Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News
Published Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009 | 4 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009 | 11:45 p.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
- What’s next for Silva?
- Penn delivers encore performance
- Champs put on dominant display at UFC 101
- Tale of the Tape: Breakdown & Picks
- Fighters, Philadelphia fans weigh in
- Breaking down UFC 101: Penn vs. Florian
- The new and improved Kenny Florian
- Even champions need comebacks sometimes
- Breaking down UFC 101: Silva vs. Griffin
- Griffin returns to comfortable role as underdog
- Silva already putting on a show
- Road Blog from Philly
- Fighter says struggles only made him stronger
- Las Vegas fighter will battle in home state at UFC 101
- All-Star Victorino welcomes UFC to Philadelphia
- Philly native pumped for UFC's first event in hometown
- Complete UFC 101 coverage
PHILADELPHIA - The two fights were each spectacular in their own way.
UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva dominated former UFC light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin, ending the one-side contest first-round with a first-round knockout of Griffin, who quickly exited the Octagon.
Fans inside the Wachovia Center had little time to catch their breath as lightweight champ B.J. Penn came out and defended his title in the main event of the UFC's first-ever venture to "The Keystone State" Saturday night with a rear-naked choke of Kenny Florian in the fourth round.
The win for Penn, who was coming off a lopsided loss to Georges St. Pierre in their January super-fight in Las Vegas, reaffirmed his faith in the sport he's been competing in since a youngster.
"When I woke up this morning, I thought, 'I've been at this thing for nine years. What the hell am I doing with myself?'" Penn told the crowd. "And then I realized this is my dream since I was a kid to come here and perform for the fans. I love you guys."
Silva, who was coming off two lackluster wins over Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, looked as dominant as ever in the Octagon in extending his UFC record to 10 straight victories when he disposed of Griffin with a backpedaling blow 3:23 into the fight.
"The Spider," who had turned the prefight jeers into overwhelming cheers from the Philly faithful with his exciting performance, praised Griffin despite his quick exit and weighed his seemingly unlimited options for his next opponent in the Octagon with Joe Rogan afterwards.
"I want to fight against the best. Whoever the best is at the time, that's who I want to fight," Silva said, before thanking his fans in Portuguese.
UFC president Dana White said he was blown away with the unbelievable support Philly fans gave the organization, including a record "11,000 fans for the first bout of the preliminary fights."
"Philly is known for being one of the biggest fight towns in America if not the biggest fight town in America," said White, of the event that drew 17,411 spectators and a Pennsylvania record $3.55 million gate.
"I'm happy to bring big fights back here."
Or even further East in Boston, a city close to the UFC boss' heart: "We're looking at doing it at Fenway," White said, surprising media members of the possibility of a UFC event in the historic Red Sox's baseball stadium.
The $60,000 "fight night" bonuses all went to main event participants with Silva taking "Knockout of the Night" along with "Fight of the Night" with Griffin, while Penn was awarded "Submission of the Night."
Main event (12:15 p.m. ET)
Fans had little time to register what just happened as the Countdown video popped back on and UFC president Dana White talked about how refocused Penn looked and how Florian had dominated his last six opponents.
Florian comes out first wearing black shorts with a white stripe to "The Champ" by Ghostface Killah. While he's a Boston native Florian is booed heavily by the East Coast Crowd.
Penn appears to be the majority favorite as he hears it from Philly fans as he comes out to "Hawaii 78".
B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian
Penn lands the first big shot, blocking a kick from Florian and countering with a right hand. And now after a clinch against the cage he follows it up with a quick right left. The crowd is chanting B.J. and he looks every bit the aggressor in this fight right now. The two clinch in the middle of the Octagon now. They separate and Florian circles while Penn holds the center of the ring. Even when Penn misses, he's looking better than Florian right now. They clinch again with Florian always having his back against the cage. Good leg kick from Florian. Florian shoots a takedown but it's well defended by Penn. Good hit from Penn staggers Florian and Penn tries to finish him with the same knee that he ended Sherk with in his first title defense last year. First round is over, clearly goes to Penn.
Good leg kick by Florian got Penn to buckle for a second. Florian shoots a takedown but again defended by Penn. Action slows down for a bit as both look to jab. Clinch with Penn's back to the cage where they exchange knees. Florian misses big and Penn's counter gets him in the back of the head which he apologizes for. Missed left by Pen and Florian goes for the takedown again. Still can't get it. Good uppercuts by Penn put Florian in trouble but he recovers. Round ticks down, another one for Penn.
Penn did not look tired following that round. He was quickly back on his feet and ready to go. Florian throws that big left kick but Penn was ready for it and knocked it away. Florian rushes and puts Penn's back to the cage again but so far he's been able to do little from this position. Penn is firing a lot of knees to the inside of Florian's thighs. Florian is trying to get low for a takedown but Penn is just too strong to let it happen. Florian lands a good elbow as the two break and head back to the middle of the floor. Penn has turned into a counterpuncher. He's waiting for Florian's jabs and coming back with combinations from his hands and knees. Another right counterpunch from Penn knocks Florian back. The round ends with Florian still searching for ways to hit the Hawaiian.
He's lost all three rounds but in no way is Florian giving up. He's a tough mental fighter. Penn is too good defensively though. He's standing right in front of Florian, blocking his strikes and defending every takedown attempt. Florian continues to shoot and put him on the fence but it's not doing any good. Now Penn reverses position and body slams Florian, putting the fight on the ground for the first time tonight. He's in Florian's half guard and staying weary of his elbows. Penn tries to mount and comes very close, but Florian able to stay in half guard. Now he mounts and this may be it with two minutes still to go. Penn takes his back and looking for the chokehold. It looks like it's over and it is. Penn wins by submission, rear-naked chokehold. The ever-classy Florian is right on his feet and gives him a hug. Penn quickly kisses his cheek. A dominant performance by Penn. He took out all of Florian's weapons tonight.
Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Silva is being very patient. Griffin throws some test shots but Silva not biting. Now Silva catches a leg kick but doesn't press forward. Forrest hasn't even thought about taking Silva down which many wondered if he would. Silva comes forward for the first time and knocks him down but Forrest is smiling. Silva now baiting him, throwing his hands around and it even looks like he let Forrest hit him. Now he's just dodging him without blocking. A straight punch takes Forrest down again. Forrest doesn't want to fight anymore and he waves off referee Kevin Mulhall, who stops Silva. Forrest is up and he's out of the cage immediately. Security is in his way and he's shoving them back. Silva just played with the former light heavyweight champion.
"He's a good fighter, and a good man," Silva says of Griffin.
Co-main event (11:45 p.m. ET)
It must be time for the main event to start if Shane Victorino is in the house.
The part-time Las Vegas resident, and full-time Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder brought over some Philly teammates over after their loss to the Florida Marlins at adjoining Citizen Bank Ballpark.
No worries for Victorino, the crowd showed the love as he appeared on the big screen and cheered even more when he flashed his World Championship ring.
Not a bad seat either, right next to Randy Couture.
Couture’s fellow training partner, Forrest Griffin, comes out first to Dropkick Murphys “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” with his patented tan and brown shorts.
On the Spike TV countdown show, Griffin promises he’ll push Silva, whose last two bouts have been rather pedestrian for arguably the baddest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
The lights go dark again and Silva, in a black, blue Silver Star tee and cap on backwards walks out to DMX’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Fans, settled down from the crazy chick fight in the stands minutes early, on their feet.
“It’s gonna end with one of us getting knocked out. It’s gonna be a good night for me, and a bad night for him,” Silva promised on the video screen moments earlier.
"This is the co-main event of the evening," screams Bruce Buffer as he's drowned out by the crowd response to his introduction for Griffin. The boos for Silva are equally deafening.
Main card (10:00 p.m. ET)
The boos that came out just eight seconds into the first bout of the evening have quickly changed to roars of applause as Philly fans are on their feet inside the Wachovia Center for the start of the main card of UFC 101 tonight.
While the town known for its toughness on sports teams certainly let Thales Leites and Alessio Sakara know their lack of action wasn’t welcome in Philly with loud jeers throughout the match.
But as soon as Forrest Griffin was shown on the main screen walking into the arena, “The City of Brotherly Love” showed it for the former light heavyweight champ.
It didn’t hurt that UFC legends Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell were in the house for a little glad-handing with the East Coast fans.
Pennsylvania Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez said it’s simple to win Philly fans over.
“Go out there and show your heart and give all you got and they will love you,” he said.
Then again, maybe they won’t. Fans who once booed Santa, shared their vocal expression for the Brazilian middleweight champ who was shown walking in right after Griffin.
Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks
Sadollah weighed in five pounds lighter than Hendricks on Friday we'll see if that hurts him. There's the quickest fight of the night as Hendricks lands a few uppercuts and unleashes a flurry as Sadollah is down against the cage. It looked like Sadollah wasn't hurt that bad, even after taking a bunch of left uppercuts and a few shots on the side of the head as he tried to get up. At least that's what the crowd is saying by booing loudly. It was a tough fight not to call though. Sadollah did appear to not be protecting himself, but that's because it appears he was using both of his hands to stand himself back up. Hendricks may have caught a big break, especially considering it appears his hand may be broken by the way he's holding it.
"It's not my fault," Hendricks told the booing crowd of the ref's stoppage. "I landed big shots."
Ricardo Almeida vs. Kendall Grove
The two clinch against the cage for the first two minutes. It looked like Grove landed a leg kick when Almeida was exposed on a takedown attempt but it didn't seem to hurt him. Almeida is trying to take Grove down and he finally does with 1:45 remaining. Almeida lands some good knees from the top but Grove is able to stand up and get the fight back to where he wants it. Not for long though. Almeida completely lifts him off the ground for a huge body slam that gets the crowd interested again. The crowd erupts even more as they show Georges St. Pierre on the big screen.
Grove starts off the round with an arm bar attempt, but Almeida slips out. That's like the billionth time tonight there has been a fighter so close to a submission but eventually lose it. Grove ends up on his back again, a position he probably would love to not be in, and Almeida does a nice job of taking advantage with lots of elbows. Grove is having more and more trouble protecting himself from them and every time he's able to get back to his feet, Almeida has him shoved up against the cage. When Grove does have some room he's dangerous, but Almeida is doing a great job of staying right on top of him.
After another takedown by Almeida, Grove gets on his feet and moves to the center of the Octagon. Even after taking down Almeida as he slips, it's obvious Grove wants to stay on his feet as he backs off and signals his opponent to get up. Grove needs to make a move, Almeida knows he's ahead and has become more cautious. Grove misses a jab and Almeida easily wraps him up and takes him to the canvas. With no knockouts thus far tonight, the crowd is begging for the fight to be stood up but Almeida is staying busy enough to keep referee Mario Yamasaki from doing so. Twenty seconds left Grove is back on his feet but Almeida bull rushes and puts him against the cage. Almeida wins by unanimous decision.
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Josh Neer
The electricity in this place just quadrupled thanks to Bruce Buffer. Pellegrino lands the early shots of the round and a great body slam that puts him in Neer's guard. He's standing up and coming down with elbows and punches and Neer is doing his best to protect himself, including throwing in an arm bar attempt that doesn't really come close. Another attempt comes closer but ends when Pellegrino lifts Neer up and slams him down on the top of his head. Pellegrino needs to stay aggressive but cautious as well after winning the first round.
After a couple exchanges, Pellegrino looks for a takedown he eventually gets after tying up with Neer's left leg. He's back in Neer's guard and the exact same thing is happening: Pellegrino is landing shots and Neer is going for submission attempts but not really coming close to pulling them off. Pellegrino lands some big shots while Neer goes for a triangle attempt and now Pellegrino has the mount. The horn sounds after another dominant round by Pellegrino.
Third round starts and Neer needs to keep this fight standing and look for a big hit. No go though, Pellegrino lands an early takedown attempt. Neer is a talented grappler and he continues putting Pellegrino into armbar attempts but with the fighters slick with sweat and Pellegrino still full of energy, it just isn't happening. The crowd is getting restless and yelling out there's only two minutes left in the fight. Neer finishes by tying up Pellegrino's right arm and raining down elbows but as the horn sounds he looks frustrated and throws out his mouthpiece. Pellegrino goes back to his corner where Keith Florian is waiting to let him know how he did, Keith will be busier again later with his brother Kenny. Pellegrino wins by unanimous decision.
Preliminary card (7:45 p.m. ET)
The first-ever UFC card in Pennsylvania is underway, and it didn't take the tough Philly sports fans to, um, show their love. Eight seconds in the boos rang out, but shortly thereafter the crowd in "The City of Brotherly Love" showed their love for first bout opponents Jesse Lennox and Danillo Villefort.
John Howard vs. Tamdan McCrory
Man, is McCrory scrappy. He'll roll around with his long legs in the air and somehow always wind up in the dominant position. He throws himself up into an armbar attempt on the standing Howard, but Howard throws him off. Howard fals into McCrory's guard and looks to land punches. Howard is doing a nice job against the unpredictable fighter and makes the round tough to call.
Howard catches a leg kick from McCrory and just misses taking his head off with a looping right hand. Howard sneaks in a guillotine attempt but McCrory rips out of it. McCrory answers with a hard knee to Howard's face and a slipped chokehold of his own. Both fighters have to believe they're in position to win this fight headed into the final round.
Howard starts the third round with a takedown and ends up body slamming McCrory after he tries to put him in rubber guard. Howard is starting to make his case to the judges, landing leg kicks when the fight is standing and elbows and jabs from the ground. Another big body slam from Howard. Pretty close fight throughout but it's pretty clear who's feeling better at the finish, as Howard does a backflip while the winded McCrory watches. Howard takes it by split decision.
"It feels great to get the win, but I was a little disappointed with my performance. My camp pushes me to be the best fighter I can be and I want to be able to show that in the Octagon," Howard said. "I wasn't sure about the decision. I knew I had him on the takdedowns, but I get nervous about split decisions. I'm happy to get the win though."
Alessio Sakara vs. Thales Leites
Leites tried to bait Anderson Silva into following him to the ground at UFC 97, this time he's actually trying to take down Sakara on his own. Sakara is doing a good job of avoiding it though. Fight stays on the feet and it's a tough round to call with little action from both fighters. Leites has got to be sick of hearing the boos.
The action picks up immediately in the second round. Leites scores a takedown and goes for a choke but Sakara rolls out and both fighters stand back up. Leites takes him down again after a big missed right hand from Sakara. He's winning this fight by his takedowns alone, other than that it's been pretty even. Second round goes to the Brazilian fighter.
Another round of little action, another round full of boos. Although Leites has the pressure on him because of his unwillingness to engage Silva in his previous fight, this Sakara is as much to blame this time around. He's constantly backing up and often won't even try to counter Leites. The referee even momentarily stops the fight, presumably to remind them they're here to fight each other. No cheers at the end of this one and Sakara wins by split decision? That doesn't seem right, he spent the better part of the night running away.
"I like my job, but I like to give a great show for my fans. I'm sorry to my fans that they weren't happy, but my opponent if very tough," Sakara said of not being able to push the action more. "I have a lot of respect for Thales Leites."
Dan Cramer vs. Matt Riddle
The fighters tie up in a clinch and with Riddle's wrestling background it should be his advantage. Cramer slips him into the guillotine choke though and holds it forever. Everyone keeps waiting for Riddle to tap but he slips it. Don't know how he was able to keep from being submitted there, Cramer had that hold for what seemed like 20 seconds. Now the wrestling background is showing, Riddle is working himself towards Cramer's back and landing some good shots in between. The round ends where it started, both fighters tied up in a clinch against the cage.
Riddle opens the second round with a successful takedown attempt, working himself into Cramer's half guard and then side control. The fans are chanting 'Cramer' but it's Riddle who seems to have found his momentum. He works to take Cramer's back and is landing shots to both sides of his opponent's head. Riddle ends the round on top and you have to believe Cramer is the more tired fighter after the spending the entire round trying to get out of trouble.
Cramer probably trails by two rounds and he'll need to work to finish this fight. He gets off to a good start as Riddle falls down and he lands some hard shots coming down but once again the wrestling pays off and Riddle reverses him and puts him into side control. Cramer is again working off his back and he looks visibly frustrated. Riddle lands an elbow that leaves a cut over his left eye. Riddle looks at the clock not because he's tired but he wants to finish the fight. Clock runs out on him but he pushes his UFC record to 3-0 with a unanimous decision win.
"I learned the escape from (Quinton) "Rampage" (Jackson). I knew his arms would get tired, he would gas and I would pass then ground-and-pound," Riddle said of the Cramer's near choke-out of him. "Cramer's a tought guy. It didn't matter how many elbows I hit him with, I knew he'd never give up,"
George Roop vs. George Sotiropoulos
Roop goes for an early knee and Sotiropoulos immediately takes him down and puts him in side control. Just over a minute in and Sotiropoulos moves into the mount position. Early bad news for Roop. But he uses the cage to push himself into a reversal and lets Sotiropoulos get to his feet, nice job. Fight goes back to the ground where Sotiropoulos shows off his amazing grabbling skills. Goes for a kimora, takes Roop's back, goes for the choke. Roop keeps the fight going but Sotiropoulos dominated the round.
Roop gets some shots in but Sotiropoulos takes him down and mounts him again. Sotiropoulos goes for the kimora again and this time he's got it. Sotiropoulos wins by submission in the second round.
"There's no such thing as ring rust if you're sharpening your tools every day. I knew I was better than him on the ground," Sotiropoulos said. "He was strong in the first round, but he started to show signs of wear and tear."
Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo Villefort
Villefort dictates the pace early, throwing effective leg kicks and landing a takedown despite Lennox catching a kick attempt. After the fight goes back to their feet, Villefort lands a pretty spin kick and a few hard knees to Lennox's body. Lennox ends the round by catching yet another kick attempt and throwing a punch to his grounded opponent to finish the round.
Villefort looks confident early in the second round but Lennox changes the momentum completely with a right uppercut that stuns him for a moment. Villefort is smiling though and welcoming it. The fight turns into a brawl for a stretch. Lennox looks a little more winded and it's leading to him getting hit a little more. The round ends witha missed kick by Lennox and Villefort taking him down well after the horn. That one goes to Lennox
Hard right by Lennox staggers Villefort immediately. Villefort is backing up now and the crowd let's him know how they feel about it. Villefort takes the fight to the ground and nearly scores the arm bar but Lennox somehow gets out of it. Fight goes back to the feet and the referee stops it due to a cut over Villefort's eye. Crowd boos mercilessly as Lennox gets the win. Villefort asked for a timeout, instead the referee ruled the fight was over via a TKO.
"It's disappointing. I've been cut a lot worse than that and kept going," Lennox said of the unusual ending. "I would've been upset if I were him.
Prefight (5:00 p.m. ET)
Bob Biehn blew off his boss’ order to work late this afternoon.
His wife wanted to go to the “Jersey shore” this weekend — no way. He couldn’t even coax his friends to shell out a few extra bucks to watch the historic UFC 101 event tonight.
But there was Biehn, standing outside the Wachovia Center in his No. 10 DeSean Jackson Eagles’ jersey two hours before the first-ever event in Pennsylvania started.
“Nothing was gonna stop me from coming to this one,” said the life-long Philly resident with a big smile.
“I’m super excited. This is one of the things on my bucket list. That and watching a game at Penn State and maybe and Eagles away game at Dallas.”
Neil Freedline and Seth Christiensen aren’t fired up about anything involving the Eagles, then again the two fight fans are from Pittsburg and Freedline’s Pirates hat confirmed.
“We got love for Philly,” Freedline said. “But we can’t wait for the UFC to come to Pittsburgh. But having in Pennsylvania, there was no way we were missing this one.”
Neither were Chad Brewer or his girlfriend Trina Gross, who made the trip from Washington D.C.
“I’ve been an MMA from the early days with Ken Shamrock,” Brewer said.
Gross got hooked on the sport when she met Brewer a year ago.
“I use to really get into pro wrestling but it was so fake, and this is the real deal,” she said, with a big smile.
Christensen said tough Philly fans will show their love for Forrest Griffin, who is a 3-1 underdog in the co-main event to UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, and lightweight title-holder B.J. Penn.
When questioned why the East Coast crowd would’t go with Boston native Kenny Florian, Christensen shook his head.
“He’s so cocky. I mean B.J. is cocky, but in a fun way. Florian is so into himself,” Christensen said. “No way.”