BLOG: Penn, Silva dominate UFC 101 main events
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.
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.