Four weeks after the biggest event in the history of MMA, the Ultimate Fighting Championship isn't slowing down, with a UFC 101 card Saturday night that features two of the biggest fights of the year. We've got a full preview and predictions on the televised fights below.
What: UFC 101: Declaration
When: The undercard starts at 7 PM ET Saturday and the televised card begins at 10.
Where: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
How: You can buy it for $44.95 on UFC.com or pay-per-view ($54.95 in HD), or you can just follow along with our live coverage here at FanHouse.
Predictions on the five televised fights:
B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian
Few fighters have worked so hard and improved so much over the course of their MMA careers as Kenny Florian. When he was on The Ultimate Fighter he was a nice guy who fans viewed as a likeable underdog, not as a future champion. Penn, on the other hand, has always had phenomenal talent but hasn't always worked hard enough to make good use of that talent. I like Florian a lot and think he's got a chance against Penn, but ultimately I think Penn is too skilled an all-around fighter to lose his lightweight title belt to Florian.
Predicted winner: Penn
Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
For my money, even though Penn-Florian is a title fight and the last fight of the night, Silva vs. Griffin is the true main event. Silva, the UFC middleweight champion, is getting by far his toughest test in the Octagon by putting on 20 pounds to fight Griffin, the former light heavyweight champ. Griffin is a good all-around fighter who might be able to capitalize on a size and strength advantage if he can take Silva to the ground, but I think Silva's striking ability will allow him to win this fight on his feet.
Predicted winner: Silva
Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks
Sadollah has had just one official professional fight, the one in June of 2008 when he beat C.B. Dollaway to win the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then Sadollah has been injured and unable to compete, and as he finally prepares to get back into the Octagon, he's doing so as the least experienced fighter to appear in a UFC pay-per-view since a 1-0 Brock Lesnar took on Frank Mir at UFC 81. I don't think Sadollah has suffered from that time off, though. In fact, I think Sadollah is a smart guy who will benefit from spending a year being a student of MMA, rather than an active fighter. Hendricks was an NCAA national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State and has a 5-0 professional MMA record, but I like Sadollah to show off his jiu jitsu skills and catch Hendricks in a submission.
Predicted winner: Sadollah
Kendall Grove vs. Ricardo Almeida
The lanky Grove is, at 6-foot-6, the tallest middleweight in the UFC. He's also, like Sadollah and Griffin, a former Ultimate Fighter winner. I think he'll successfully avoid going to the ground with Almeida (whose Brazilian jiu jitsu skills are strong) and use his reach advantage to win the fight standing up.
Predicted winner: Grove
Josh Neer vs. Kurt Pellegrino
Neer is a talented, well-rounded 26-year-old who could become one of the elite lightweights in the UFC if he's able to get his personal life on track and avoid ugly incidents like his New Year's Eve DUI arrest. Pellegrino is a submission specialist whose best chance of winning is to get Neer on the ground. I don't think he'll be able to.
Predicted winner: Neer
We'll have full UFC 101 coverage on Saturday night, and you can follow all the action by following my UFC Twitter updates.