Have you ever heard the term “sneaky hot?”
“Sneaky hot” is that girl that everyone knows but nobody is attracted. One day, you see her in a different light. Maybe it’s her hair. Maybe it’s her smile. But you suddenly realize that the girl is attractive, and you never saw it coming. That’s sneaky hot.
This show is sneaky hot. Coming off UFC 100, nobody expects it to do well in terms of pay per view buys, but it’s probably going to do far better than most projections. On paper, it’s a show that is sold exclusively by the two main events, but the undercard fights may end up being just as memorable as the main events.
UFC LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE
BJ PENN VS. KENNY FLORIAN
Here’s the real question leading into this fight: is BJ Penn so consumed by his loss to Georges St. Pierre that he’s overlooking a very dangerous and very real challenger in Kenny Florian?
It’s no secret that Penn wants another shot at St. Pierre. He believes that St. Pierre cheated to win the last fight, and he thinks it’ll be a different story the next time around. He accused St. Pierre of greasing at UFC 94, and his latest revelation is that St. Pierre is a steroid user.
Much has been made of Penn’s decision to move his training camp to California. He’s more focused on physical conditioning than ever, and he’s in the best shape of his life.
But I firmly believe that Penn isn’t preparing for Kenny Florian; he’s preparing for a rematch with Georges St. Pierre, and that’s going to hurt him significantly at UFC 101.
Florian is a very dangerous fighter. He hasn’t lost in nearly three years, and that’s an impressive accomplishment. In that timespan, Florian has become a well-rounded fighter who mixes accurate striking on his feet with a dangerous ground submission game and razor-sharp elbows. He’s made credible lightweights look like rookies and constantly improved every aspect of his game every time he steps into the cage.
A focused BJ Penn would be tough for anyone to beat at lightweight, but you’re not going to see a focused Penn stepping into the cage this weekend. Oh, he may look like he’s bringing intensity into the cage; in reality, he’s looking past his opponent and down the road to a day when he can prove that GSP is a lesser man.
Unfortunately for Penn, that’s going to be his downfall.
PREDICTION: Kenny Florian by decision
ANDERSON SILVA VS. FORREST GRIFFIN
It’s no secret why Zuffa booked this fight.
For three years, they tried to push Anderson Silva as the best fighter on the planet, and he delivered. He made Rich Franklin leave his weight class. He destroyed very good fighters with what seemed to be little effort. He flirted with light heavyweight after cleaning out his division and destroyed James Irvin after a brief Irvin mistake.
But then something happened with Anderson Silva. He decided he wanted to box Roy Jones Jr., and Zuffa told him there was no way it was happening while he was under a UFC contract. They booked him against Patrick Cote, and Silva put on a decidedly non-Silva performance, a show where he seemed more focused on dancing than on attempting to finish his opponent.
When the same thing happened against an obviously overmatched Thales Leites, the company decided they had an epidemic on their hands, and they booked Silva to move back up to light heavyweight for a bout with Forrest Griffin.
You’re almost always guaranteed one thing with Griffin: an exciting fight. He’s relentless and pushes the action without fear for his own safety, and that’s what makes this fight so appealing. Griffin will press the action and come straight at Silva, and that’s usually the formula for a spectacular Anderson Silva knockout victory.
Griffin’s camp says his strategy will be to use his weight to push Silva against the cage and lean on him, a tactic torn straight from the pages of the Randy Couture game plan. He should be significantly bigger than Silva going into the cage, which means that he can impose his will on the middleweight champ…if he can get his hands on him.
And that’s the trick to this fight, I think. Griffin is going to come forward and attack, and it’s probably going to be his undoing. He can’t be faulted for that, though; his style has made him one of the most endearing and popular fighters in the world. Against Anderson Silva, however, it’s going to make for one short and painful night.
PREDICTION: Anderson Silva by TKO, Round One
AMIR SADOLLAH VS. JOHNY HENDRICKS
Do you remember Amir Sadollah? The feel-good underdog story of last summer’s Ultimate Fighter season? The guy who defeated heavy season favorite C.B. Dolloway by armbar not once, but twice?
Sadollah hasn’t fought in the Octagon since his Ultimate Fighter victory. He was scheduled to face Nick Catone back at UFC 91, but was forced to withdraw with a staph infection in his leg. The fight was rescheduled for Fight Night 17 in February, but Sadollah suffered a broken clavicle and had to pull out of that bout as well.
It’s good that Sadollah will make his UFC 101 bout against Johny Hendricks, because he has real potential to be a major UFC superstar. He’s relatively new to the fight game, but he’s got a weird charisma that’s endearing to the fans. He’s like a smaller version of Forrest Griffin, a self-deprecating “regular guy” who fans can identify with on many levels.
Hendricks is making his UFC debut after two fights in World Extreme Cagefighting. He’s a two-time NCAA Division I champion and is undefeated in his mixed martial arts career, and that pedigree should be enough to make him a heavy favorite against the inexperienced Sadollah. The fact that Sadollah is actually the betting favorite says a lot about the way the TUF champ went about his business on the Spike reality show.
Sadollah has a bright future ahead of him, but I believe that the experience factor is going to play a big part in this fight. Hendricks is one of the best wrestlers out there and I look for him to place Sadollah on the ground and keep him there for the decision.
PREDICTION: Johny Hendricks by decision
KENDALL GROVE VS. RICARDO ALMEIDA
This is one of the most intriguing fights on the show. Ricardo Almeida is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu players involved in mixed martial arts, and Kendall Grove is fighting for his career with a chip on his shoulder.
Almeida is incredibly one-dimensional, only finishing one fight in his entire career by TKO. He’s a true submission artist, but Grove is an accurate and dangerous striker with a good ground game. Unless Almeida is on the ground and actively working for a submission, he’s a fish out of water, and Grove will attempt to make him as uncomfortable as possible.
PREDICTION: Kendall Grove by TKO, Round Two
JOSH NEER VS. KURT PELLEGRINO
As far as spectacular and exciting fights go, you probably can’t top this one. That’s the reason it’s on the main card and that’s the reason it will likely go first on the show.
Pellegrino is a very exciting fighter, but Neer is far more experienced and polished. His first UFC fight was back in 2005 at the first Ultimate Fight Night, so he’s certainly a veteran of the circuit. I don’t expect him to finish Pellegrino, but I do expect him to win a unanimous and one-sided decision.
PREDICTION: Josh Neer by decision
QUICK UNDERCARD PICKS
Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley: Riley
Tamdan McRory vs. John Howard: McRory
Thales Leites vs. Allesio Sakara: Leites
Matt Riddle vs. Dan Cramer: Riddle
George Sotiropoulos vs. George Roop: Sotiropoulos
Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo Villefort: Lennox