A week from today marks the beginning of the UFC's first step toward their next 100 cards. UFC 101 is live from Philadelphia, PA next Saturday also marking the UFC's return to the north east for the first time since UFC 78 in Newark, NJ. Hopefully this is the first step toward a sweep of the three big north east markets (including New York and Boston) which should be opening up within the next year or so.
This card is top heavy though what the rest of the card lacks in star power it more than makes up for in interesting match ups. Let's break down the card:
BJ Penn v. Kenny Florian
Penn is 13-5-1, 9-4 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with strong boxing skills. Florian is 11-3, 9-2 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with strong muay thai skills.
This is a superb match up. Penn defends his lightweight title after coming off a devastating loss to Georges St. Pierre at welterweight with the whole "grease gate" ordeal. However, before that he had destroyed three solid opponents to win back and defend his lightweight title.
No offense to Joe Stevenson or Sean Sherk but Florian will be Penn's toughest test since fighting Caol Uno way back at UFC 41 as far as lightweight competition goes. Florian is riding a six fight win streak. Florian brings so much to the table and both fighters are so similar in their skill sets it's a tough fight to predict.
With that said though I think what this fight will come down to are the qualities both men posses outside of their skills. I think Florian has the better cardio so the farther the fight goes the better for him. However, Florian can also be over aggressive giving Penn a chance to counter either on the feet or the ground.
I think Florian has the better and more diverse stand up while Penn has the slight advantage in the jiu jitsu department. I didn't like what I saw out of Penn in terms of his spirit and will in the last fight and I know Florian would never give up like that.
In this man's opinion Florian holds the intangibles edge as well as the cardio edge and possibly the stand up edge. In other words unless Penn catches him early (in the first three rounds) I see Florian pulling this off.
I'm picking Florian to finally win the title by TKO in the fourth round.
Silva is 24-4, 9-0 in the UFC, with 18 wins by stoppage. He is a muay thai fighter with good jiu jitsu skills. Griffin is 16-5, 7-3 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer with underrated jiu jitsu.
This fight carries more star power than the main event but ultimately means little for both men in regards to their career paths. This is a keep busy fight for Silva who awaits his next opponent for his middleweight title and Griffin took this fight for the money and the notoriety even though it carries little weight in terms of getting another title shot.
The UFC picked Griffin on purpose knowing he's a scrapper and should pose more problems for Silva than his last two lackluster opponents (Leites and Cote). However, don't count on this being a slug fest. Griffin isn't stupid and watching Silva's last two fights he seems very hesitant to mix it up.
With that said though this should be a much better fight than Silva's last two. Griffin will stand and trade and the fight is only three rounds so they're more apt to push the action earlier.
In terms of skills we all know Silva is the more complete fighter and is simply at another level than Griffin. However, Griffin is a much stronger opponent than Silva has faced in a long time (possibly ever). Will Silva's striking power hold up and can he avoid Griffin smothering him early on?
Ultimately I think Silva's speed and technique will win out over Griffin's size and heart. I think it will be a solid fight due to Griffin's ability to make any fight fun. I'm picking Silva to win by TKO in the second round.
Amir Sadollah v. Johny Hendricks
Sadollah is 1-0 overall and in the UFC with that one win by submission. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with some muay thai skills. Hendricks is 5-0, making his UFC debut, with four wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands.
This will be Sadollah's first fight since winning the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter over a year ago. Unfortunately he has had a couple of injuries that have kept him out of the cage but he's looking to make a strong impression after his surprising run to the title. Hendricks comes over from the WEC after their welterweight division folded looking to make a name for himself.
Normally I would pick the wrestler because he can control where the fight takes place but I think taking Sadollah down is a bad idea for Hendricks. I think he's got a better chance keeping the fight standing. Sadollah, even after winning TUF is still a bit of an unknown quantity especially having been away from the cage for a year. However, I'm sure training at Xtreme Couture has given him some new tools to work with.
This is a very tough fight to call however I'm going to pick the upset and say that Hendricks will win by TKO in the second round.
Kendall Grove v. Ricardo Almeida
Grove is 10-5, 5-2 in the UFC, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with decent muay thai skills. Almeida is 10-3, 3-3 in the UFC, with four wins by submission. He is jiu-jitsu fighter.
This fight unfortunately is a bit of a letdown after Almeida announced that he will be moving down to welterweight after this fight. This doesn't give either man much incentive to win this fight other than not to lose. It will be interesting to see who comes in more focused.
Almeida has the advantage in the grappling and if he can get the fight to the mat (which he might be able to) he should have the advantage. If it stays on the feet I think Grove's gigantic reach advantage and muay thai skills will give him the edge.
I think Grove will come in more focused and can keep the fight on the feet long enough to get the win. I'm picking Grove to win by TKO in the second round.
Josh Neer v. Kurt Pellegrino
Neer is 25-7-1, 4-4 in the UFC, with 21 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good muay thai skills and solid jiu jitsu. Pellegrino is 13-4, 5-3 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with solid wrestling.
This fight sounds like an undercard or a Fight Night fight in my estimation but it should be a good scrap for a couple of guys who could use a little more publicity. Pellegrino is on a two fight win streak and Neer is coming off a big win over Mac Danzig and both guys are looking to stay rolling in the tough lightweight division.
Neer brings the better striking and Pellegrino brings the better jiu jitsu. I think whoever can use their wrestling to their advantage wins this fight. However, I think Neer can hold his own on the ground better than Pellegrino can on the feet. Due to that I'm picking Neer to win by decision.
Shane Nelson v. Aaron Riley
Nelson is 12-3, 2-0 in the UFC, with five wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with OK hands. Riley is 27-11-1, 1-3 in the UFC, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is also a jiu jitsu fighter with decent hands.
This is a rematch from UFC 96 where Nelson got a very controversial TKO win and both of these guys deserve a rematch. I think Riley is going to come out with something to prove and will look to dominate Nelson. However, I foresee a tough fight which is why I'm picking Riley to win by decision.
Tamdan McCrory v. John Howard
McCrory is 11-2, 3-2 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with decent jiu jitsu. Howard is 11-4, 2-0 in the UFC, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with some muay thai skills.
This is a good striker vs. grappler match up. I think McCrory is the better all around fighter so I'm going to give him the edge. I'm going to give McCrory a tough decision victory.
Thales Leites v. Alessio Sakara
Leites is 14-2, 5-2 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter. Sakara, stepping in for an injured Rousimar Palhares, is 13-7, 4-4 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a boxer with some jiu jitsu.
This is an even better striker vs. grappler match up than the fight before. Honestly I'm not sure why this is on the undercard over Neer v. Pellegrino but my guess is that this is punishment for Leites' less than stellar performance against Anderson Silva his last time out.
With that said I think Leites is the better fighter and will find a way to get this fight to the ground. I'm picking Leites to win by submission in the first round.
Matt Riddle v. Dan Cramer
Riddle is 2-0 overall and in the UFC. He has solid wrestling, boxing, and jiu jitsu. Cramer is 1-0 overall and in the UFC. He has solid jiu jitsu and boxing.
These guys were team mates from The Ultimate Fighter Seven. They know each other very well so this is a very tough fight to call. This is totally a toss up so I'm going to pick Riddle by decision and pray for the best.
George Sotiropoulos v. George Roop
George is 9-2, 2-0 in the UFC, with six wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter. Roop, stepping in for an injured Rob Emerson, is 9-4, 1-1 in the UFC, with five wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with solid wrestling.
In another match up of TUF non winners we also see a match up of two grapplers. I think George's grappling game is better than Roop's so I'm going to pick George by submission in the first round.
Jesse Lennox v. Danillo Villefort
Lennox is 10-1, making his UFC debut, with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with solid submissions. Villefort is 9-2, also making his UFC debut, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with solid judo skills.
Both of these guys are coming over from the WEC and are looking to make a name for themselves. Lennox is the more well rounded fighter and I like how he matches up on the feet and my guess is even with Villefort's judo Lennox will be tough to take down. Even if the fight got to the ground Lennox is no dummy there either. I'm picking Lennox to win a tough fight by TKO in the third round.
My pick for submission of the night goes to Thales Leites. My pick for KO of the night goes to Anderson Silva. And my pick for fight of the night goes to Penn v. Florian.