They put two of the organization's biggest draws, Brock Lesnar and George St. Pierre, on one card along with their championship belts. They culminated an entire season of slights and smack-talking on The Ultimate Fighter by letting Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping join the party.
Then, as an afterthought, there was a smattering of names familiar to those more-than-casual fans: John Fitch, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Paulo Thiago. Stephan Bonnar and UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman were there, but they were left out of the televised card due to their insignificance via proxy. This thing was HUGE.
With reported pay per view buys exceeding the 1.5 million mark, Dana White has our attention. The question is: What will he do with it?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has the opportunity at UFC 101 to take the casual fans, looky-loos, and rubber-neckers and crystallize their interest. A big show here can earn the UFC and MMA a place at the mainstream sporting table. With this in mind, the card features three of the organization's biggest names, two of which are champions, and one up-and-comer on a hot streak.
Anderson Silva versus Forrest Griffin is the kind of stuff you only see in movies. Forrest Griffin is a regular guy who gritted his way to fame on season one of The Ultimate Fighter. Anderson Silva is a striking ace and athletic phenom who actually seems to be getting bored by his dominance.
Griffin is a tough guy, a real mauler who is willing to let you hit him if he can hit you back. Silva is a quick and cunning strategist whose record speaks for itself. If you’d like to draw even more "Rocky" comparisons, feel free. Forrest even sounds a little like Sly. If he whaled on freezing racks of ribs, nobody would be that surprised.
B.J. Penn is offering TUF alumnus Kenny “Kenflo” Florian a chance to take away his belt and put the lightweight champ into a two fight skid. Penn’s super-fight with Georges St. Pierre turned out to be more one-sided than most fans expected and he is looking to come back to his natural stomping grounds and make a big statement.
If he can make an example out of Florian, it’ll put the rest of the division on notice that the big dog is back in the yard. If Florian can take the win, a new star may be born.
With Dana White and company looking to brand themselves as last word in MMA, UFC 100 broke the ice and introduced the world to the octagon and all its potential glory. Now UFC 101 is sitting on the bar stool next to you, smiling coyly and asking what you’re drinking. Will sparks fly or is UFC 101 going to ask you for your friend’s number? Only time will tell.