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Breaking down UFC 101: Penn vs. Florian

Both fighters turned to new training methods to prepare for the fight

UFC 101 Press Conference

Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News

UFC competitors BJ Penn (left) and Kenny Florian (right) face off following the press conference in advance of Saturday’s card at the Wachovia Center.

A Taste of Philly

As UFC 101 prepares for its Philadelphia debut, Las Vegas Sun's Andy Samuelson takes in the landmarks and flavors of the City of Brotherly Love.

UFC 101 Press Conference

UFC competitors BJ Penn (left) and Kenny Florian (right) pose together following the press conference in advance of Saturday's card at the Wachovia Center. Launch slideshow »

UFC 101 Workouts

Las Vegas Sun fighting writer Brett Okamoto goes inside the UFC 101 workouts. UFC 101 is Saturday with the co-main event being Forrest Griffin vs. Anderson Silva. The main event will feature BJ Penn defending his UFC Lightweight Championship against Kenny Florian.

UFC 101 Workouts

Fighters with the Ultimate Fight Championship hold workouts at the Loews Hotel in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon August 5, 2009. Pictured is Anderson Silva, a light heavyweight fighting out of Curitiba, Brazil. He is shown flying through the air as he kicks a heavy bag. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

PHILADELPHIA - Although the way a fighter trains is usually an interesting aspect leading up to a fight, it's definitely taken a bigger spot in the limelight for the Saturday night championship fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian.

Penn has been one of the most respected fighters throughout his mixed martial arts career and there's no doubt he's a future hall-of-famer. That doesn't change the perception, however, that the 30-year-old has done it more on the basis of his skills than because of a strict training regiment.

"Without a doubt, Penn is one of the most talented fighters in the history of mixed martial arts," UFC President Dana White said. "The biggest enemy of B.J. Penn is B.J. Penn. The kid's been so talented his whole life that it gets to a point where focusing and training is hard. If you look at all the things he's accomplished in his career, 70 percent of them he did out of shape. This time I believe he's actually in shape."

Even Penn's brother, J.D., admits that the rap on his brother is he's the best first all-round fighter in the world, but he's done after that.

That's why Penn and his camp brought in the renowned (and controversial) Marv Marinovich to help him prepare for this fight. Marinovich is most famous for pushing his son, Todd, into football at a very early age. Todd went on to become a highly recruited quarterback at USC but a disappointment in the NFL, a failure many blamed his father for.

"A lot of people asked me if I was sure I wanted to bring in somebody with his kind of history," J.D. said. "And I told them, 'Are you kidding? If he was willing to do that with his own son, isn't that the kind of person you want training you for a fight?'"

After announcing that he would be headed to Montreal to train with Georges St. Pierre for this fight, Florian's approach seemed pretty obvious: Train with the fighter who recently destroyed your opponent.

Although he says that his intention was to train with St. Pierre based on how hard the welterweight champion trains and not to learn any secrets on Penn, Florian admitted that it was nice when he would receive advice from St. Pierre that his camp had already assumed itself.

"It doesn't really help on the technical side, a lot of the things he saw I had already seen as well," Florian said. "But it was helpful that he confirmed everything that I had seen in B.J."

Florian said he also benefitted from facing different sparring partners in Montreal, an advantage he hadn't had for a long time after training with the same camp for so long.

"Anytime you train with different people it's a huge help because sometimes when you've been training with the same guys for so long it's almost like cheating," he said. "You know the answers before you take the test. I had tremendous sparring partners for this fight and anytime you can train with the best in the world it's going to push you in every aspect as a fighter."

With such a big fight laid out before them, it's clear that both fighters turned to different training techniques to prepare themselves. Which one will prove to be more effective should show on Saturday.

Quick Hits:

Penn needs to be ready for a fighter he's never seen before. According to Florian and his camp, the Boston fighter reinvents himself between each fight with the help of his brother Keith. So if Penn is basing his game plan on previous fights, he'll be in trouble.

"It used to be we were just relying on BJJ and striking to get through these fights," Keith said. "There were a lot of other parts of his game that we weren't thinking about that we are now."

But Penn doesn't seem wrapped up in game plans for this fight. He's going in with the mindset that he has the tools to beat a top fighter like Florian as long as his cardio keeps up with his skills.

Although Florian probably will have a specific game plan made to confuse Penn, he's still the same fighter. He'll be light on his toes, he'll use his elbows at every opportunity much like St. Pierre did when he had dominant position on Penn and he'll be a tactical fighter on the ground.

Penn is going to be more stationary and he'll look to be the stronger fighter. He's got the heavier hands but he'll have to watch for Florian's right leg kick that can create some problems. More than likely this fight will end up on the ground where Penn's BJJ skills may give him a slight advantage.

Last Time Out:

B.J. Penn: lost to Georges St. Pierre on Jan. 31 by referee stoppage.

Kenny Florian: defeated Joe Stevenson on Nov. 15, 2008 by submission (choke).

The Lines: B.J. Penn: -220; Kenny Florian: + 180

Final Words:

B.J. Penn: On Florian: "Eventually you figure he's got to go for the title, he's got to move forward. He wants to be the champion. There's no sense in fighting if you don't want to be the champion. But not on my watch. Not on my watch Kenny."

Kenny Florian: On Penn: "I don't know if its his focus or if he's a little humble from his last fight. B.J. says he doesn't hype his fights, maybe he was for his last one and it was a very humbling loss. I think he realized that talking a lot doesn't help much, it just puts pressure on him. He's been a little more quiet."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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