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August 18, 2019

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UFC 101: Let’s go to the (mix) tape

While little can compare to Yoshihiro Akiyama’s UFC 100 entrance to Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye,” the walk-in musical cues by UFC 101 fighters featured a few gems. The undercard fights mirrored the usual breakdown of entrance music with more than half being somewhat-cliché rap anthems, but the rest were more unique choices.

The first bout of the evening featured a showdown between a modern rap and a classic rock tune. Jesse Lennox walked out to Ram Jam’s “Black Betty,” a peppy upbeat track that likely had the crowd yelling for “more cowbell!” His opponent, Danillo Villefort, chose a T Pain and Mario rap, “All of the Above,” which proved to be partially prophetic. The song recaps a life of pain, sorrow and suffering where the protagonist emerges victorious. Villefort took the pain and punishment but couldn’t continue on to victory as the referee stopped the fight due to a cut over his eye.

The battle of the Georges featured two very different, yet equally stereotypical, songs fighters might choose. The thundering staccato chorus of Black Sabbath’s iconic “Iron Man” seemed an easy choice for a fighter looking to pump himself up but who can argue with an anthem to get the crowd behind George Roop. George Sotiropoulos went the rap route with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which is exactly what Roop ended up doing as he submitted to a skillfully executed kimora, after being dominated for the majority of the fight.

Matthew Riddle answered the question of “too soon?” with a resounding “no,” as he chose to enter the Octagon to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” With lines like “No one wants to be defeated” and “You have to show them that you’re really not scared,” this seemed the perfect message to opponent Dan Cramer, who marched in to Eminem’s “Go To Sleep.” Riddle did not heed Slim Shady’s advice and miraculously emerged from a deep choke by Kramer in the first round to go on to win a unanimous decision.

Like Tom Lawlor’s UFC 100 procession to “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, Alessio Sakara won the fun song of the night award with Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” The catchy sports anthem can’t help but make you smile and get behind a fighter, or at least conjure up fond memories of family sing-alongs to the Shrek soundtrack. Sadly, Sakara didn’t live up to his song choice once in the Octagon, ekeing out a split decision win over Thales Leites after a rather boring game of cat and mouse, eliciting boos from the crowd.

Conversely, John Howard acted out the title of his entrance song, DMX’s “Here Comes the Boom,” as he body slammed Tamdan McCrory several times in the third round, earning him a split decision. McCroy gets points, though no victory, for choosing “Thunderhorse” from the Adult Swim animated series Metalocalypse. The unique choice features guttural chants from the show’s animated band, Dethklok and really stood out in the trite sea of DMX and Eminem rap tunes.

Kurt Pellegrino’s expletive-laden choice of 50 Cent’s “Don’t Push Me” set the tone for his battle with Josh Neer as he followed through on the rapper’s threats of “I aim straight for your head/Fill your ass up with lead.” Neer went with popular radio tune “Undead” by Hollywood Undead. You could drop the “Un” after Pellegrino won a unanimous decision, despite Neer’s late efforts to come back from the dead in the end of the third.

Ricardo Almeida’s walk-in song choice proved to be rather baffling, but entertaining nonetheless. He bounced in to Social Distortion’s “Ball and Chain,” a punk ballad espousing the pitfalls of alcohol abuse and hard times that need to be escaped. Perhaps the fighter sees his sport as the means for a better life than the lyrics describe, but the song selection was almost depressing, despite its catchy rhythm and well-known lyrics. His opponent, Kendall Grove, walked in to club anthem “What You Know About” by rapper T.I. Apparently, Almeida knew quite a lot about cracking Grove’s takedown defense as he repeatedly took Grove to the canvas in his unanimous decision win.

Classic rock made another appearance in the Octagon when Johny “I’m-too-cool-for-the-second-N” Hendricks rocked his way in to the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black.” His opponent, Amir Sadollah, walked in to a mysterious tune, possibly traditional Iranian music, that vaguely echoed the sounds of gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. His cryptic music matched the curious outcome of the fight when referee Dan Miragliotta called an early stop to the fight when Sadollah was clearly attempting to get up after what must have appeared to the ref to be a flash knockout.

Hometown fighter Forrest Griffin walked in to his usual Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping up to Boston.” Though it is his typical tune, Griffin’s choice of this old standby was a wise one as the crowd got into the Irish pub-style tune. Like his impressive fight record, Griffin’s opponent Anderson Silva outshone the rest of the group with his apt choice of walk-in music. The dominant fighter confidently shimmied his way down the tunnel to the classic bluesy soul tune “Ain’t No Sunshine,” only he opted for an updated DMX version rather than the standard Bill Withers version. There proved to indeed be no sunshine for Griffin, as he was dominated by The Spider and quickly ran out of the Octagon following a loss that leaves fans asking who can really beat Anderson Silva.

In the main event, we found out who couldn’t beat BJ Penn, as he defended his title against Kenny Florian. While walking out to an instrumental Hawaiian song that evoked the calm collected demeanor of the lightweight champ, Penn helped erase memories of his loss to Georges St. Pierre as he re-established his dominance. Despite trying to predict the outcome of the fight by entering to Ghostface Killah’s “The Champ,” Florian could not defeat the reigning lightweight champ.

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