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UFC 101: Fantasy Preview

Stephen Quinn, UFC - The war of words has been heating up for weeks between BJ Penn and Kenny Florian. With the fight only hours away, it’s time for these fighters to put their words into action inside the Octagon on Saturday night.

By Stephen Quinn

BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian

The war of words has been heating up for weeks between BJ Penn and Kenny Florian. With the fight only hours away, it’s time for these fighters to put their words into action inside the Octagon on Saturday night.

Quite possibly the most gifted athlete to ever fight inside the Octagon, BJ Penn is looking to continue his reign at 155-pounds. Although he didn’t look that impressive in his last outing, that fight against Georges St-Pierre was contested at 170 pounds. After losing to St-Pierre, Penn decided that it was time to return to where he is most dominant – the lightweight division. Having only lost one time at 155 pounds, Penn is looking to show everyone that the 155-pound Penn is much different then the 170-pound fighter.

A product of season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter, Kenny Florian is looking to become the next TUF product to wear UFC gold. Coming from a season of fighters that all showed great promise, Florian quietly fought his way into the finale. Although Florian came up short against Diego Sanchez, he didn’t let that poor performance affect his ultimate goal – becoming a UFC champion. Since the finale, Florian has put together an impressive 9-1 record, with his only loss coming to Sean Sherk. Although his loss to Sherk was a one-sided affair, Florian has looked like a much more complete fighter each time he enters the Octagon. Having won six straight fights, Florian knows that winning the seventh will put gold around his waist.

Regardless where this fight ends up, both fighters will feel comfortable with their chances in that position. Because of how even this fight looks to be on paper, don’t be surprised if both fighters stand in the center of the Octagon and throw shots until someone falls to the canvas.

Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin

Although both of these fighters are well established inside of the Octagon, both have something to prove come fight time as they are coming off less than impressive performances the last time they fought.

It took just a few seconds for every possible opponent of Anderson Silva to take notice of his debut in the Octagon in 2006. In that debut, Silva connected with nearly everything he threw en route to an impressive first round knockout of hard-hitting Chris Leben. With that performance, Silva was granted an immediate title shot against fan favorite Rich Franklin. Much like in his first fight inside the Octagon, Silva seemed to connect with everything that he threw and went on to another impressive knockout victory. With his first two fights in the Octagon lasting less than a round combined, people started to wonder who would challenge Silva at 185-pounds. After nearly three years, that question still remains. Having won all eight of his middleweight fights, Silva knew he needed a bigger challenge. He found that challenge by fighting at 205-pounds. In his light heavyweight debut, Silva looked the same as he did 20-pounds lighter. The only difference between his middleweight and light heavyweight debut was the twelve seconds longer it took to secure his first victory in the light heavyweight division. After knocking out James Irvin, people have wanted to see Silva continue to fight in both divisions. We will all get that wish when he once again returns to the light heavyweight division.

By watching Forrest Griffin compete on season one of The Ultimate Fighter, people got a much better understanding of all the hard work and sacrifice it takes to become an elite fighter in the UFC. During the live finale on Spike TV, Griffin was able to come up victorious against Stephan Bonnar in what many consider to be the greatest fight in UFC history. Although Griffin had turned into an instant crowd favorite, people still had their doubts whether or not Griffin would ever become an elite fighter. Since the finale, Griffin has put up an impressive 6-2 record, with notable wins over Shogun Rua and the man he took the light heavyweight title from, Quinton Jackson. Although his time as champion didn’t last long, Griffin continues to impress each time he fights. Coming off a knockout loss to Rashad Evans, Griffin isn’t like most fighters who would want an easy first fight back. Griffin only wants to fight the best and that’s what he’ll get in Anderson Silva.

When the Octagon gate closes on Saturday night, fans from Philadelphia to people watching around the world could be in for not just a fight of the night but more like fight of the year. For Silva, look for him to use his speed and striking ability to keep the fight standing – waiting for his next knockout opportunity. Knowing that Silva has the speed advantage, look for Griffin to use his strength by clinching with Silva in order to wear down the physically smaller fighter.

Kendall Grove Vs. Ricardo Almeida

With the two headlining fights getting most of the pre fight attention; don’t be surprised if this is the fight that everyone is talking about at the end of the night.

At 6’6”, Kendall Grove’s size causes a problem for anyone that is on the other side of the Octagon when the bell sounds. Since being on The Ultimate Fighter, Grove has put together a 4-2 record. After winning two straight fights, Grove dug himself into a big hole by losing two consecutive fights at the hands of Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera. With the talent level in the middleweight division, Grove knew that another loss wasn’t acceptable. Now Grove is ridding a two fight winning streak and is looking to continue his move towards UFC gold.

Ricardo Almeida has quietly made a name for himself inside of the Octagon. And while Almeida has looked great in his victories, for some reason he can’t seem to string victories together. He’ll be looking to do that Saturday – as he follows up his recent win over Matt Horwich.

In this fight, expect for Grove to keep the action standing – using his long legs and arms to break down his opponent. For Almeida, he knows that Grove’s long limbs are something to stay away from. In order for him to do that, look for him to try and press the action to the canvas.

Amir Sadollah Vs. Johny Hendricks

Having not fought since June of 2008, Amir Sadollah knows the importance of putting on an impressive performance when being on the main card of one of the biggest fight cards of the year.

At 5-0, Johny Hendricks is looking to continue to have same success in the UFC that he had in the WEC. With this being his first time on Pay-Per-View, Hendricks will be looking to gain some fan support by putting on a great performance.

It will be interesting to see if either fighter comes out a little shaky knowing that this is the biggest fight of their young careers. When the bell rings, expect for this to be a very well rounded fight. For Hendricks, expect him to try and bring the action to the ground – trying to wear Sadollah out. For Sadollah, expect him to try and keep the fight standing – trying to claim the Knockout of the Night award.

Josh Neer Vs. Kurt Pellegrino

Both of these fighters will be looking to put on an impressive performance on Saturday night – hoping to make it back into the arena for the main event. Depending on the outcome, the winner of Neer-Pellegrino may be in line for a shot at the title.

Coming off an impressive submission victory over Mac Danzig, Josh Neer is looking to build his winning streak and get his title opportunity. Having learned from his mistakes inside of the Octagon, Neer has become more complete as a fighter and is comfortable wherever the fight goes.

Having won six of his last nine fights, Pellegrino wants to put on an impressive performance for everyone watching. Having won two straight fights, he knows that a third will put him in a good position at 155-pounds.

Although Neer feels comfortable on the canvas, look for him to keep the fight standing while trying to time the perfect knockout. Pellegrino on the other hand, will be looking to slam Neer onto the canvas while trying to punish or submit his way to victory.