problem for Griffin is Anderson’s strength greatly counteracts his greatest weakness — chin. For all of Griffin’s toughness, his chin is as brittle as, well, peanut brittle. When fighting Silva, this is a serious problem. Just ask Rich Franklin (who resembles Griffin greatly).
Griffin’s best bet will be to implement his unmatched gas tank and hope that he can not only take Silva to the mat but where him down when he gets him there. All easier tasks said than done.
Prediction: Silva comes out and feels Griffin out for a minute or so before dismantling him in a performance so utterly perfect that it has Philly fans proclaiming his greatness and immediately cements his status as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Georges St.-Pierre next, anyone? After Dan Henderson that is.