Josh Gross
Sunday August 9th, 2009

A blow-by-blow recap of Saturday's co-main event fights at UFC 101 in Philadelphia:

1:03 a.m.: Few surprises in Philadelphia as the favorites rolled. Silva was tremendous against Griffin. Penn just as impressive versus Florian. Each fighter approached UFC 101 as if they had something prove, and they more than answered the critics. Of the two who was better tonight? Silva by way of an all-too-easy-looking KO.

12:48 p.m.: What challenges remain in the UFC lightweight division intriguing enough to get Penn committed to a real training camp? Diego Sanchez, for one. Gray Maynard, should he defeat Roger Huerta in September, seems to be a legit threat as well. Let's hope Penn sticks to 155 for a while. No more experimenting with 170. Forget that obsession with St. Pierre. If Penn wants to establish a legacy -- and he does, desperately -- it will have to come at 155 pounds. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

12:46 p.m.: Wonderful effort from Penn. When he's in shape, on weight and down to 155 pounds, there aren't many better than "The Prodigy."

12:42 p.m.: Mount with 110 seconds remaining in Round 4. Back control now. Florian was at best even on the feet. He's clearly overmatched on the ground. A right elbow to his face makes Florian turn, lose track of Penn's left arm, and he's getting choked. It's over, tapout to rear-naked choke at 3:54 of the fourth.

12:39 p.m.: Short elbows from both men. Penn is burrowing his left elbow into the side of Florian's head. The champ circles towards the middle as Penn connects on the floor with wailing lefts.

12:38 p.m.: If Florian wanted the championship rounds, he's got 'em. Despite all his pressing and wrestling against the fence, there don't appear to be any real dividends for the challenger. Three big right hands from Penn followed by a swift double-leg brings a welcome change to the fight. Penn, working from the top, is occupied with passing Florian's half-guard.

12:37 p.n.: Halfway through a fight that's hardly war, Florian keeps looking for takedowns. Or at least he wants to engage as if he's looking for one. However the Hawaiian champion is holding up just fine. He doesn't appear to be worn by Florian's strategy. He's comfortable in the clinch. He can disengage when he wants. And Florian hasn't had any real success. Penn is the better athlete. Florian has to keep to his game plan, though it may not matter. After three, Penn is relaxed, breathing easily, and in control. 10-9 Penn...Round 4.

12:32 p.m.: Florian again walks Penn into the cage. Short knees from both fighters. Good work by Penn. He's landed on the inside, keeping up a relatively decent pace, and defending takedowns when he has to.

12:31 p.m.: Round 2 is Penn's, 10-9. Yet the pace and pressure were different. Florian wants this fight to make it into the later rounds. The way he's grinding, he doesn't expect Penn will be as dangerous by the 20th minute of the fight. On to Round 3.

12:29 p.m.: The pace is fairly slow. Limited engagements thus far. A change from the first round, though. Florian is moving forward now. A good sequence of uppercuts and punches on the inside from Penn hurt Florian. Sixty seconds remain.

12:27 p.m.: Neither man has dialed in the proper range, leading to awkward entries into the clinch. Florian, it's clear, would love to put Penn on his back. But that won't come easy, especially early on. Florian is no GSP when it comes to takedowns. He has to hope constant pressure can wear on Penn. It has in the past.

12:25 p.m.: Round 2. Good inside leg kick from Florian. More of that from him will help later in the fight.

12:24 p.m.: Nice finish for the champion. He countered a winging overhand right with a solid punch that loosened Florian's legs. A jumping knee and other shots closed out Round 1. A clear edge in the first five minutes for Penn, 10-9.

12:21 p.m.: Florian engages the clinch, tries a trip takedown. Penn has some of the best balance in the sport, and Florian won't have a lot of success if his intent is find takedowns grappling on the inside.

12:20 p.m.: Kick from the outside from Florian misses. Penn engages and they're clinched along the fence. Midway through the first round and Penn is the more physical fighter. He's working short, chipping knees to Florian's thighs and pushes off. They're in striking range again.

12:18 p.m.: Florian is bouncing, unsettled. The first significant strike of the fight puts the challenger on his rear end, but Florian stands without much work. A minute into the bout and Penn is the aggressor.

12:17 p.m.: Penn looks terrific at 155 pounds. This is where he belongs. Meeting in the center, Dan Miragliotta offers instructions, both fighters ready to tee off.

12:15 p.m.: As he has done pretty consistently since hooking up with trainer Rudy Valentino, Hilo, Hawaii's favorite son B.J. Penn is skipping his way through the bowels of the building as music from the islands fills his ears. Like a lizard, Penn has decided to flick his tongue out of his mouth on the walk through the crowd. Strange. The gyrations disappear the second he steps into the cage.

12:14 p.m.: We get our first glimpse of a serious-looking Kenny Florian. He delivers a big exhale walking in to the arena. Flanked by his brother Keith, his highly thought of trainer Mark DellaGrotte, and one of the sport's more colorful characters straight out of "The Departed," Peter Welch, Florian offers a small prayer before stepping inside the cage.

12:06 a.m.: With the win, Silva moves to 10-0 all-time in UFC-sanctioned competition, improving upon his record winning streak inside the Octagon.

12:04 a.m.: A quick update to my top-five pound for pound (and take this as a snapshot in time since Miguel Torres is set to defend his WEC title tomorrow night against Brian Bowles in Las Vegas): 1) Georges St. Pierre, 2) Anderson Silva, 3) Fedor Emelianenko, 4) Miguel Torres, 5) Lyoto Machida.

Midnight: This is what happens when the best counterfighter in MMA gets a guy who recklessly moves forward. Before the official time of the fight is announced -- 3:23 of the opening round, by the way -- Griffin retreats from the cage and runs back to his Wachovia Center locker room. Silva is left to celebrate alone, wondering where a real challenge will come from.

11:55 p.m.: Silva is egging Griffin forward, demanding a brawl. Slipping and ducking, Silva lands a beautiful counter straight left. Forrrest is down again and Silva fires down a handful of punches. Griffin is allowed to stand. He offers a meandering one two. Silva, hands down, completely unafraid of his would-be challenger, takes a half-step back and flicks a right hand to Griffin's chin. For the third time, Griffin is down. And this time he's out.

11:52 p.m.: Griffin is making a point to move away from Silva's power. Silva pushes forward for the first time, bobbing and weaving, and a right hook connects. Griffin is down, then back up.

11:50 p.m.: Silva, the southpaw, dances back. Plenty of distance between the pair. About that size difference: Griffin is much larger in the lower body and midsection. Griffin is looking to establish range. Silva will wait to counter. The UFC champ catches a leg and lands a glancing punch. 11:49 p.m.: The Philly crowd loves Griffin and the former UFC light heavyweight pounds his chest as Bruce Buffer screams his name into a microphone. Silva isn't greeted so warmly. The UFC middleweight champion earns a chorus of boos. Meeting in the center of the cage, there isn't a noticeable size difference. Time to fight.

11:45 p.m.: Jogging his way to the cage in the center of the Wachovia Center, Forrest Griffin appears to be in great shape. On Monday, I was in Las Vegas and spent time at Xtreme Couture, where Griffin put on his final workout before heading to Philly. Considering this is a three round fight, Griffin is in position to push the pace as much as he likes. But that alone won't be enough to pull out a victory. Griffin has to dictate or at least nullify Silva's ability to strike from distance. Mix it up in the clinch, implement dirty boxing, find a way to get it to the half-guard and pepper the Brazilian with annoying shots. That's how Forrest wins.

10:30 p.m.: It's time to focus on fighting again.

With the manic events of the past two weeks receding, thankfully, into memory, we can get back to the business of what was expected to be one of mixed martial arts' busiest and most important months of 2009.

A major highlight of the August deluge comes tonight at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center with UFC 101. Crowning a rare East Coast UFC pay-per-view with two noteworthy fights -- one for the organization's lightweight title, the other with pound-for-pound implications -- the sport's top promoter didn't wait long to move beyond the glow of last month's hyped and historic hundredth event.

Is B.J. Penn overrated?

Kenny Florian will help determine that answer Saturday when the pair meet in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center for the UFC lightweight belt. Clearly Penn (13-5-1) ranks among MMA's most talented fighters. But up-and-down efforts over the course of his eight-year career have some wondering, myself included, just how much of that talent has actually emerged. As hard as this might be for him to accept, the self-described "Prodigy" needs a big effort against Florian if he wants to maintain the status that comes with being recognized MMA's No. 1 lightweight and a top-10 pound for pound fighter.

You can bet Florian (11-3) won't make it easy on him.

In four years since appearing as a contest on the seminal season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Florian has done nothing but show himself to be a classy, hardworking, well-spoken contender in the lightweight division. It's rather amazing, really, that one could legitimately argue Florian owns a better résumé at 155 pounds than Penn.

Long and precise, Florian isn't the kind of fighter to take risks. He'll step into the cage Saturday knowing exactly what he wants to do, whereas Penn tends to react and freelance as much as game plan.

In terms of attitude and execution, these are two totally different fighters.

Collectively, though, they make for one heck of an interesting style clash. Each is confident and collected. Each knows what it takes to go five rounds. Each understands the kind of pressure associated with important fights. Each is expertly skilled in all areas of fighting.

Should be a good one.

Even among diehard enthusiasts, a match between Silva and Griffin wasn't something kicked around a lot. However when Zuffa decided to pit its UFC middleweight king against the exciting former light heavyweight champ -- an effort in matchmaking, really, to shake Silva from recent listless title defenses at 185 pounds -- the bout just made sense.

After middling performances that earned him criticism against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, Silva (24-4) would be right to presume that Griffin will step into the cage intent on making a scrap out of it. For that reason alone this fight is intriguing. Outside of the opening round against Dan Henderson in March of last year, Silva hasn't been forced to fight much during his three years in the UFC.

If nothing else, kick starting fights is all Griffin (16-5) has done since emerging as the first TUF-inspired superstar.

A massive light heavyweight, Griffin is considerably larger than Silva even if the tale of the tape lists both near 6-foot-3. Though he's handicapped against the Brazilian through deficiencies in speed and skill, Griffin surely won't be intimidated by one of the longest running top-5 pound-for-pounders in the sport. He won't be intimidated by the spotlight or the prospect of engaging in the clinch with the face-crushing "Spider."

Actually, he'll probably enjoy the challenge more than anything. That's what makes Griffin so fun to watch. Not only does he win big fights, several of which include major upsets against Maurico "Shogun" Rua and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, he always looks incredibly happy just to be in the arena.

A loss for Silva wouldn't be shocking. It would require several mistakes -- both in attitude and game plan -- on Silva's part for Griffin, a 3-1 underdog, to make good on another upset opportunity, but it could definitely happen. Acknowledging that, I still make the skilled Brazilian my choice to depart the Octagon a winner on Saturday.

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