Following one of the craziest and most dramatic months in mixed martial arts history, the Ultimate Fighting Championship presents UFC 101: Declaration (Get it? cause it's in Philly!). Affliction has fallen, Dana is pissed (what else is new) and Lesnars drinking Bud, now let’s have some fights already!
Coming off of the insane month that was July, we continue the summer of MMA with another solid card. August brings us events from Sengoku, WEC, Strikeforce and a double dose of the UFC. The biggest and most exciting event of the month takes place August 8 from the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia.
UFC 101: Declaration is headlined by a Lightweight Championship bout between longtime Lightweight King B.J Penn and the up and coming but always dangerous Kenny Florian.
The co-main event of the evening features one of the world’s best pound for pound fighters in Anderson Silva against one of the most popular fighters the UFC has to offer in Forrest Griffin. The event also features a slew of young talent looking to make the best of their opportunities and push themselves towards future title shots.
Jesse Lennox vs Danillo Villefort
With the evaporation of the WEC’s Welterweight division, these two youngsters are reaping the benefits as they will both be making their first appearance on the big stage.
Jesse Lennox comes in with a strong wrestling background and with half of his wins by submission and the other half by kockout, Lennox has proven to be a well rounded fighter.
Although he is a 2002 BJJ World Champion and South American Judo Champion, Villefort has also proven to be well rounded with five wins by submission and also five by knockout.
Both men are coming off of knockout victories at WEC: Varner vs Cerrone and will be looking to continue their winning streaks.
Despite Lennox having a strong submission game, he will want to use his superior wrestling to defend the takedown attempts of Villefort. If he can keep the fight standing this has the potential to be a slugfest, however if Villefort can get the fight to the ground the way he would like then this could certainly be a short fight.
George Roop vs George Sotiropoulus
Two Ultimate Fighter veterans will meet when BJJ Black Belt Sotiropoulus takes on American Wrestler Roop in what could quickly turn into a submission match in a hurry.
Both men made it to the semi-finals of their respective Ultimate Fighter seasons and are now looking to build off of the success they saw on the show.
Sotiropoulus is the fighter known for his ground submission skills with five submission victories; however Roop has also proven to have some ground prowess with four submission victories of his own
The Achilles heel of this fight for Roop is his inability to defend submissions. Three of Roop’s four losses have come via way of submission and with the submission expertise which Sotiropoulus possesses he could put this fight on the mat and make it a short night.
Roop’s key to success will be his ability to use his wrestling and control where the fight takes place. He needs to be able to decide when the fight is going to the ground and be able to make sure he has top position.
Matt Riddle vs Dan Cramer
Again we will see two Ultimate Fighter Season Seven competitors enter the octagon in hopes of working their way towards stardom.
We will see the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout in Cramer against the wrestler Riddle in what is a similar matchup to the previous fight on the card.
With both fighters being so incredibly inexperienced (Cramer 1-0-0 and Riddle 2-0-0) it will be interesting to see how they do on the biggest stage either has ever appeared on.
Neither has ever finished a fight so it is hard to say whether or not the fight will stay stood up or whether they will attempt to take the fight to the ground.
Riddle has openly admitted that he began learning Jiu-Jitsu from the BJ Penn book and currently holds a purple belt so he too is no slouch on the ground.
Thales Leites vs Alessio Sakara
After one of the worst Main Event performances in UFC history, Thales Leites looks to bounce back against Middleweight Gatekeeper Alessio Sakara.
With a 4-4 record in the UFC, this is a very important fight for Sakara. A loss could mean that Sakara will be released however a win will automatically make him a contender in the division.
Leites too could have his job on the line, especially if it is a performance similar to UFC 97. He is the definite favourite thanks to victories over top contenders such as Nate Marquardt, but the eyes of the mma world are on him to see if he can bounce back from a dismal performance.
Tamdan McCrory vs John Howard
The “Barn-Cat” Tamden McCrory will be looking to continue his rise to the top of the welterweight division against the super strong and tough John Howard. McCrory has a slight disadvantage on the ground and will likely look to keep the fight standing.
Howard has numerous victories by submission and will look to take the fight down and dominate the ground. This isn’t to say that Howard has no stand-up game. He proved in his UFC debut against Chris Wilson that he can also throw hands.
With a UFC record of 3-2 McCrory will need a victory to keep him relevant in the Welterweight division. A victory by Howard would give him two straight victories in the UFC and a definite level up in competition for his next fight.
In a division with so few title contenders, every victory is so important and this is no more evident than in this encounter. The winner will move on to bigger and better competition while the loser will again struggle to move up in the division.
Shane Nelson vs Aaron Riley
Does anyone remember that early stoppage at UFC 96 which threw Dana White into a rage over poor officiating? Yeah, that was these two guys and at UFC 101 they will throw down again.
Aaron Riley is clearly the veteran in this fight and will try to use his experience against top tier talent as well as his well rounded game to take out the dangerous striker in Shane Nelson
Nelson has most of his victories by decision so will be looking to change this with a high paced fight where he presses the action. Riley on the other hand will probably look to take this fight to the ground and grind on Nelson, weakening him down and picking him apart to finally set up a submission.
Again we see the striker vs grappler match where the difference will be where this fight takes place. As we saw in the first fight, it took Nelson less than a minute to drop Riley before the referee jumped in early. Can he have a repeat performance or will Riley use his veteran tactics to dominate the younger Nelson?
Josh Neer vs Kurt Pelligrino
Finally these two gritty warriors are going to get their chance on the big spotlight of a main card pay per view in what could potentially be the fight of the night.
Both men are submission experts who also like to go in there and slug it out so no matter where this fight goes its going to be an aggressive fast paced matchup.
Pelligrino has put together back to back victories over tough competitors Thiago Tavares and Rob Emerson and will be looking to take the streak to three here. With Neer being the better more technical striker, Pelligrino would be well advised to try and take this fight to the ground and either attempt submissions or ground and pound from the top.
Neer will be looking to keep this fight up and live up to his nickname “The Dentist” and rearrange a few of Pelligrino’s teeth.
Kendall Grove vs Ricardo Almeida
In one of the least talked about but most interesting fights of the night, we will see Ultimate Fighter standout Kendall Grove take on former top contender and Jiu-Jitsu standout Ricardo Almeida which could propel the winner right into title contention.
There is no denying the talent that Kendall Grove has. Since being victorious on The Ultimate Fighter, Grove has trained with Ortiz, Couture, and now Penn and because of this, his talent and potential has continued to go through the roof.
The one problem which has continuously popped up throughout Grove’s UFC career is his lack of ability to take a punch. Luckily for him, it is unlikely that Almeida will test that ability and Grove will have to be more concerned with his continuous submission attempts.
If Grove can use his lanky body to keep Almeida at the end of his punch and avoid takedown attempts and submissions, it is possible for Grove to pullout this upset and put himself right back into title contention, in hopes of a “Spyder” vs “Spider” showdown at some point.
However, if Grove does not use his reach to his advantage and cannot avoid the takedown it will be a very short night for the Hawaiian native.
Amir Sodallah vs Johny Hendricks
Johny Hendricks comes in as one of the most decorated and successful wrestlers in mixed martial arts history with his all American Status and Two Division 1 championships, not to mention a perfect 5-0 MMA record.
He will not be an easy opponent for Ultimate Fighter winner 2-0 Amir Sodallah. They have always said that there are no easy fights in the UFC, and in Sodallah’s case they are right.
Sodallah states that he is a “Black belt in Sambo but a white belt in Jiu-Jitsu” so Hendricks will likely want to get this fight down and pound away at Sodallah.
He proved he was not a complete slouch on the ground with back to back arm bar victories over C.B Dollaway but it is still likely that the accomplished wrestler will want to take this fight to the ground.
Although it is rarely talked about, Sodollah also has a strong Muay-Thai game which should be avoided, all the more reason for Hendricks to take this fight down. Hendricks has three TKO victories on his record but with such an advantage in the wrestling it only makes sense to not keep this fight where something dangerous could happen.
The game plan for both fighters is simple. Sodollah wants to keep it standing by any means necessary and Hendricks wants to take it down by any means necessary.
Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin
A lot of the talk surrounding this fight isn’t about the fight itself; rather about the reaction Silva will receive following his last performance and the fact that Griffin is one of the most popular fighters currently in the UFC. That is not to say that this fight will not be phenomenal, because it certainly will be.
No one has ever brought the fight to Anderson Silva the way that Griffin will. He will push the pace and look to take the fight out of Silva. It will be Silva’s reaction which determines how this fight will go.
If Silva can deal with the pace Griffin keeps than he should be able to control where the fight takes place. However, if Griffin can throw Silva off of his game with his relentless attack he might be able to cause problems and catch Silva off guard.
It will be interesting to see where this fight takes place as well. Will Griffin want to take the fight to the ground to avoid the lethal Muay-Thai of Silva or will he play with fire hoping to do something that has never been done before and knock Silva out?
Griffin is outmatched on the feet and on the ground and will definitely need to use his relentless pace and stamina to try and outwork and outlast the more technically talented Silva.
UFC Lightweight Championship: B.J Penn (Champion) vs Kenny Florian (Challenger)
A lot of people are writing Kenny Florian off as not a tough test for the greatest lightweight of all time, but if Penn does not take this fight seriously, than Florian will pick him apart and be the new champion of the world.
When looking at the stand-up game we have the solid knees and elbows of Kenny Florian against one of the best boxers in mma in BJ Penn.
Florian will be looking to stick and move against Penn. Land a shot and get away before Penn can catch him with that ultra vicious jab he has made famous. Penn of course will be looking to check the kicks and counter with a jab all night long.
The ground game in this fight is very appealing. Despite BJ Penn being known for his amazing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kenny Florian is also not a dummy on the ground and likely could rival Penn on the mat.
Many people will give Penn a huge advantage on the ground but the fact is that if it goes there, Florian is more than capable of not only defending himself but also getting the fight back up where he has the clean cut advantage.
Because of the amount of drama surrounding our great sport as of late, this card and championship fight is not getting the love it deserves. Florian is more than just a pushover and if Griffin can come in with a good game plan and wear out the amazing Silva we could see two upsets that will again turn the MMA world on its head.