While the fights at WEC 42 were largely more entertaining than those at UFC 101, the UFC's debut in the City of Brotherly Love did see the continued evolution of two of the preeminent mixed martial artists in the world today, in Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn.
Their opponents -- former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin and Kenny Florian, respectively -- are two of the best fighters in the game today.
Yet, both were out-gunned, out-worked and neither did little damage to their opponents. Perhaps the only declaration that was made Saturday night at the Wachovia Center was just how dominant the retaining champions are over the very best fighters the UFC has to throw at them.
Case in point: UFC middleweight champion Silva, who moved up 20 pounds to challenge Griffin after clearing out his own division. Silva delivered one of the most dominant performances in UFC history, ending in what ringside announcer Joe Rogan called "one of the most embarrassing knockouts I think we've ever seen."
It was certainly enough to shake up the standings and send several fighters' stocks rising, and some on the decline.
Anderson SilvaWith his record-breaking 10th consecutive UFC victory -- eight of which he completely dominated -- Silva should largely quiet any doubters who were disappointed in his last two lackluster title defenses against Thales Leites and Patrick Cote.
His victory over Griffin was masterful. His strikes were pinpoint precise, his defense nearly perfect -- so much so that he lowered his arms almost to his knees to bait Griffin in to strike with him, which eventually led Griffin to bum-rush the "Spider," leading to the knockout finish.
The story for Silva now is that he has just three fights remaining on his UFC contract, after which he has stated many times his wish to challenge boxing great Roy Jones, Jr., who was reportedly in attendance at UFC 101 to scout Silva, in a boxing match.
Both Silva and Jones have campaigned for the fight. Jones' camp went so far as to issue a press release advertising his scouting trip to UFC 101. But UFC president Dana White continues to steer clear of it, saying at the post-fight press conference, "I just don't see a point ... This is MMA. This is what we do."
How the UFC hopes to fill Silva's three remaining fights is the question. White again stated that the next middleweight title shot will "probably" go to DanHenderson, following his devastating knockout of British sensation MichaelBisping at the historic UFC 100 in July.
It's well-deserved, as "Hendo" is 3-0 against some of the highest ranked 185-pounders in the sport since his title fight loss to Silva back at UFC 82 in March 2008. Henderson is also the only UFC fighter to steal a round from Silva in the "Spider's" 10 fights.
That's how dominant this master is -- you grade the credibility of his opponents on whether or not they can win a single round against the champion.
Still, Henderson will be the sizeable underdog. Since Silva took no damage on Saturday night, he could fight as early as Nov. 21 at UFC 106 to be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, which currently lacks a main event.
But for the remaining two fights on his contract, the UFC should strongly consider pursuing a super fight between welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre and/or light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. However, Machida is Silva's own training partner at Team Black House.
At the post-fight presser, Silva again reiterated his refusal to fight his friend in Machida, "He's my friend, he's my brother, and there's no way that fight happens," Silva said, as his manager, Ed Soares, translated. Silva followed it up by saying Machida has the tools to beat him.
The UFC should attempt to sweeten the deal as much as possible by offering Silva and Machida a record purse. Fans need to see this fight before Silva's time expires, for there are truly no two fighters in the sport today who are more elusive than these two. Machida has never lost a round in 15 fights, made all the more remarkable by the fact that he's gone to eight decisions.
B.J. PennBy outlasting a very game Florian, Penn quieted any naysayers who criticized his effort at UFC 94 last January, when the Hawaiian fighter moved up in weight to challenge welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre for the division's belt in what resulted in a lopsided loss for "The Prodigy."
Super fights are few and far between for a reason. Fighters as dominant as Penn and GSP don't come around every day. It's a true testament to parent company Zuffa that the UFC retains Penn, St. Pierre, Silva and Machida, along with the WEC's Mike Brown, Torres and now Bowles.
But at 155 pounds, who can stopPenn? Certainly no one in the UFC, because Florian's evolution in the sport over the last three years since his first title shot -- including five devastating finishes in six fights over top lightweight contenders -- truly earned his No. 1 contender status. Yet, against Penn, Florian never had "The Prodigy" in trouble. Not even close.
If surging lightweight Diego Sanchez, who reportedly gets the next crack at the lightweight strap, hopes to outwork Penn, he's going to have to do some evolving of his own. Hoping for a master like Penn to have an off night just doesn't seem possible. I expect their fight to be featured at UFC 107 in December or UFC 108 in January.
Brian BowlesHeading into Sunday night's WEC 42, Brian Bowles was largely considered a threat to bantamweight Miguel Torres. But even still, most regarded Torres as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world today and a favorite to defend his WEC title a fourth consecutive time.
Having never gone to a decision in his 8-0 career, Bowles' devastating first-round knockout of Torres -- which should have arguably been stopped three or four punches sooner -- says a lot amount about this 29-year-old brawler.
He'll likely face Dominick Cruz, whose unanimous decision victory over highly touted and former undefeated Joseph Benavidez on Sunday, probably earned him a title shot. It could come in late 2009.
Forrest GriffinIn the Countdown to UFC 101: Declaration, Forrest Griffin described how Silva made former middleweight champions Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson "look bad." He can now add his own name to that list.
After toying with his opponent like a great white does a seal, Silva lowered his arms, nearly to his knees, tempting Griffin to step to him. Griffin took the bait, charging in with a right and a left combination, as Silva calmly back-peddled before connecting with a fade-away right jab.
It was by no means a power punch, but it was pin-point accurate, landing squarely in the middle of Griffin's nose, sending him sprawling to the canvas.
While his critics might never let him live this down, it should be noted that, after being dropped twice by Silva in the first three minutes of the fight, Griffin was noticeably hurt -- what has since been confirmed by his camp as a dislocated jaw and the loss of hearing in one ear, I'm assuming temporary.
Now with back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, Griffin will head to recovery to heal up his injuries (and his pride). I wouldn't be surprised if he fought the loser of the Rashad Evans vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fight slated for UFC 107 in December.
Miguel TorresThe fact that Torres lost his bantamweight title to Brian Bowles isn't what is sending his stock down. It's the fact that he was knocked out cold and unnecessarily permitted to take several more blows to the head. Don't fault Bowles, he was doing his job. But referee Josh Rosenthal was in position to make an earlier stoppage. He just didn't.
Torres has been such an exciting fighter during his two-year WEC reign, always taking it straight to his opponents and beating them at their own games. His strategy failed him against the power puncher in Bowles, who threw everything he had with bad intentions.
But the true test of a champion is how he bounces back from defeat. And if anyone has the drive and talent to fix the flaws in his game and come back from a devastating loss, it's Torres.
Fight fans would love to see a rematch with Japanese product Takeya Mizugaki. Their five-round slugfest at WEC 40 in April -- a title fight that was originally supposed to go to Bowles until a back injury forced him to withdrawal -- was one of the best fights of the year.
Kenny FlorianBefore succumbing to a rear naked choke in the fourth round against the best lightweight fighter in the world, Kenny Florian earned his place near the top of the lightweight division. His loss to Penn hardly diminishes that.
While it's true Florian has come up short in all three of his biggest UFC fights -- against Diego Sanchez at The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale, against Sean Sherk for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 64, and now his second title shot at UFC 101 -- he still remains one of the most evolved TUF alums since his debut.
The question is, how do you market a fighter that can't seem to get over the hump? There's likely interest in a rematch with either Sanchez or Sherk, but something tells me we'll next see Florian fight Clay Guida, who recently lost to Sanchez in the best fight of the year so far.
Amir SadollahFinally, UFC 101 saw the long-awaited return of TUF 7 winner Amir Sadollah, who had been forced to withdrawal from two previously scheduled fights due to various injuries. It was also to be his debut at 170 pounds, down from middleweight.
The UFC did him no favors in pairing him up against two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion and former WEC standout Johny Hendricks.
Hendricks came out guns blazing and dropped Sadollah to the canvas, unleashing a flurry of punches, and the fight ended at just 29 seconds into the opening frame.
Sadollah will look to bounce back as soon as possible. While it's difficult to gauge how the UFC will handle his case they have a history of giving TUF winners early in their careers opponents making their UFC debuts a fight that seems highly marketable is one against fellow TUF 7 alum Matt Riddle.
After making his professional MMA debut at the TUF 7 Finale as did Sadollah Riddle has since dropped to welterweight and rattled off two more victories, bringing his record to 3-0. More importantly, the crowd loves him. Riddle vs. Sadollah could be a big fight for the two up-and-comers.